How to Drain and Remove a Toilet – In 4 Steps

Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by toilethaven

Removing a toilet may look like a hard task, but it is easy. You don’t have to pay a plumber to do it for you. Even without plumbing experience, 10 to 15 minutes is all you need.

To remove a toilet, turn off the valve and drain the tank and the bowl. Use a wrench to loosen the mounting bolts or cut them off if corroded. Rock the toilet about to break the wax seal, lift it off and put it aside. Scrape off old wax and stuff a rag in the drain to prevent sewer gases from coming up.

A toilet is fastened to the floor using 2 bolts, one on each side. To remove it, you will need to loosen the bolts with a wrench and then lift it off. Before loosening and lifting off the toilet, make sure that you first drain the tank and the bowl.

The toilet bolts are often covered using plastic caps color-matched with the bowl. Pry them off with a flathead screwdriver.

There are 2 types of toilets. One-piece toilets and two-piece toilets. When removing a one-piece toilet, the tank and bowl come out in one go, while with a 2-piece toilet, you may need to remove the tank and then the bowl.

The design of toilets also differs. There are skirted and non-skirted toilets. A skirted toilet has a concealed trapway and is harder to remove.

 non-skirted and skirted toilets

How to Remove a Toilet in 4 Steps

These are the steps involved in removing a toilet:

  1. Shut off the water supply
  2. Drain the tank and bowl
  3. Remove the toilet bolts
  4. Lift off the toilet

Materials and Tools Needed to Remove a Toilet

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Empty bucket
  • Sponge
  • A mini-hacksaw
  • Newspapers
  • Old towel/rag
  • Rubber gloves
  • Putty knife
  • Flathead screwdriver

Step 1: How to Turn Off Water to a Toilet

  • To shut off the water supply to the toilet, look for the shut-off valve. This valve is normally located on the rear wall of the toilet at the bottom. Turn this valve clockwise all the way.
  • Some toilets use a push/pull valve instead. Pull the valve outwards to shut it off.

Step 2: How to Drain a Toilet

  • Flush the toilet and hold the flushing lever down until all water has been flushed.
  • Remove the lid of the toilet tank and place it safely where it cannot fall off and break.
  • Using the sponge, mop out any water that may not have been flushed down. Squeeze into the bucket. Mop until the tank is dry.
  • Use the sponge to remove the water retained at the bottom of the toilet bowl. This prevents it from splashing on the floor once you lift the toilet off. Remember to have your gloves on.
  • The water supply line is a flexible water hose connected from the shut-off valve to the toilet tank. Disconnect it from the tank.
  • The water supply line is connected to most toilet tanks using a plastic coupling. Loosen it using your bare hand before attempting with a wrench. If the coupling is metallic, you are free to use a wrench but gently.

Step 3: How to Remove Toilet Bolts

  • Locate the two toilet bolts, one on each side of the bowl. Sometimes these bolts are covered with plastic caps color-matched with the bowl.
  • Using a flathead screwdriver to pry them off if covered with plastic caps.
  • Use the adjustable wrench or ratchet wrench to unscrew the nuts from the bolts. Sometimes the bolts and nuts are rusted and cannot be removed or will just pivot.
  • If the bolts are rusted and just won’t loosen, use a mini-hacksaw (or a hacksaw blade only) to cut them off just below the nuts. Be careful not to cut the toilet in case you intend to reinstall it.

Step 4: Lift off the Toilet

Bottom of the toilet bowl
  • If the nuts are out, hold the toilet by the bowl and rock it a little to break the wax ring seal and lift it off.
  • Lay the toilet on its side on the newspapers spread on the floor.
  • Use the putty knife to scrape off the wax on top of the toilet flange and also from the bowl outlet. If you would also like to remove the toilet flange, follow this guide.
  • To prevent sewer gases from coming up into the bathroom and the entire house, plug off the drainpipe with an old rag or towel.

And that is how to remove a toilet. Please remember that toilets can weigh up to 100 pounds. If you are not capable of lifting that much weight on your own, look for an extra pair of hands.

While removing a two-piece toilet, there is always the risk of the toilet tank cracking where it is joined to the bowl. If you intend to reinstall the toilet you are removing, it would probably be worthwhile to take your time to remove the tank and the bowl separately.

How to Remove a Toilet Tank

  • Turn off the water shut-off valve and flush the toilet.
  • Remove the toilet tank lid.
  • Mop up the remaining water from the tank.
  • The tank is mounted to the bowl using 2 and sometimes 3 bolts. Locate the tightening nuts from underneath the bowl and loosen them with a wrench.
  • Cut the nuts off with a hacksaw blade if the bolts are too corroded and won’t loosen. A complete hacksaw will not fit in that tight spot.
  • If the bolts are pivoting instead of loosening, you will need to back them off with a screwdriver from inside the toilet tank.
  • Look at the bottom of the tank and see the bolt heads.
  • Hold one nut with the adjustable wrench and use the screwdriver to unscrew the bolt. Do the same for the other bolt.
  • When the two bolts are out, the tank is free; all you have to do is lift it off and place it securely.
  • Proceed to remove the toilet bowl.

Removing the toilet tank and then removing the bowl instead of the entire toilet simultaneously takes more time, but it is a safe method. It also gives you the chance to work alone. Lifting the bowl and the tank separately is way easier than lifting them both.

How to Remove a Skirted Toilet

A skirted toilet is a toilet with a concealed trapway. They are smooth and easy to clean. Removing a skirted toilet is a little different from a non-skirted toilet since the toilet bolts are inside the skirt.

If you look keenly, you will notice a hole on each side of the skirt covered in a color-matched cap. Remove these caps to access the inside of the skirt.

Unlike a non-skirted toilet, where the 2 bolts hooked to the toilet flange are the same ones securing the toilet bowl, a skirted toilet has a trapway installed on top of the flange. Two brackets are then attached to the trapway, one on each side.

The toilet is normally installed on top of the trapway, and two screws, one on each side, are used to secure the toilet on the bracket and trapway.

To remove the skirted toilet, use a screwdriver to unscrew the 2 screws and lift the toilet off. Proceed to remove the brackets and trapway

There are, however, some skirted toilets with the same installation process as the non-skirted ones. You use the small opening to access the bolts.