Step-By-Step Guide For Replacing A Toilet Handle

Let’s face it, the toilet handles in our homes get a lot of use.

Step-By-Step Guide for Replacing a Toilet Handle

If you have a growing family, it is estimated that your toilets will get flushed over 1,500 times each year (and that is being modest).

All this use means the shelf life of toilet handles doesn’t always stack up to the life of a toilet.

If your home toilet’s toilet handle is broken, you will need to replace it.

Even if it isn’t broken, but it is holding on by a thread and the end is near, we would recommend replacing it sooner rather than later.

This article has been put together to help you do just that, replace your toilet handle.

With an informed yet simple step-by-step guide, it is reasonably assumed that even the least savvy DIYers can still change a toilet handle. Let’s dive in!

How To Replace A Toilet Handle

Replacing a toilet handle may sound like a simple enough prospect, but with the potential to flood your bathroom, it pays to know what you are doing.

Luckily, this step-by-step guide has been put together in the hope that anyone and everyone gain the skills needed to change their home toilet handles. 

Open The Tank

First up, you must remove your toilet tank’s lid so that you can access the working parts inside of it.

Make sure to place it well away from the toilet itself. This will eliminate the risk of you accidentally stepping back and onto the tank lid.

Which when you consider it is made of porcelain, wouldn’t end well.

Before you place it in a safe place, scope out the make and model of your toilet on the inside of the tank lid.

This will be vital information for buying the right replacement toilet handle. 

Turn Off The Water Supply

For obvious reasons, turning off your toilet’s water supply is the next essential step.

To shut off the water supply to your toilet, find the water-supply valve that will be fixed to the wall.

If you don’t know it already, every tradesman from here to Khatmandu knows that “right is tight” and left is loose”.

So, using that industry knowledge bomb, turn the water supply valve to the right.

Doing this may seem like an excessive step, but it will ensure you a dry work area to work in and no chance of a flooding event. 

Lift The Flapper

Toilet flappers are the part that allows water to drain from the toilet tank.

Once you have located the toilet flapper, try to find the chain that links the flapper to the handle.

If you aren’t quite sure what the flapper looks like or where it is, it is located on the tank bottom, circular in shape, and is essentially a rubber valve. 

Go ahead and pull the flapper chain up so that the water in the tank flushes down your toilet.

Once the tank is almost completely empty of water, put the flapper back where you found it and move on to the next step.

If your toilet handle isn’t broken, you can simply flush your toilet the way you always do and the same process will happen.

This step is for people who have broken toilet handles. 

Release The Chain Clip

Once the toilet tank is empty, it is time to release the clip of the same chain that you just used to internally flush your toilet.

The chain clip is the part that attaches the flapper to the toilet handle.

Find the end of the lever where the chain is clasped and undo it.

This will isolate the handle and lever from the other moving parts of your toilet.

Step-By-Step Guide for Replacing a Toilet Handle

Once it has been removed, hang the clasped section of the chain somewhere out of the way. 

Remove Mounting Nut

The next step is to remove the mounting nut. The mounting nut is the part that fixes the toilet handle to the inside of the toilet.

You are likely going to need a pair of pliers for this step, because, chances are, your toilet handle’s mounting nut hasn’t been moved in a while. 

A pair of locking pliers will offer you the best leverage, but a pair of regular pliers should do the job as well.

The most important thing when removing the mounting nut is to remember to turn the nut clockwise, and not counterclockwise.

Turning the nut counterclockwise will strip it of its thread and make it a real pain to remove. 

If you are struggling to remove the mounting nut in a clockwise motion, it may be that the nut is already stripped.

If this is the case, it is officially time to fetch your hacksaw and grind your way through it.

One final tip on the removal of the mounting nut is to make sure there is a rubber O-ring attached to it.

This is an easy part to go missing, which, if not spotted, could be the catalyst for a leaky toilet.

Remove Old Handle

Once you have removed the toilet handle’s mounting nut, it should be an easy task to remove the toilet handle itself.

The toilet handle should be entirely detached from the toilet chain and free from the side of the toilet, allowing you to simply pull it up and out.

You will need to fiddle with the handle a little bit to ensure that its lever can comfortably slide through the hole, but this won’t be hard.

Once your old handle is completely free of the toilet, it is time to throw it away, lever and all.

That’s right, even though the lever itself may be working just fine, it is recommended to get rid of it too.

This is because your new handle will come with a new lever anyways, and you might as well replace both parts while you have got your hands dirty. 

Purchase The New Handle

Of course, you may have preempted this step, purchasing your new handle prior to starting the job at hand.

However, for the people who haven’t, taking your old handle down to your local hardware store with the already-scribbled-down toilet information is the best bet for people who don’t like to take chances.

Or, maybe don’t trust themselves to pick out the right handle without the old one in tow.

Remove Mounting Nut And O-Ring From Handle

Once you have acquired your pride-inducing new toilet handle, it is time to remove the mounting nut and O-ring from it.

You may be able to unscrew the mounting nut with your brut force, but don’t be discouraged if you need to fetch a pair of pliers for the job.

