How to Fix a Loose/Wiggling Toilet Handle Fast!

Why is My Toilet Handle so Loose?

A Toilet handle is attached to the toilet using a locknut from the inside of the toilet tank. A loose/wiggling toilet handle apart from being plainly annoying can also affect how your toilet performs.

The main reason your toilet handle is loose is because the locknut which holds it in place inside the tank is loose as well. This is caused by the constant up and down movement of the toilet handle which causes the nut to move slightly over a period of time.

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To fix a loose toilet handle, turn off water to your toilet, flush the toilet and remove the tank lid. Use a wrench to tighten the handle locknut until it’s snug. This locknut is usually reverse-threaded so to tighten it you will need to turn it counterclockwise.

There is a rubber washer between the tank body and the locknut which helps the locknut to tightly grip on the tank. If this rubber washer is worn out, you will end up with a loose toilet handle as well.

Seeing that it may be very hard to buy the washer on its own, you may have to replace the complete toilet handle.  The good thing is that toilet handles are not very expensive unless you decide to get a really classy one. They are also quite easy to replace so you don’t need to pay a plumber.

Sometimes you may not be dealing with a loose toilet handle but a slack flapper lift chain. A flapper lift chain is the link connecting the flush handle to the toilet flapper.

If the lift chain is too slack, the toilet flapper will not open up fully during flushing and you will end up with a toilet that does not flush all the way. Toilet lift chains should ideally have a ½-inch slack.

If your toilet handle is not flushing, the flapper lift chain may have disconnected from the handle arm, the lift chain is too loose or it is entangled against another toilet tank part. Remove the toilet tank lid and check if any of this is the case.

How to Fix a Loose Toilet Handle

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Now let us look at how to fix a loose toilet handle in just a few minutes. You will need the following items for this task:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Disposable gloves

These are the steps to follow:

1. Turn off Water to the Toilet

Since the toilet tank is always full of water, it is almost impossible to work on the toilet handle with the tank still full and hence the need to drain it first.

  • Look for an oval-shaped knob on the wall behind the toilet. That is the toilet’s shut off valve. Turn it clockwise to turn off water to the toilet tank. If you have a push/pull valve, pull it out gently to stop water from flowing to the tank.
  • Flush the toilet and hold the toilet handle down to remove as much water as possible.
  • Lift off the toilet tank lid and place it away in a safe place where it cannot fall off and crack. Always lift it with both hands and resist the temptation to place it on top of the bowl.

2. Tighten the Flush Handle Locknut

  • With the tank lid out, lift off the toilet flapper if there is still a lot of water in the tank. This will allow water to flow to the bowl.
  • Check the overall conditions of the toilet tank parts. Is the lift chain entangled on anything? Has the lift chain disconnected from the flush handle arm etc.
  • Grab the flush handle locknut (inside the toilet tank where the handle is mounted) and check if it is loose.
  • Check also if you can see the rubber washer and its state as well. If all other toilets parts look alright save for the loose flush handle locknut, the solution will be easy. Please note that plastic locknuts do not have a rubber washer, but a thin plastic washer.
  • Use the adjustable wrench or slip-joint pliers to turn the locknut counterclockwise until just snug, especially if is made of plastic. I am sure you are well aware of the “righty-tighty lefty-loosey” trick. In this case, you will need to do the opposite. As I had mentioned earlier, the flush handle locknut is usually reverse-threaded.

The main reason flush handle locknuts are reverse-threaded is to prevent them from loosening every time you flush the toilet. To flush a toilet, you usually push the toilet handle down, which is a counterclockwise move.

If the locknut is tightened in a clockwise direction, flushing the toilet would end up loosening it. Despite this innovation, toilet handles will still loosen but it will take a long time for them to do so than if the locknut was tightened in a clockwise direction.

  • After tightening the locknut, function test the toilet handle and check if it is as tight as it should be.
  • If it is, turn on water supply to the toilet and after the toilet fills flush it just to be sure the problem is fixed.
  • Put the toilet tank lid back on the tank.

And that is how to fix a loose toilet tank lid.

How to Replace a Toilet Flush Handle

If you decide to replace the toilet handle, there are several things that you will need to consider. The first one is whether you need a side or a front-mounted toilet handle.

Although there are universal toilet handles in the market, not all side-mounted handles will be replaced with front-mounted handles.

You will also need to decide whether to buy a toilet handle from your original toilet manufacturer or from other manufacturers. You can remove your old toilet handle and take it with you to a plumbing store and order and exact replacement, or you can use your toilet’s model number to order the same.

If you are not sure of your toilet model, remove the toilet tank and check the inside of the tank on the wall directly opposite from you. The toilet’s model number will either be molded or printed there.

Another thing to consider as well is the finish you want on your flush handle. There is chrome, oil-rubbed bronze, polished brass and nickel among others.  Check out the best toilet handles in this post.

Once you have a bought a flush handle, here is how to remove the old one and install the new one.

  • Turn off water to the toilet.
  • Flush the toilet and hold down the flushing handle to remove most of the water from the tank.
  • Remove the toilet tank lid.
  • Disconnect the toilet flapper lift chain from the toilet handle arm and drop it inside the tank.
  • Loosen the toilet handle locknut. Since as we have seen these nuts are reverse-threaded, you will need to turn it clockwise to loosen it.
  • Once loose, remove it through the flush handle arm.
  • Slide out the rubber washer as well.
  • Remove the toilet handle and arm assembly from outside the toilet tank. You will need to pull it out gently as you wiggle it out as the same time.
  • Put in the new flush handle through the hole pretty much the same you removed the old one.
  • Slide in the rubber washer until it is in contact with the body of the tank.
  • Feed the new locknut through the arm as well, and screw it on the flush handle until just hand-tight. Use a wrench to gently tighten it. There is not need to overtighten it especially if it is plastic.
  • Connect the lift chain to the toilet handle arm. Adjust it to make sure it only has a ½-inch slack and that it is connected directly on top of the flapper/flush valve.
  • Turn on water to the toilet.
  • Flush the toilet severally to make sure that the new toilet handle is working properly.
  • Put back the toilet tank lid .

And basically that is how to replace a toilet tank lid. I hope this guide was helpful.