Removing a toilet tank in 10 easy steps: a beginner’s guide

In the course of tiling and grouting in the bathroom, it has become necessary for me to remove the tank of the toilet.  Our only toilet.  Hubby was willing to do this for me, but he assured me it was easy and since it didn’t involve looking at or touching a wax ring (the single most disgusting thing in the world, worse than urinals and possum poop combined), I was game.

Today he took 4 of the older children to work with him, so I took my chance as naptime was beginning.  Remember, this is the only toilet in the house.

Just in case you’ve never yet had to remove a toilet tank, here’s how it’s done:

  1. Use the toilet.  Invite everyone else in the house to do so as well.
  2. Turn off the water supply to the toilet.  Usually, you’ll find a little handle on a little hose running from the floor to the bottom of the tank.  Turn it clockwise.
  3. Flush the toilet to empty the tank.  Hold down the handle until the tank is entirely empty.
  4. Remove the lid and set it somewhere safe.  Peer down inside and quiver with repulsion at the mineral deposits.  Just think: this is the clean end of the toilet.
  5. Unscrew the water supply line from the bottom of the tank.  Have a towel handy to catch the bit of water that will come from the hose.  Relax.  This is not toilet water.  The floor behind your toilet is now actually cleaner than when you started.
  6. Put your hair in a ponytail.  Lean down with your face under the back of the toilet and locate a small bolt on each side of the tank, which fastens the tank to the toilet base.  Did your hair touch the floor behind the toilet?
  7. Carefully remove the nut from the bolt on the first side.  You may need a pair of pliers, though these shouldn’t be very tight.  You will definitely need that towel again because even though the tank looked empty, it wasn’t.  You’ll have to work a little harder to keep your cool about this water: technically, it is toilet water, but relax.  It’s not coming from the business end of the toilet.  This is clean toilet water running down your arm as you unscrew the nut.  Are you buying this?
  8. Carefully remove the nut from the bolt on the other side.  This might be a good time to reach for a second towel, because defying all logic, you will probably find that the tank is still not empty.  Clean toilet water…clean toilet water…
  9. Now, take a deep breath.  Gently lift the toilet tank and try to ignore the sloshing water inside (how is there still water in there???).  Set it carefully in the tub, making sure the little bolts protruding from the bottom slide up into the tank so you don’t end up with 2 new holes in the bottom of your tub.
  10. Wash your hands.  Twice.  In bleach.

There.  Wasn’t that easy?  Now hurry up, do whatever you needed to do back there, and get the thing back on!


  1. This is brilliant – especially the pony tail advice. Halfway through the task this made me feel that we could really finish it!

  2. This post was both entertaining and a lifesaver. I was finally able to stop pretending I was in the circus trying to get behind the tank to get off offending wallpaper. Thank you for the giggles and the tips. Worked great!

  3. Oh, one question….

    Is your toilet plastic or ceramic? ours is at least twenty years old, ceramic…..*shudder* I hope NEVER. EVER. to have to disassemble it. It’s bad enough having to jam myself back there to scrub the floor!

    • Ours was new when I posted this, and also ceramic. I’ve seen plastic seats, but haven’t noticed entire toilets of plastic. Have you?

      • Come to think of it, maybe not. 😀 I don’t know…..I don’t usually inspect folks’ toilets (I figure it’s a deal of “I’ll ignore your bathroom, you ignore mine”)! Lol!

  4. ?Irish Lass says:

    *looks very serious*
    Good advice. I shall forward this to all my friends. Something every homemaker-to-be ought to be able to do. It ought to be a requirement before courtship, what?

  5. I did it!! I took the tank off the toilet and put a couple small towels in the tank to avoid the spilage. One bolt was stuck and gave me trouble, but I outsmarted it! One hand in the tank with a screw driver and one hand underneath with the wrench and a lot of muscle. I feel accomplished. I think I want to be a general contractor now. TIME TO PAINT!! Thanks for the easy directions!!! Dad is putting it back together tomorrow to find out why it has been slowly leaking… a new toilet sounds awfully nice.

  6. new job every day says:

    Just what I needed after removing two (that’s right) layers of wallpaper from my bathroom and finding out that both layers had been applied BEHIND the toilet. Thanks for great instructions and a laugh too. Now what do I do about the scraped knuckles and burned arms from removing the wallpaper?

  7. installing my own toilet tonite, i appreciate the giggles :o) Personally, I am appalled I have to scrap that wax gunk off the floor after decades of ick.

