How to Tighten Loose Toilet Bolts [5 Quick Steps]

In order to tighten loose toilet bolts that spin in place, first apply penetrating oil to the nuts. This will allow you to tighten them easily. Once the penetrating oil has had a chance to soak, grasp the top of the bolt with pliers to keep it from spinning. Then, use an adjustable wrench to tighten the first bolt a quarter turn before doing the same to the second bolt. Gradually tighten each bolt in this manner until the toilet is stable and leak-free.

How to tighten toilet bolts

Why Are Your Toilet Bolts Loose?

Your toilet bolts may be loose due to a warped toilet flange that makes tightening difficult. Additionally, use, temperature change, and the settling of your house can cause toilet bolts to gradually loosen over time. Occasional tightening is necessary.

  • A bent or damaged toilet flange can cause loose toilet bolts.
  • Toilet bolts loosen over time due to use, changes in temperature, and other factors.
  • Toilet bolts that loosen right after tightening are stripped and require replacement.

If your bolts loosen quickly after tightening this could be the sign of stripped bolts. In this case, replace your toilet bolts with a new pair. However, this is a more complex job that requires turning off the water supply and temporarily removing the toilet to install new bolts.

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What Happens if You Overtighten Toilet Bolts?

Overtightening your toilet bolts will crack the porcelain toilet flange. Cracked or broken porcelain cannot be repaired, so it’s essential to avoid this outcome. Follow our guide for correctly tightening your toilet bolts to achieve the best results. By gradually tightening each bolt you prevent differential pressure that will damage or destroy your toilet.

How Do You Keep Your Toilet Flange Bolts From Spinning?

If your toilet bolts are spinning when you attempt to tighten the nut, the best thing to do is grasp the top of the bolt with pliers or a pair of vise grips. Keep the pliers tight on the bolt to keep it from spinning as you tighten the nut on the toilet flange.

5 Steps to Properly Tighten Loose Toilet Bolts

In order to keep your toilet base firmly against the floor your toilet flange bolts must be properly tightened. If your bolts are too loose, the toilet could leak, causing water damage in your home. Here’s how to tighten toilet bolts quickly and easily:

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

For this job, you will need a few simple tools. A high-quality penetrating oil, like this one; an adjustable wrench; and a pair of pliers or vice grips.

Blurred photo of a workbench with tools arranged on it and a text list of tools needed to tighten toilet bolts.
With just 3 tools you can tighten even the trickiest toilet bolts.

Before you begin, make sure your toilet is not cracked or damaged. If your toilet is leaking water, this could mean that the wax seal is damaged and requires replacement. If your toilet is in good working order, proceed with the following steps for tightening the flange bolts.

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Step 2: Apply Penetrating Oil

A man's hand holding a spray can of penetrating oil preparing to spray a toilet flange bolt.
Spray penetrating oil onto the bolt and nut to make tightening easy.

Before attempting to tighten the bolts, apply a few drops of penetrating oil to each bolt. Allow the oil to soak for 15 minutes before taking the next steps. Toilet bolts can rust and seize up for several reasons. If your toilet bolts are rusted, it’s time to replace them.

Step 3: Grasp the Bolt With Pliers and an Adjustable Wrench

Closeup of a toilet flange bolt being gripped by square-nosed pliers and an adjustable wrench.
Grip the threaded portion of the toilet bolt with pliers. Then, tighten an adjustable wrench onto the nut at the base of the bolt.

Use your pliers or vise grips to firmly grasp the top of the bolt where it sticks up through the toilet flange. Do not turn or twist the pliers—this can strip the bolt. Instead, grasp firmly to prevent the bolt from spinning as you tighten the nut.

Once your pliers are in place, tighten an adjustable wrench onto the nut at the base of the bolt. You will use the pliers to hold the bolt still as you use the adjustable wrench to tighten the nut. This will stop your toilet from wobbling.

Step 4: Tighten the Nuts Equally

Man tightening toilet flange bolt with square-nosed pliers and adjustable wrench.
Turn each bolt one-quarter turn to gradually tighten. Alternate tightening first one bolt, then the other.

Beginning with the first side, tighten the nut as far as you can by hand. Then, use your wrench to make a quarter turn to the bolt. Repeat this process for the second side. Gradually tighten each bolt a quarter-turn at a time until both bolts are firmly in place.

Step 5: Be Careful Not to Overtighten

Closeup of man over-tightening toilet flange bolt with adjustable wrench.
Tighten both bolts gradually and evenly. Tightening one bolt too much could crack your toilet.

Do not tighten one bolt more than the other. Doing so can cause the toilet flange to crack or break. Instead, it’s often best to loosen both bolts, hand-tighten them, and then gradually tighten each bolt a quarter turn at a time. This equalizes the pressure between the bolts, reducing the risk of damage.

Toilet bolts do not need to be extremely tight to be effective. Once the toilet is no longer wobbling, cease tightening. Continuing to tighten past this point will crack your porcelain toilet.

How Do You Tighten a Toilet Flange Bolt?

To tighten the flange bolts of a loose toilet, simply do the following:

  • Apply penetrating oil to each of the bolts.
  • Grasp the top of the bolt with pliers to keep it from spinning.
  • Use an adjustable wrench to tighten the first bolt one-quarter turn.
  • Repeat for the second side.
  • Continue to alternate quarter turns on each bolt until the toilet is no longer loose.

This system is essential for correctly tightening the closet bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. A loose bolt can cause leaks, so it’s a good idea to carefully tighten toilet bolts once they begin to loosen.

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