Replace Your Toilet Flapper in 8 Beginner-Friendly Steps

To replace a toilet flapper, begin by shutting off the flow of water to the toilet tank. Then, flush the tank to empty it. Once the toilet tank is empty, remove the toilet tank lid and find the flapper. Remove the old flapper by unhooking it from the posts on the toilet fill tube. Purchase a new flapper, making sure it matches the style of the old flapper. Install the new flapper by hooking it onto the fill tube posts and connecting the chain. Now, you can resume the flow of water to your toilet tank and use your toilet as usual.

How to change a toilet flapper

How Do You Know if Your Toilet Flapper is Leaking?

If you have a leaking toilet flapper, your toilet will fill periodically between flushes. This may be evident from the sound of the toilet running even when it has not been flushed recently. Other times, toilets will be silent as they fill due to a leaking flapper. In these cases, look for a telltale ripple in the water in your toilet bowl—this occurs when water trickles down from the tank due to a leaky flapper. A leaking flapper may also cause increased corrosion, buildup, and stains in your toilet bowl.

  • Your toilet tank refills between flushes.
  • You hear your toilet running when it has not been recently flushed.
  • The water in the toilet bowl ripples periodically, as water leaks past the flapper into the bowl.
  • Perform a food-coloring test to see if your flapper is leaking.

If you suspect your toilet flapper is leaking, take the top off your toilet tank and put five to 10 drops of food coloring into the water in your toilet tank. Do not flush the toilet. Wait one hour. If the water in your toilet tank begins to turn the color of the food coloring, your flapper is leaking. A leaking flapper needs to be replaced to solve the problem.

8 Steps to Change Your Toilet Flapper

Replacing a leaky toilet flapper is a quick job that can be tackled yourself, even if you don’t have any experience with plumbing. Just follow these steps.

1. Shut Off the Water to the Toilet

Before you change your flapper, it’s best to empty the toilet tank. First, locate the water line that feeds your toilet tank. This line usually starts from the floor behind your toilet, but it may come from the wall in some cases.

Turning off the water to a toilet as the first step to changing the flapper.
Twisting the water valve clockwise will shut the water off.

Look for an oval-shaped valve handle on this line. Twist the valve to the right (clockwise) to close it. You do not need a wrench to tighten this valve. Turning it by hand is enough.

2. Flush the Toilet

Remove the tank lid from the top of your toilet and set it down on a towel Then, flush the toilet. Watch the water level in the tank. It should drop and not refill.

Flushing a toilet as the second step of changing the toilet flapper.
Flush your toilet and watch for the water level to decrease.

If the tank starts to refill with water, tighten the valve on the water line flowing into the toilet until the water stops. Then, flush your tank 2–3 times until it is empty.

3. Find Your Flapper

To find your toilet flapper, press the flush handle of your toilet. When you do, the flapper should lift up. Look for a semicircular rubber or plastic flap on the bottom of the toilet tank.

A toilet flapper with an arrow explaining what it is.
The green circle above is highlighting the flapper. Look for something similar in your toilet.

Most toilet flappers are red, but they can be blue, black, or gray as well. If you cannot locate the flapper, your toilet may have a flush valve instead. This requires a different repair for a leaking toilet. If your toilet does have a flapper, move to the next step.

4. Detach the Flapper from the Post

Look for two hooks or loops where your flapper attaches to the fill tube. To remove the flapper from this attachment, bend one “ear” of the flapper outward and upward until it slips off the post on the bottom of the fill tube. Repeat for the other ear to detach your flapper.

A man showing where to detach a flapper from the post in the toilet.
Look for similar hooks or loops as shown above to detach your flapper.

If your flapper won’t bend to make removal easy, you may have a hard flapper. In this case, you need to follow the steps to remove a hard plastic toilet flapper.

5. Unhook the Flapper Chain

When your flapper is detached from the posts, it will still be hooked to the flush lever by a thin chain. Detach this chain from the lever by opening the long, flat clip at the top of the chain. Now, your flapper can be completely removed from your toilet tank.

A man showing how to unhook the chain to fully detach a toilet flapper for replacement.
Unhook the flapper chain the fully detach it. Just don’t throw it away yet because you’ll still need it.

Don’t throw your old flapper away just yet! You need to hang onto it for the next step.

6. Buy a New Flapper that Fits Your Toilet

Flappers come in two main sizes—2-inch and 3-inch. To make sure you get the right size, take your old flapper with you to your local hardware store. That way, you can compare it to the flappers they have in stock to find the right one.

An old toilet flapper sitting next to a new toilet flapper still in the packaging.
I used my old flapper to measure the correct size of a new flapper to purchase.

Your new flapper doesn’t have to match the old one exactly. If you can’t find a match, this universal toilet flapper works on almost all toilet models. If you’re unsure which flapper to choose, ask a hardware store employee for help.

7. Install Your New Flapper

To install your new flapper, begin by hooking the “ears” onto the hooks at the bottom of the fill tube. Then, attach the new chain to the flush lever.

A man attaching a new toilet flapper to the fill tube and then attaching it to the chain on the flush lever.
Hook the ears of your new flapper onto the fill tube and then attach it back to the flush lever, as shown above.

Check the chain length and operation of the flapper by pressing the handle a few times. make sure the flapper opens and closes properly.

8. Turn on the Water Flow

Now that your new flapper is installed, turn the valve handle on the water line to the left (counterclockwise) to open it. Then, look inside the toilet tank to ensure it is filling.

A man turning the water valve on a toilet counterclockwise to turn the water back on.
Turn the water valve on your toilet counterclockwise to turn the water back on.

Test the flapper by flushing the toilet. If the flapper is not opening and closing properly, adjust the length of the flapper chain until it is working correctly. Then, you can put the lid back into place on top of your toilet tank and resume using the toilet

Why Does Your Toilet Flapper Keep Leaking?

Your toilet flapper is most likely leaking due to age. Many flappers are made of rubber or plastic. These materials crack, shrink, or become brittle with age. A toilet flapper that is leaking due to age must be replaced.

  • Toilet flappers are made of materials that break down as they age.
  • Once your toilet flapper shrinks or cracks, it will begin leaking.
  • Age-damaged toilet flappers must be replaced.
  • Toilet flappers may leak due to buildup on the flapper.
  • Clean off mineral or algal buildup to see if it stops your flapper from leaking.

Sometimes, mineral buildup or algae growth can cause a toilet flapper to close improperly. If you see buildup on the flapper, clean it off with a sponge and cleaning solution. Then, recheck the operation of the flapper. If it is no longer leaking after you clean it, you do not need to replace the flapper.

How Do You Replace a Leaking Toilet Flapper?

To easily replace a leaky toilet flapper, just follow these steps:

  • Close the valve handle on the water line feeding your toilet tank.
  • Remove the toilet tank lid and flush until the tank is empty.
  • Find your toilet flapper by pressing the flush handle down—the flapper will lift up.
  • Remove the flapper by gently pulling it off the posts connecting it to the base of the fill tube.
  • Detach the flapper chain from the toilet’s flush lever.
  • Purchase a new toilet flapper that matches your old flapper.
  • Install your new flapper to the fill tube posts and the flapper chain.
  • Open the water line valve to fill your toilet tank.

This simple process will transform a leaking toilet into a leak-free, functional toilet. You won’t be bothered by a toilet that runs periodically and you will eliminate wasted water.

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