Remember, in the process, you also must unscrew the mounting nut clockwise.

Once the nut is loose, slide it down the lever to the point where it is completely free.

Now remove the O-ring from the handle too. Maybe, just maybe, the O-ring will already be attached to the mounting nut, saving you from removing it yourself. But, don’t count on it!

Slide Lever Into Tank

Once the mounting nut and O-ring have been removed from the toilet handle, you will need to slide the lever into the toilet tank.

Do this by sliding the lever into the hole where your old toilet handle once was and your new one is about to be.

Guide the lever through the hole while keeping in mind that you want the end of it down by the chain clip.

You will know you have done this step correctly when the toilet handle is sitting flushing against the toilet tank.

At this point, you will want one of your hands on the inside of the tank supporting the lever, with the other hand holding the toilet handle on the outside of the toiler, snug against its hole. 

Put Mounting Nut And O-Ring On Handle

Do you know the mounting nut and O-ring that you took off the toilet handle that allowed its lever the chance to slide through the hole?

Well, it is officially time to put them back where they belong – back on the handle.

To do this you will need to go against the grain and screw them on in a counterclockwise motion.

Slide the O-ring onto the toilet handle lever before you screw the mounting nut on.

The O-ring will be secured by the mounting nut so don’t worry if it’s a little loose at first.

Step-By-Step Guide for Replacing a Toilet Handle

It is recommended to turn the mounting nut in a counterclockwise direction by hand first.

Turn it all the way up until the point where it becomes difficult by hand, then give it a final couple of twists with the pliers.

Don’t go overboard with the pliers as this is a sure-fire way to strip the mounting nut of its thread, making it another hacksaw job next time.

Reattach Chain To Lever

Now comes the time to relocate the chain that you smartly placed in a safe space.

The trick with reattaching the chain to the lever is to make sure that there is one inch of slack, nothing more, and nothing less.

The lever end should have at least two hole options and sometimes up to four which will make this task an easy one.

If you don’t get the tape measure out and select the hole that offers closest to one inch of slack, then it is likely your toilet won’t flush as efficiently as it can.

Once you are happy with the chain length, release the clasp and the chain will secure in place.

Another final tip on reattaching the chain is to double then triple-check that it isn’t caught on anything that it should be.

This is another simple mistake that can have drastic ramifications for the efficiency of your toilet. 

Turn Toilet Water Back On

Once you have reattached the chain back onto the toilet handle lever, you have (almost) finished.

The second final step is to give your toilet back its water.

To do this, you must go back to the toilet water valve located on the back of the wall.

Turn its handle in a counterclockwise position so that it runs parallel with the pipe itself.

You will know if you have done this successfully because the toilet tank will start filling itself up (Check out Why Your Toilet Tank Is Not Filling Up And How To Fix It?). 

Test The New Handle

The final step is the most exciting one by a country mile.

Why? Because you are done with getting your hands dirty and you get to test out your new toilet handle.

Not that it even needs to be said, but to test your toilet handle all you need to do is do what you always do and flush your toilet.

When you go for that first flush, try to get a sense of how the handle functions. Is it smooth? Does it get a little stuck? Does it get totally stuck? 

If your toilet handle is in perfect working order you can finally down to appreciate your handy work.

However, if it is getting stuck, you may have screwed the mounting nut too tight to the handle.

On the flip side, if the handle is loose in any way, you can bet your last dime is because the mounting nut is affixed properly. 

Another potential issue is if your toilet isn’t flushing at all. If this is the case, it would pay to scope out the chain one last time to make sure it hasn’t pinged off or got caught on the lever or another moving part.

If your toilet flushes well but doesn’t stop running, this could be a sign that the chain is too tight and needs to be loosened off.

Final Tips For Toilet-Handle-Replacing Success

Before we send you on your merry toilet-handle-replacing way we thought it would be clever to give you some final imparting tips of wisdom. 

  • The biggest no-no that people make when they need to replace the toilet handle on their toilet is buying a generic toilet handle. Even if they are branded as a one size fits all toilet handle, they will never fit as flush as a toilet handle that has been specially designed for your toilet. Like we said at the start, it pays to locate the make/ model information on the inside of your toilet tank and seek out a made-to-fit toilet handle accordingly.
  • A tip for increasing the longevity of your toilet’s handle is to flush gently. If you have already been through one or two toilet handles in the space of a few years, it is safe to assume that your toilet handle isn’t being treated with the respect it deserves.
  • To rectify this issue, give your family a toilet-handle-flushing masterclass. In it, show them that one gentle downward push is all you need to flush the toilet. Pushing down hard on a toilet handle puts an excessive amount of undue stress on the handle. Which, if you weren’t already aware, nine times out of ten, is made of plastic.


The ability to replace a toilet handle on their own is just another feather in the cap of home DIYers everywhere.

We hope, with the trusting eye of this step-by-step guide, you gain that feather soon.

Adrienne Carrie Hubbard
Latest posts by Adrienne Carrie Hubbard (see all)