Informational Guide

How To Replace A Toilet Handle

Our fix & install guide will teach what to look out for when it comes to replacing toilet handles easily.

by Holly Curell

Toilets are one of the most used items in your home, and it's important they work effectively. Even the best toilets can develop faults over time, and often it’s the handle that goes. Once a handle becomes loose or starts to hang down, then you won't be able to flush the toilet properly.

This guide will not only take you through all the things you need to look out for when it comes to resolving toilet handle issues but also how to replace toilet handle easily.

The average person uses the toilet 5 to 7 times a day, but not many people actually understand how a toilet works. The toilet handle is a key part of the mechanism, and without it, your toilet won't operate as you need it to.

When you press the toilet handle, it operates a lever inside your cistern. This is connected to a valve, called a flapper, and the water drains down through a siphon into the toilet bowl. The water pressure gets the waste to flow down the s-bend of the toilet and out into your plumbing.

How To Replace Toilet Handle

Why Doesn’t My Toilet Handle Work? (Causes + Signs They Need Replacing)

Toilet handles see a lot of use, and there are many different reasons they can stop working. Understanding the issue can help you solve the problem, and these are the main causes:

Causes:

  • Chain Unattached To The Ball
    Defects in your toilet, and wear and tear, can mean that your chain can become unattached from the ball. This means the handle is no longer connected to the valve and isn’t doing anything when you flush.
  • Chain Is Too Long
    If your chain is too long, there isn't enough tension to operate the valve and release water from the cistern.
  • Flapper Inside Of Your Tank Is Worn Out
    If the flapper valve inside your cistern is worn out, then it may leak water through to the toilet bowl even without you flushing. If there isn't enough water in the bowl, then your flush will become weak.
  • Broken Toilet Handle
    The toilet handle itself can break off or snap, so it's no longer connected to the cistern.

To prevent your toilet handle from breaking, you need to act early. Look out for these telltale signs that might indicate a problem with your toilet handle:

Signs:

  • Rusted, Pocked, Or Broken Toilet Handle
    Visible damage to your handle is the most obvious sign that something is wrong. Rust or cracking is often a sign that the toilet handle needs to be replaced.
  • Jiggling Toilet Handle
    If you have to jiggle the toilet handle to stop the flush, then it means that the valve is loose in the cistern. The jiggling will work for a time, but eventually, you will need to replace the valve and handle.
  • Holding Toilet Handle Down
    If you have to hold the toilet handle down to get all the water into the bowl, this means the chain is too long. This extra length means that the flapper doesn't lift high enough, so there's a lot less volume of water flowing into the toilet bowl.
  • Phantom Flusher
    A loose part inside your toilet mechanism, often caused by rust, can lead to the toilet flushing itself. This phantom flush is a clear sign you need to replace your handle as soon as possible; otherwise, you'll be wasting a lot of water.
Why Doesn’t My Toilet Handle Work

Steps By Step Guide For Replacing & Installing A Toilet Handle

How To Install A New Toilet Flush Handle

  • 1
    Choose Your Handle
    First, you need to find a handle that matches your toilet and your bathroom.
  • 2
    Open The Tank
    Lay a clean towel on the floor. Carefully lift the porcelain top from the cistern and place it down.
  • 3
    Disconnect The Chain
    A metal arm inside your toilet will be attached to a chain attached to the toilet handle. Carefully disconnect the handle and be sure to note which holes it's fitted into.
  • 4
    Remove The Old Toilet Handle
    You should now be able to remove the toilet handle by undoing the nuts that hold it in place. This will be located on the inside of the cistern near the top of the toilet. Make sure you turn it the right way and don't push too hard, or you can crack the porcelain. Once removed, make sure you clean around the hole with soap and water.
  • 5
    Attach The New Handle
    Now you should attach your new handle. Slide the arm through the hole and use the O-ring, washer, and nut to attach it securely. Use a wrench to get this as tight as possible, but be careful not to crack the porcelain.
  • 6
    Reattach The Chain
    Finally, reattach the chain inside the cistern so it can flush. Replace the lid on top of the toilet and test the handle to ensure the toilet flushes as it should.

How To Replace A Toilet Handle And Flapper

  • 1
    Turn Off The Water Supply
    Use the lever on the back of the toilet to turn off the water supply. You can then flush the toilet, so it's completely empty. Lift off the top and set it down carefully on the floor.
  • 2
    Get A New Flapper
    You can find these at most hardware stores. There is a standard size, but make sure you measure up first before buying because there is quite a bit of choice.
  • 3
    Replace The Old Flapper
    Disconnect the chain within the cistern and remove the old flapper. Carefully put your new flapper in and make sure it fits securely over the hole.
  • 4
    Reconnect The Chain
    Carefully reconnect the chain to the flapper, making sure there is enough tension in the chain so the flush will operate.
  • 5
    Follow The Steps Above
    Replace the toilet handle and ensure it’s all connected to the new flapper.
  • 6
    Turn On The Water Supply
    Replace the lid on top of the toilet and turn the water supply back on. Once the cistern has refilled, test the flush and make sure it’s all working as it should.

How To Replace Toilet Handle & Arm

If your toilet handle stays down, then you might have an issue with the arm. The lever arm connects the chain to the flapper valve, and often it will need to be replaced at the same time as the handle. This is how to fix and replace a toilet handle that stays down:

  • 1
    Shut Off The Water
    Shut off the water supply and flush the toilet to empty it. Carefully lift the porcelain lid from the toilet so you can access the mechanism.
  • 2
    Disconnect The Chain
    Disconnect the chain from the arm and disconnect the arm from the flapper valve. This should be easy enough to do by hand.
  • 3
    Select Your New Arm
    Find a replacement arm. These are available in most hardware stores but be sure to find the right size. These should be long enough to reach the chain but not so long that there isn’t enough tension in the chain to flush the toilet.
  • 4
    Attach The New Arm
    Attach the new arm to the chain and the flapper.
  • 5
    Replace The Handle
    Follow the steps further up in the guide to replace the handle.
  • 6
    Turn On The Water
    Turn the water supply back on and let the toilet fill up. Test the flush to make sure all the parts are functioning correctly. Carefully replace the toilet lid when you’re satisfied.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the handle on a toilet called by a plumber?

Toilet handles are often referred to as levers or a cistern lever; however, many plumbers will just call them toilet handles.

Can you buy just a toilet handle by itself?

Yes, there’s a wide selection of toilet handles available online and in hardware stores to match any design or style.

What are some of the top-rated toilet handle brands on the market?

Some of the highest-rated and most popular toilet handle brands on the market at Kohler, Danco, TOTO, Glacier, Moen, and Fluidmaster.

How long does it take to replace a toilet handle?

Toilet handles are easy to replace and can be done in under 15 minutes.

How much does it cost to replace a toilet handle?

If you're replacing the toilet handle yourself, you only need to pay for parts. Typically this will cost between $20 and $50 depending on the make and model you go for. If you ask a plumber to install it, then it will cost you more.

Are toilet handles universal?

The majority of toilet handles are universal and will work on any toilet. You should look for a style and design that matches your toilet, though.


Conclusion

Toilet handles are essential for a working toilet and can become damaged more easily than you might think. Thankfully, it's easy and inexpensive to replace a toilet handle yourself, and hopefully, this article has given you everything you need to do this with confidence.

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.

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