A dysfunctional toilet flapper may cause your toilet to run continuously after you have flushed it. It’s often an annoying experience, especially if the sound of dripping water feels paranormal at night. So, whenever you notice your toilet system running water erroneously without flushing it, you may want to replace the toilet flapper. This guide shows how to remove a hard plastic toilet flapper so you can install a new one seamlessly like a pro.
Why Do You Need A Toilet Flapper?
When you think of a flapper, you may think of a fashionable, stylish woman from the early 1900s, but a toilet flapper is a different thing. If you have a standard toilet, a flapper is a rubbery mechanism that keeps water from running out of the toilet. It is normally located on the inside of the toilet tank.
The main function of a flapper is to prevent the water from escaping by sealing tightly with the flush tube. When you trigger a flush, the attached chain pulls the flapper upwards. That way, the water can be pumped out easily. If there is any damage to the flapper, the water will start draining fast even before pulling the chain.
Understanding the Different Types of Toilet Flappers
There are three main types of flappers that can be used on a toilet: plastic, metal, and rubber. Identifying what kind of flapper you have is as easy as removing the top of the toilet tank and looking inside. Depending on the type of flapper you have, the process of removing it might differ.
How Do You Know if the Flapper is Bad and Needs to Be Replaced?
If your toilet doesn’t flush or keeps turning on and off, it could be that your toilet flapper needs to be replaced. The flapper is a rubber seal that prevents water from entering the toilet by blocking the hole that water rushes through. When you turn the flush handle, the flapper opens and allows water to flow down to fill the toilet tank. In case the flapper is in bad condition, it will not be able to form a proper seal, and thus water could leak through it continuously.
Below are the tell-tale signs that your toilet flapper is bad and might need to be replaced:
- The toilet tank won’t fill completely.
- Toilet runs intermittently between flushes. Water runs down the toilet bowl from the top of the tank into the bottom of the toilet.
- There are times that water runs down the toilet bowl into the base of the toilet.
- Toilet water runs intermittently or for a longer period of time than is normal.
- Rippling water runs down the toilet bowl between toilet flushes.
- Poor flushing power and hissing sound when the toilet is trying to fill up after a flush.
- Jiggling the flush handle to stop the toilet from flushing completely doesn’t stop it from flushing.
Rubber flappers become harder or harder over time, causing them to seal poorly and eventually stop working. Suppose you temporarily remove a toilet or allow the flapper to dry out while you change the water supply. In that case, the flapper may not be able to rehydrate and seal properly when the toilet is connected back, and water is turned on again. This usually occurs with old flappers.
How to Remove a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper
When you need to remove a toilet flapper:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet.
- Once the water supply is turned off, remove the top of the toilet and flush it. If you can easily find the flapper, you won’t need to unhook the chain that links it to the flush lever.
- If you want to completely remove a flapper that has an open loop, unclip the plastic arm that attaches to the post that holds the overflow tube.
If your flapper has easily removable arms, pull the flapper as far as possible to one side and then slide the loop that holds the flapper in place off the post. But if removing the flapper from a normal toilet is impossible because of the toilet’s shape and the plastic’s hardness, try cutting through the plastic flapper arms with a small, sharp knife. You can then remove the plastic flapper and install a new one.
Having a toilet that leaks water from the flapper wastes water and causes your toilet to function poorly. It’s a common problem that causes many people to be frustrated with their toilets. Fortunately, removing and replacing a hard plastic flapper on a toilet is easy, even if you have no previous plumbing experience. Below is a short video to show you how to go about it.
A Step By Step Process to Removing a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper
If the video above didn’t help as much, here are the steps to follow when removing a hard plastic flapper:
Step1: Turn Off the Water
Before you do anything else, locate the water supply valve. It is often located in the toilet tank. This is a small handle on a pipe that goes up from the floor to the toilet, and a water line feeds into it. Turn the valve handle clockwise to tighten it, stopping the water flowing to the toilet.
Step 2: Remove the Tank Lid
Take off the toilet tank lid and put it in a safe place where it won’t get in your way or cause damage. After you take off the toilet tank lid, you should be able to locate the flapper. It is a very small black thing that fits around the handle of your flush lever. A small flapper usually goes between the side of the toilet and the bottom of the tank. The chain usually runs from the flush lever down to the top of the flapper. Turning the handle to flush the toilet will tighten and allow the flapper to go up.
Step 3: Flush the Toilet
After you remove the tank, flush the toilet to empty the tank. With the main water supply shut off in Step 1, no more water will enter the tank. Yet, it may take several flushes to completely empty the tank. If necessary, hold the handle down until the flapper on the tank drains completely from the tank.
