Turn the water supply off to the toilet using the valve near it. Flush the toilet to drain as much water as possible from the tank and bowl. Remove remaining water with a wet/dry vacuum or by using a plunger to push it down the toilet drain. Use a large sponge, if needed, to further dry the tank and bowl.
Angie's How To Replace a Toilet Wax Ring
So you're in the bathroom minding your own business when you notice, ahem, seepage around the base of the toilet. It's not human error, but an issue with the john itself. The good news: It could be a relatively simple, inexpensive fix.
What to do if there's water around the base of the toilet?
Expert answer: “Basically, you would replace the wax ring if you ever see any signs of moisture coming from under the toilet," says plumber Brandon Aynes of highly rated Greenwood, Indiana,-based Johnson Heating & Cooling, which provides heating, cooling and plumbing services.
How much do wax rings cost?
Aynes says a new standard wax ring sold at a hardware store for around $3 to $10 should do the job. He recommends against getting wax-less or wax-free wax rings which incorporate rubber parts that, he says, chlorinated water could more easily corrode.
Follow these steps to keep your toes dry.
Photos by Eldon Lindsay
The water supply line connects to the underside of the toilet’s tank. Unscrew by hand, if possible, or use an adjustable wrench. If you find a rounded surface rather than flat edges where it connects to the tank, use pliers to get a grip in place of a wrench. For flexible supply lines, drain remaining water into a bucket. If the line isn’t flexible, place towels around it to keep the floor dry.
Optional: Replace the old water supply line with a new one, something Aynes says he does each time he removes the line as a matter of maintenance. Consider this step especially if the old line appears to be damaged in any way.
Trim caps on either side of the base of the toilet cover bolts that fix the toilet to the floor. Pop the two caps off with a flathead screwdriver by putting the blade edge of the screwdriver under each cap and twisting. Use your adjustable wrench to remove the nut from each flange bolt, then remove the washer, and a plastic disc below it which held the trim cap in place.
For the best leverage and least strain to you or the toilet, bend at the knees and, holding the toilet beneath the bowl, lift it off the two bolts. “You don’t want to use your back at all because you know the toilet has some weight,” Aynes says. Though typically less than 100 pounds dry, you can hurt yourself or do damage to the toilet by lifting improperly. So proceed carefully. Lay the removed toilet gently on it’s side atop an old blanket or towel.
Use a putty knife to scrape away as much of the old wax ring as you can from the flange, a pipe fitting where the toilet mounts to the floor, and around the toilet drain. Remove any debris, smooth and dry the surfaces, and remove the two bolts from the flange.
Look closely at the condition of the flange. If it’s cracked or broken, you’ll need to call a plumber to fix it, unless you have special expertise and know exactly what you’re doing, Aynes says. In good shape? Continue with the DIY.
These can rust and weaken when wet. Insert the new bolts head down in slots on the flange just where their predecessors stood. Each bolt should be positioned the same distance from the center of the drain and equidistant from the wall that’s located behind where the toilet normally sits. This will ensure the john isn’t cockeyed when you put it back on the bolts. Put on a washer then screw a nut on each.
Depending on the length of flange bolts, you may need to use a hack saw to cut them first before replacing caps. Suggestion: To avoid this, if you’re not sure how long of flange bolts you need for your toilet, take the old ones to the hardware store and ask for replacements to match.
Adhere the ring either to the bottom of the toilet drain or on top of the flange. (Aynes prefers to do the latter so the ring doesn’t accidentally fall off when he lifts the toilet; but he says product instructions routinely advise the former, and that either way works fine.)
Lift the toilet as before, aligning the holes at its base with the two flange bolts so that it sets squarely on the flange. The wax ring should be smushed between the two.
With the seat and lid down, put your weight squarely on it. “Rotate around until you feel the toilet completely flush with the floor. It should not move anymore at that point,” Aynes says. Replace the plastic disc and metal washer and screw the nut on each flange bolt at the base of the toilet. Tighten so that it snuggly secures the toilet — it shouldn’t wobble. But be careful not to over tighten as that could crack the porcelain and cause leaking.
Related: How to fix a wobbly toilet?
Reconnect the water supply line to the bottom of the tank. Tighten securely while being careful again not to overtighten since that could cause damage. Now turn on the water to the toilet and flush a couple times to make sure there are no leaks. Then replace the trim caps.
Want help? Learn about professional plumbering services and the required licenses.