  8. i am in the process of a much-needed bathroom remodel, which has turned out to be far more involved than i anticipated. so i put an opinion poll on my facebook page asking “How important is it to remove the (3 layers of) wall paper and then paint BEHIND the toilet tank [which would require removing it from the toilet]? A) Vital. You’ll regret it if you don’t. B) A good idea if you’re inclined. C) Pointless-no one will ever see that part any way.”

    a heated debate has ensued…including one frequent responder who can’t emphasize her stance enough. she linked to this blog and i found it quite encouraging. thank you for the enlightenment. i now have a slightly better attitude about this onerous task. my own suggestion: in addition to the pony tail, a shower cap is a worthy idea to consider when dealing with such things as this. ♥

  9. Stacie,
    I’m glad you found my post helpful, and thank you for taking time to leave your own additional tips.
    The sponge would have been a great idea if I had known what to expect in advance.
    I’m not so sure about the icky-sticky rubber ring. It sounds too much like the wax seal around the base of the toilet which I strongly believe is grosser than possum poop. I refuse to touch one, new or old. If it’s there, it stays. Lucky for me, mine didn’t have any such seal on the tank.

  10. Loved the instructions. Thank you Kim. I was painting and wanted to remove the toilet tank to ensure a neat job. After reviewing multiple sites I found your directions to be the most entertaining AND easiest to follow.

    Here are a couple suggestions I found helpful from some other sites (sorry they do add to the “ick factor”):

    1. Use a large sponge to soak up the left over water from inside the tank. (I was able to get all the water out with this method.)
    2. Remove the icky-sticky rubber ring from beneath the tank. Place it in a plastic bag and take to the hardware store to get a replacement. (Helps ensure a leak-proof seal)
    3. One site also recommended getting a new bolt kit to help ensure a quality seal. Unless the bolts are rusty, this is probably not necessary.
    4. My own suggestion: I put the tank cover aside. Then I placed a towel in the bathtub and laid the tank on its side.

    I hope these additional suggestions are helpful.

    Thanks again Kim!

  11. You are so hilarious and real with this advise. I really appreicate it!
    am single mom of two valenica CA

  12. Removing an old tank is generally much harder than kimc described it. This is due to the fact that the bolts that attached the tank to the toilet are usually rusted and corroded so they will not come off easily. The bolts inside the tank are difficult to hold with a screwdriver. In this happens, you may well have to just purchase a new toilet.

  13. Perfect! I have to remove our toilet tank to strip the floral wallpaper. Thanks for the helpful tips!

  14. Logan Scott says:

    I couldn’t stop laughing! You are awesome and so right!

    I was looking for easy to follow instructions to offer to my customers. I will direct them to your site. Thanks!

  15. Raymond Bannister says:

    As a part time “Mr. Fix It” I am going to paint the bathroom. I knew that the toilet tank would have to come off, to do a good paint job. I followed your instructions to the T and it worked great. I had a bit of problem with pont # 6 , to put my hair in a pony tail – it’s not long enough. Otherwise – it worked just as you said. My Thanks, Ray.

  16. Our toilet was wobbly, (but not leaking mind you), and my husband decided to fix it- on Christmas Eve, an hour before church, when we had eight people staying in our house, and Home Depot was closing in half an hour for the next two days- AND it’s our only toilet. He managed it, we were only a little bit late to church, and my mother in law has pictures of the toilet in our front porch with a stocking hanging from the flush and the Christmas tree in the background. What’s a few grey hairs when you can tell stories like that? 🙂

  17. Oooh! Yeah! I have to tell you, you inspired me…our clogged toilet (with a weeble-wobble and a baby doll cup) is now UNCLOGGED! YEAH! I wrote about it here: and gave you due credit.

    We thank you!

  18. Oh. Oh. I like the disposable toilet idea. I just KNOW hubby would do the wax ring for me. What a great idea.

    Kim, you are a braver woman than me. I wanna be like you when I grow up.

  19. Kim you mean toilets aren’t disposable? I mean we’ve replaced a toilet 3 or 4 times in 4 years most do to something stuck inside that we couldn’t get unstuck.

  20. I second Michelle’s comment. There was one time when we moved that the realtor was showing us houses and one had every room carpeted, including both bathrooms, round the toilets and all. We surmised that no man had ever been in that house before.

    I don’t have an issue with the wax rings, but then I have considered both rubber gloves and towels to become disposable during bathroom reno.

  21. I have done the wax ring thing. Ewww. We tiled the floors of two bathrooms in our last home and both toilets had to come out for that. I am thankful we had several toilets and that Mr. Muscles was willing to do the wax ring. 🙂

  22. At least you are in a house of girls and not boys. Otherwise there would have been a cleaning step before you started.

  23. This sounds like a great idea, but I didn’t have to pull the whole toilet. I did take the chance to rinse the sediment out of the tank.
    While I was surveying the whole mess, I was struck with the thought that it would be eminently sensible to consider toilets to be disposable. Just pull them out and replace with a clean, shiny new one every 2 or 3 years. They start at $50. But then of course, somebody would have to scrape away the dreaded wax ring and stick a new one down there. Gross.

  24. step #11 Move the toilet to the front yard and scrub it down and then spray off with hose. It will be as clean as when you bought it! We did this exact thing when someone flushed a small magnifying class down the toilet thus stopping things from flushing away! Fun times I tell ya!

  25. I am cringing at the thought of this since we are planning to re-do the bathroom very soon. Yuck.

  26. I might advise a different prelude to step 1–cut off all drinks for one hour before you start. 😉


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