Types of Toilet Handles and How to Choose One


Choosing the right toilet handle for your bathroom can seem like a small decision, but it has a big impact on the overall look and feel of your space. The handle style you select sets the tone for your bathroom’s design aesthetic, while also needing to be functional and accessible for all users.

There are several main types of toilet handles to consider like lever handles, knob handles, and flush buttons. Factors like finish, ease of use, and installation method all come into play when deciding which type best suits your needs. This guide will walk through the pros and cons of various toilet handle options to help you make the right choice. We’ll also provide tips on how to select the best handle style and finish for your bathroom décor and users.

What is a Toilet Handle?

A toilet handle, also sometimes called a toilet lever, is the component used to activate the flushing mechanism that rinses water through the toilet bowl and down the drain pipe. The handle is attached to an arm inside the toilet tank that lifts a flapper or seal when pivoted, allowing the water in the tank to rush into the bowl.

Toilet handles come in a variety of styles and finishes to suit the décor and ergonomic needs of the bathroom space. While the most common type is a lever arm on the left or right side of the tank, other options like knob handles and flush buttons provide alternative looks and ease of use.

Types of Toilet Handles

There are three main types of toilet handle mechanisms: lever handles, push button handles, and knob handles. Here is an overview of the defining features, pros and cons of each option:

Lever Handles

This elongated arm-type handle on the side of the tank is the most common. It works by connecting to a lift chain that raises the flapper valve to initiate flushing.


  • Familiar, timeless look
  • Wide range of options for placement, style, and finish
  • Easy push downward operation for most users


  • Handle sticks out from tank so prone to bumping/breaking if not angled down
  • Can collect dirt and bacteria if not cleaned

Push Button Handles

Round, flat buttons mounted on top of the tank offer a minimalist, contemporary look. They activate flushing when pressed down.


  • Sleek, low profile design
  • Easy to wipe clean and keep hygienic
  • Accessible push-button operation


  • Very limited style/finish options
  • Higher cost than lever options
  • Button may be hard to depress for some users

Knob Handles

A turn-style round knob mounted through the tank is the least common option. Rotating it clockwise opens the flapper.


  • Distinctive design stands out
  • Tank-mounted so avoids protruding lever


  • Few style choices available
  • Twist motion may be difficult for some users
  • Requires good grip strength and dexterity

Now that we’ve covered the main types of toilet handles, let’s go over the important features to factor into your decision.

Key Toilet Handle Features to Consider

Beyond choosing a handle mechanism like a lever or button, there are a few key factors that determine how well a toilet handle will work for your bathroom space:


The most common placements for toilet handles are:

  • Left side of tank – Typical placement in residential settings
  • Right side of tank – Required by ADA accessibility standards in public restrooms
  • Top center of tank – Best spot for push button designs; also allows ambidextrous access

Consider the existing plumbing infrastructure as well as accessibility needs when deciding on handle placement.


From traditional cross and paddle handles to sleek metallic levers, there are many style options that allow you to coordinate with your bathroom’s décor. Matching the faucets and other hardware finishes is key for a pulled together look.


Polished chrome and brushed nickel are common finishes that pair well with most color schemes, but oil-rubbed bronze, matte black, or gold accents can also make a statement. Materials range from metal alloys to glass, porcelain, or plastic.


The handle shape and operation mechanism should make flushing accessible and easy for all users including children, seniors, and those with mobility limitations.

ADA Compliance

For public or commercial restrooms, comply with ADA standards by opting for right-side lever handles mounted 34-48 inches above the floor.

Ease of Installation

Look for toilet handles designed for easy DIY installation. Most use simple nut-and-bolt mechanisms that attach through pre-drilled tank holes.

Flush Performance

Be sure the handle complements your toilet’s flushing power. Poor flush performance can result from incompatible handle and flapper designs.

By keeping these key factors in mind as you shop, you’ll be able to select the ideal toilet handle to match your bathroom décor and functionality needs.

How to Choose the Right Toilet Handle

Follow these tips when deciding on the best toilet handle for your bathroom:

  • Take measurements – Note your tank dimensions and existing hole placements to ensure compatibility and accurate fits.
  • Assess technical needs – Consider plumbing system, water pressure, and your toilet’s flushing mechanism when selecting a handle.
  • Factor in bathroom style – Choose a finish and style that coordinates with other hardware finishes like faucets, showerheads, and light fixtures.
  • Consider ease of use – Test different handle types to determine what’s most accessible for family members of all ages, mobility levels, and abilities.
  • Prioritize ergonomics – Opt for handles requiring minimal grip strength and dexterity to operate with just one hand.
  • Mind placement – Ensure handle is conveniently reached from seated position but away from contact with knees.
  • Confirm ADA compliance – For public restrooms, ensure you meet standards for handle height, operation, and placement.
  • Read reviews and ratings – Opt for durable handles vetted to provide reliable flushing activation over years of use.
  • Check warranties – Average is 1 year; longer warranties signal better quality and durability.

