Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by Lynda Stevens
A toilet is one of the most important devices in any home. It eliminates unwanted waste material, germs, and bacteria that cause unpleasant odors and can spread disease between family members. Nowadays, people can choose from a wide variety of toilet models to suit homes and lifestyles of all types. But, in the United States, each toilet shares one common feature: a handle.
Almost all toilets that rely on contemporary plumbing systems require a handle that tells the device when it needs to release water and flush materials down the pipe. When this handle breaks, it can cause many problems. The toilet might not respond to its user, causing the buildup of waste material and bacteria. Or, the handle might not allow for the release of enough water to flush away unwanted contaminants. Individuals suffering from a broken handle could hire a plumber to fix the problem, or they can replace it themselves.
Are Toilet Handles Universal?
While some toilet handles claim to be universal, or that they will fit in all toilet tanks, this isn’t true. Since toilets tend to be made by different manufacturers, there are often sizing issues. There are also different types of handles which can change how well they fit: front mounting, side mounting, and angle mounting.
Both front and angle mounting mean the handle is attached through the front of the tank, but an angle mounting handle will have more of a curve to it, especially in the swing arm. This swing arm is a plastic piece on the handle that goes in the tank and connects the handle to the flush valve by attaching to a flexible change. A side mounting handle, meanwhile, needs to be installed on the side of the toilet.
To find the best toilet handle, individuals should know the make and model of their toilet and buy a handle from the same manufacturer. Taking measurements is also beneficial.
What Tools Are Needed?
Removing and replacing a toilet handle requires very few tools and is considered a simple plumbing procedure. There should already be a nut and bolt included in the toilet for the handle, and most new handles also come with their own. Therefore, the only tool a person needs is a crescent wrench to loosen and tighten the nut during installation.
Replacing a Toilet Handle
Replacing a toilet handle should be simple, although it does include a few steps. People who do not have any experience in plumbing should become familiar with the interior setup of their toilet to understand how the handle and mechanisms work. Most importantly, individuals interested in replacing their toilet handle should know what the lift chain is – the chain that connects the handle to the flush valve, or the piece of plastic responsible for transferring water from the tank into the bowl.
Next, it’s important to know the size of the handle that is currently installed in the toilet. As mentioned earlier, toilet handles are not universal. The easiest way to identify the handle is to remove the porcelain toilet lid and write down the brand name and number found in the interior of the tank. Some toilets require specific handles, so do some research before buying anything.
Once someone has the right handle, it’s time to dig in the tank. Shut off the water valve and flush the toilet so the bowl and tank are empty. Then, remove the tank lid. With the porcelain lid removed, the owner of the bathroom should see that the handle is attached to an internal arm connected to a chain. This chain connects to the flush valve. The owner should make a not of which hole the chain is affixed to in the arm since there are often 3-4 that adjust the chain length. The chain should then be unhooked.
Next, it’s time to unscrew the handle. Most toilet handles are kept in place by a nut and bolt, so the owner needs a crescent wrench to remove it. Be warned: the majority of these nuts have left-handed threads, which is the opposite of the majority. When someone faces the handle from the front of the toilet, this means the wrench needs to be turned clockwise, not counter-clockwise. Rusty nuts can be loosened using some sort of lubricant, especially WD-40.
As mentioned before, most new handles will include the handle itself as well as a swing arm. The old handle and swing arm can be removed carefully and the circle through the swing arm is inserted can be cleaned with soap and warm water. It’s easy for mildew to build up here, so it’s important to disinfect the area. Then, the new swing arm can be inserted through the hole. Place the handle flush against the porcelain of the toilet tank. Slide the removed nut back over the new swing arm and tighten it with a crescent wrench. Do not turn it too much or the toilet tank could crack.
The final step is to clip the chain back through the same hole on the new swing arm. It’s important to note that swing arms are not always the same length, so the bathroom owner should have some test flushes. The chain might need to be a clipped in a new area.
A toilet handle is an essential part of everyday life. It is touched by everyone in a household, is necessary to making the toilet run properly, and can cause so many problems when broken. Individuals who need to replace their toilet handle should not fear: It can be a simple and easy process with a little research, a little know-how, and some good old fashioned elbow grease.
Now that you know to replace a toilet handle, it’s time to go out and update your toilet to something sleek, modern, and well-working. Check our guide on the best toilet repair kits on the market today. Enjoy flushing!