Draining a toilet is an essential task when removing or replacing a toilet. Properly draining the toilet allows you to remove it without any water spilling out. There are a few different methods you can use to drain a toilet before removal, depending on your situation. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through 5 effective methods for draining a toilet in preparation for removal.
Gather Necessary Supplies
Before you begin draining the toilet, you’ll want to gather the necessary supplies:
- Bucket or pan – This will catch water drained from the toilet. A 5-gallon bucket works well.
- Old towels or rags – Use these to soak up any small spills.
- Gloves – Wear protective rubber gloves to keep your hands dry.
- Safety glasses – Protect your eyes from splashes when handling drain hoses.
- Flashlight – A flashlight helps you see inside the toilet tank and bowl.
Having all your supplies ready ahead of time makes draining the toilet quicker and easier.
Method 1: Turn Off Water Supply Valve
The most straightforward way to drain a toilet is by turning off the water supply valve. Here are the steps:
Locate Water Supply Valve
- The valve is usually located behind the toilet or along the baseboard. Look for a valve about 1/2-inch in diameter with a handle to turn off water flow.
- If you can’t find the valve, turn off the main water supply for the home until you locate the toilet’s valve.
Turn Valve Clockwise to Shut Off Water
- Place the bucket or pan below the toilet’s water supply line.
- Turn the water supply valve clockwise to shut off the water.
Flush Toilet to Drain Tank
- After shutting off the valve, flush the toilet to drain as much water as possible from the tank.
- You may need to flush a couple times to empty the tank completely.
Use Sponge to Soak Up Remaining Water
- Use a sponge to soak up any remaining water in the bottom of the tank.
- Wring sponge into bucket to dispose of water.
Drain Bowl Water into Bucket
- Use a small plastic cup to scoop water from the toilet bowl into the bucket.
- Scoop water until bowl is fully drained.
The toilet is now ready for removal once you’ve shut off the valve, flushed the tank, and drained the bowl. Just be sure to place a towel under the toilet to catch any drips.
Method 2: Disconnect Water Supply Line
If you can’t locate the water supply valve, another option is disconnecting the supply line from the toilet fill valve:
Gather Necessary Tools
For this method, you’ll need:
- Adjustable wrench or pliers to loosen supply line nut
- Old towel or rag to absorb water drips
Place Towel Under Supply Line
- Drape an old towel or rag under the supply line where it connects to the fill valve.
- The towel will absorb drips when disconnecting the line.
Loosen Nut Connecting Line to Valve
- Use your adjustable wrench or pliers to loosen the nut connecting the supply line to the fill valve.
- Turn the nut counterclockwise to loosen.
Remove Supply Line from Fill Valve
- Once the nut is loosened, unthread the supply line from the fill valve opening.
- Have your bucket ready to catch any water release.
Drain Tank and Bowl
- Follow steps above to flush tank and use cup to drain bowl.
Disconnecting the supply line allows the toilet tank and bowl to fully drain. Make sure to have a towel handy when removing the supply line to prevent water spills.
Method 3: Use a Sponge
For minor toilet repairs, you may be able to drain the toilet just using a sponge:
Plug Overflow Tube Hole
- Find the overflow tube inside the tank. Plug the hole at the bottom with a rag or tape.
- This prevents water from draining back into the bowl.
Soak Up Water with Sponge
- Use a large sponge to soak up all the water in the tank and bowl.
- Wring sponge out into a bucket to dispose of water.
- Repeat until all water is drained.
While not as fast as other methods, using a sponge lets you avoid turning off valves or removing hoses. It works for quick jobs when little water needs to be drained.
Method 4: Use a Hand Pump
Another tool that comes in handy for draining toilets is a hand pump:
Purchase Hand Pump Made for Toilets
- Look for a bilge pump, fluid pump, or siphoning pump made to pump toilet water.
- Choose a pump with about 1/2-inch inlet and outlet sizes.
Place Pump Inlet in Bowl or Tank
- Put the pump’s inlet tube into the tank or bowl.
- Make sure it’s fully submerged in the water you want to drain.
Drain Water through Outlet Hose
- Pump the handle on the bilge pump to suction water and drain it through the outlet hose.
- Direct the hose into a nearby bucket or drain.
- Continue pumping until all water is drained.