Following the guidelines above helps ensure you select a comfortable, convenient, and stylish toilet handle fit for your space and needs.

Installing a New Toilet Handle

Replacing an outdated or broken toilet handle with a new one is an easy DIY project. Follow these basic steps:

Gather Supplies

  • New toilet handle
  • Tape measure
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Rag
  • Bucket to catch water

Turn Off Water Supply

Locate the water supply valve below or behind toilet and turn it clockwise to shut off water. Flush to empty tank.

Remove Old Handle

Unscrew handle nut clockwise and remove old handle, arm, lift wires, and flapper. Clean off mineral deposits with vinegar and rag.

Install New Flapper

Sit flapper in bottom of tank with new lift wires attached to handle arm. Insert arm through hole and tighten handle nut.

Reconnect Water

Turn supply back on and allow tank to refill. Test flush handle to ensure flapper lifts fully. Adjust as needed.

With the right tools and good instructions, installing a fresh toilet handle takes less than 30 minutes. Enjoy your updated bathroom!

Common Toilet Handle Problems and Solutions

Toilet handles are simple mechanical pieces but still prone to wear and malfunction over time. Here are some quick DIY troubleshooting tips for common issues:

Loose handle – Tighten mounting nut to stabilize arm. Ensure rubber gasket is in place. Replace if looseness persists.

Handle sticks or is hard to push – Apply lubricant like silicone grease to arm joint. Replace rusty/corroded handles.

Handle won’t raise flapper – Check chain/lift wires connection. Adjust flapper height as needed.

Poor flush power – Ensure flapper size matches toilet model. Replace warped or cracked flapper.

Water keeps running – Check flapper seal and realign/adjust flush handle height as needed. Replace worn flapper.

Leaking handle – Tighten nut around handle shank. Replace cracked porcelain handles. Reseal tank bolts with putty.

No water in tank – Turn on supply line shut off valve if closed. Replace fill valve if needed.

Regular handle cleaning, lubrication, and inspections for leaks/cracks ensure optimal performance and flush power. Contact a plumber for any persistent issues.

FAQ About Toilet Handles

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about choosing and installing toilet handles:

Q: How do I know which toilet handle to buy?

A: Check your existing handle placement and measure tank dimensions. Select a compatible replacement handle style and size. Matching your faucet finish provides a cohesive look.

Q: Where should the toilet handle be located?

A: Most are on the left side, but right side installation is required in ADA bathrooms. Top-mount push button handles offer centered access.

Q: How high should a toilet handle be installed?

A: ADA standards require handles be mounted 34-48 inches above the floor. Ideal height allows operation by seated users of all mobilities.

Q: How do I install a toilet handle?

A: Shut off the water supply, empty the tank, remove old handle, install new flapper, insert arm through hole, tighten nut, reconnect water, test flush.

Q: Why does my toilet run after flushing?

A: A poorly sealing flapper can cause water to continuously leak into the bowl. Adjust handle/flapper to create a tighter seal.

Q: Why is my toilet handle loose?

A: Handles come loose over time from vibrations and use. Tighten the handle nut or shank. Replace rubber gasket if worn out.

Q: How do I stop my toilet handle from sticking?

A: Mineral buildup and corrosion can cause sticking. Remove buildup and lubricate the pivot joint. Replace extremely rusty handles.

Q: Why does my toilet have poor flush power?

A: An incorrectly sized or faulty flapper valve prevents the flush handle from opening fully. Replace flapper or adjust handle height.

Q: What style of toilet handle is easiest to use?

A: Lever handles require the least grip strength and dexterity for most users. Low profile push button handles are also very accessible.


The shape, style, and operation of your toilet’s flush handle has both aesthetic and functional impacts on your bathroom’s look and usability. Take time to evaluate the many handle options available in terms of ergonomics, installation, pricing, and design. Measure your tank size, note current handle placements, and match your décor finishes to select the optimal model.

With regular maintenance and prompt replacement of any faulty or leaking gaskets, the right toilet handle choice will provide reliable flushing performance for years to come. A smooth, accessible handle makes bathroom trips easy for everyone in the home.