Step 4: Unhook the Flapper Chain
After you have emptied as much water as possible from the toilet, you can begin to remove the flapper itself. Begin by unhooking the chain that attaches to the flush handle, and move towards the top of the toilet tank. A small clip usually helps you remove this end of the chain. Do not try to take off the flapper by removing the chain that attaches it to the flush handle; most toilets do not allow this.
Step 5: Remove the Flapper
Two arms keep the flapper in place. This assembly provides the flapper with a hinge that allows it to open and close automatically when you flush the toilet. When you want to remove the flapper from the toilet, you will have to detach the flapper from the post.
If you have open loops on the arms of your flapper, simply unclip the flapper from the post that supports the overflow tube. Holding the flapper down on the toilet will allow you to remove its arm by holding it against the post with one hand and then try to pry upwards on its arm with the other hand.
You will have to cut through the flapper’s arms if this doesn’t work. When you remove the flapper, it will come right off the toilet tank. Simply remove the flapper and its arms. Repeat the process until all four arms are detached from the post. Eventually, your flapper will be completely unattached.
If you have flappers that have closed loops on their arms, they will not easily come out when you pull down on them. Instead, you will need to cut into the flapper’s arms to free them. When the flapper is worn down, it will no longer be able to flex and move easily through the toilet. You will have to cut through the flapper’s arm to let it slide off the toilet.
After that, just pull the flapper to one side and push the toilet post in the opposite direction so that the flapper can slide off the post. Repeat this procedure on the other side until you can remove the flapper. You will need to start with one side and move to the opposite side. Then, repeat the process on the other side of your toilet.
It is possible to get rid of a hard plastic flapper by using one of the three methods described above. Because rubberized toilet flappers may harden with time, it is possible that some flappers that were intended to bend and flex to make removal easy no longer do that. Sometimes it is necessary to cut through the flapper’s arms to ensure smooth removal.
Are Toilet Flappers Universal?
Flappers are typically not universal. Different toilet models have different types of flappers. Depending on your toilet type, you may need a special flapper. It is easy to find a simple replacement flapper by simply removing the existing one and bringing the old flapper to your local hardware store when you go to find a replacement. You may even find that the item you need to replace the flapper will be similar to the one you removed.
It will save you from making multiple trips to the hardware store and make getting replacement parts easy. Hardware stores will stock different flappers, making finding a replacement part simple.
Why is the new flapper leaking?
Most likely, the water has leaked from the valve and is now getting into the bowl. This type of leak usually happens at the mouth of the valve, where the flapper should seal properly. Lift the flapper and gently push your finger along the edge of the hole where water may be spilling from the flush valve and into the toilet bowl.
Can you change the toilet flapper without switching off the water?
It is always a good idea to switch the water off first before changing the flapper, though you can probably change the part within minutes!
How often should a toilet flapper be replaced?
You should replace your toilet flapper every 4 to 5 years. It is essential that you replace your old toilet flapper when necessary to prevent water damage due to leaking.
Can I put Vaseline on my toilet flapper?
One easy way to make rubber parts of toilets more durable is by putting some Vaseline on them. It works best if you first drain and dry the toilet flapper. Then, just rub some Vaseline on the rubber flapper and its connecting washer until it becomes soft. The toilet should be emptied of any waste and checked again.
When replacing a hard plastic toilet flapper, simply follow these steps:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet and remove the tank lid.
- Take off the cover on the tank of your toilet.
- Flush the toilet until the water completely drains out.
- Unhook the chain that holds the flapper to the flush lever and remove it from the toilet’s base.
- Detach the flapper from the posts that support the overflow tube.
If it is a hard plastic flapper, it is advised that you press down the lever to get it to come out of the toilet. When it comes out of the toilet, it should slide over the overflow tube outward. Sometimes, flappers become hard due to the aging process. If your toilet flapper is stubborn and will not let you unhook it, carefully cut through the flapper’s arms with a utility knife and remove the main body and the attached arms from the toilet.
A toilet flapper can help you save water by reducing your water consumption. This can also help you to save money by lowering your monthly bills by a large amount. Many people opt for professional help, which is unnecessary. If you follow our DIY advice, you should be able to remove and replace the flapper on your toilet easily. Nevertheless, if you need any help, you can always contact us. We are here to help you in every way that we can.
Judy Battista is an interior designer who holds a bachelor’s degree in interior design from Cornell University — Ithaca, NY. Her passion for home improvement and interior design has contributed to her extensive knowledge of everything bathroom remodeling and general interior design. Judy often publishes home décor articles on several websites, including Sprucetoilets.com, Sprucebathroom.com, and Mybesuitedhome.com. She also contributes to various interior design magazines. As a skilled interior designer, Judy Battista is well versed in computer-aided design (CAD) and other technologies used in the interior design space.