Hand pumps provide a quick, easy way to drain toilets without making a mess. Just be sure to thoroughly clean the pump afterward before storage.
Method 5: Use a Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
Finally, a wet/dry shop vacuum is extremely effective at draining toilets fully:
Purchase Shop Vacuum for Wet Use
- Choose a vacuum designed for wet messes and suctioning liquids.
- Look for one with a tank capacity over 2 gallons for draining toilets.
Plug Vacuum Into Outlet
- Plug the wet/dry shop vacuum into a nearby electrical outlet.
- Make sure the extension cord can reach to the toilet.
Insert Vacuum Hose into Bowl
- Put the inlet vacuum hose into the toilet bowl or tank.
- Get the hose end completely submerged in the water for best suction.
Turn Vacuum ON and Drain Water
- Turn on the wet/dry vacuum to begin suctioning the water.
- Continue until all water is drained from the toilet.
Shop vacuums are extremely quick and efficient at draining toilets. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry the vacuum tank afterward to prevent mold or bacteria buildup.
Choosing the Best Drain Method
When selecting which toilet drain method to use, consider these factors:
- Water supply access – If you can easily reach the supply valve, turning it off is quick and effective.
- Toilet repairs needed – For minor repairs, a sponge may suffice without having to disconnect hoses.
- Tools you have – Use a hand pump or wet/dry vac if you already own them.
- Messes – Shop vacuums drain cleanly without spills.
- Speed – Pumps and vacuums drain faster than manual sponges or cups.
Any of these 5 methods can effectively drain a toilet for removal or repairs. Just choose the option that works best based on your specific situation.
Preparing for Toilet Installation
Once you’ve fully drained the toilet using one of these methods, you’re ready to remove it for replacement or repairs.
Remove Mounting Bolts
Loosen the nuts on the mounting bolts beneath the toilet. Some toilets may have a plastic cap covering the bolts that needs removed first.
Disconnect Flange Bolts
Unscrew the bolts connecting the toilet flange to the floor to fully detach and remove the toilet.
Inspect Flange Condition
Check that the flange bolts and surrounding wax ring are in good condition before installing the replacement toilet.
Install New Toilet
Follow the installation instructions to securely mount the new toilet with a fresh wax ring and bolts.
Reconnect Water Supply
Attach the supply line to the toilet tank, turn on the water, and test for leaks before completing the installation.
With the toilet fully drained beforehand, you can remove and install new toilets or complete repairs with minimal water mess.
Frequently Asked Questions About Draining Toilets
Here are answers to some common questions about draining toilets:
How much water does a toilet tank hold?
Most standard toilet tanks hold 2.5 to 3 gallons of water in reserve before refilling after a flush.
What causes a toilet to stop draining properly?
Clogs, leaks, damaged parts, and mineral buildup can all prevent a toilet from draining fully.
Where is the water supply valve located?
The toilet’s water supply valve is typically found on the wall behind the toilet or along the baseboard. Look for a small metal shutoff valve.
How do you drain the toilet bowl?
Use a small plastic cup to transfer water from the bowl into a spare bucket or pan. Remove all water until the bowl is empty.
Can I use a wet/dry vac to drain a toilet?
Yes, wet/dry shop vacuums are very effective at sucking up all toilet water quickly through the vacuum hose inserted into the bowl or tank.
Is it OK to use a sink plunger on a toilet?
Yes, you can use a sink plunger to try clearing clogs in a toilet that won’t fully drain. Cover the overflow hole with a rag first.
How do I drain toilet water for transport?
To prepare a toilet for transport to a new home, turn off the supply valve and flush the toilet. Use a sponge to soak up any remaining water in tank and bowl.
What color is the cold water supply line?
The cold water supply line leading into the toilet tank is almost always blue. The hot water line is typically red.
Key Takeaways on Draining a Toilet
Draining a toilet before removal is crucial to prevent water damage. There are several effective methods to drain toilet water:
- Shut off the water supply valve and flush the tank dry.
- Disconnect the water supply line from the fill valve.
- Use a sponge to soak up all water in tank and bowl.
- Siphon water with a hand pump made for toilets.
- Suction the water out with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
Make sure all water is drained fully from the toilet before attempting removal. Then follow proper installation procedures for replacing the toilet or completing repairs. Knowing how to properly drain a toilet makes replacement jobs much smoother.