Remove a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper in 5 Quick Steps

To remove a hard plastic toilet flapper, first, turn off the water supply to the toilet. Then, remove the toilet tank lid and flush the toilet until the tank is empty. From there, locate the flapper and unhook the chain that connects it to the flush lever. To fully remove a hard plastic flapper with an open loop, unclip the arms from the post on the overflow tube. If your flapper has closed-loop arms, pull the flapper as far as possible to one side and slide the loop off the end of the post. If this is impossible due to the shape of the post and the hardness of the flapper, cut through the hard plastic arms of the flapper with a utility knife. Then, you can remove the flapper and replace it.

How to remove a hard plastic toilet flapper

How Do You Know if Your Toilet Flapper Needs to be Replaced?

If your toilet won’t fill, takes a long time to fill after flushing, or if the toilet runs on and off, it’s likely a toilet flapper replacement is needed. The flapper is a rubberized seal that blocks the hole water rushes through to flush the toilet. When you turn the toilet handle, the flapper opens and sends water down to flush the toilet. If the flapper is in poor condition, it will not form a proper seal, causing water to leak through.

Signs you need to replace your toilet flapper:

  • The Toilet tank won’t fill.
  • Toilet runs intermittently between flushes.
  • Water runs down into the toilet bowl between flushes.

Rubber flappers break down or harden over time, causing them to seal poorly and cease functioning. Additionally, if you temporarily remove a toilet (such as during remodeling) and allow the flapper to dry out, it may not rehydrate and seal properly once the toilet is reconnected and the water is turned on again.

5 Steps for Removing a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper

A leaking flapper wastes water and results in a poorly functioning toilet. It’s a common source of frustration that occurs with all types of toilets. The good news is, you can easily remove and replace a hard plastic toilet flapper without any previous plumbing experience.

1. Turn Off the Water

Before taking any further steps, locate the water supply valve. This is usually a small handle on a pipe that comes up from the floor, with a water line feeding into the underside of the toilet tank.

A man's hand in a glove turning the water off in the toilet in order to remove a hard plastic flapper.
Turn the water supply valve clockwise to turn the water off.

Turn the handle clockwise to tighten it. This will shut off the flow of water to the toilet.

2. Remove the Tank Lid

Take off the toilet tank lid and set it aside somewhere safe, where it won’t be in the way and can’t be damaged.

The toilet tank lid removed, exposing a hard plastic flapper.
Remove the toilet tank lid to locate the hard plastic flapper.

Once the tank lid is off, you should be able to locate the flapper. It is usually a red or blue seal at the bottom of the tank. A chain will run down from the flush lever to the top of the flapper. When you turn the handle to flush the toilet, the chain will tighten and lift the flapper.

3. Flush the Toilet

With the tank removed, flush the toilet to empty the tank. With the water supply closed off in Step 1, new water will not flow into the tank.

A man flushing the toilet to remove the hard plastic flapper.
Flush the toilet to remove the hard plastic flapper. It should not refill with the water turned off.

It may require multiple flushes to fully empty the tank. If necessary, hold the flush handle in the down position to keep the flapper open and allow water to drain out of the tank.

4. Remove the Flapper

The main thing keeping the flapper in place will be the two “arms” attached to a post at the bottom of the overflow tube. This assembly works as a hinge that allows the flapper to open and close during flush. To unhook the flapper, try these methods:

  • If your flapper has open loops on its arms, unclip them from the post at the base of the overflow tube. To do this, hold down the post with one hand while gently prying upwards on the flapper’s arm with your other hand. The flapper should come free from the post. Then, repeat this process on the other side and the flapper can be completely removed.
  • If your flapper has closed loops on its arms, it can’t simply be unclipped from the post. Instead, the arms have to slide off over the ends of the post. To do this, pull the flapper to one side and push the post in the opposite direction until you can slide the flapper arm off the post. Then, repeat for the other side.
  • In some cases, your flapper may have hardened due to age and use, making it impossible to slide off the post. If this is the case, use a utility knife to cut through the arms of the flapper. Be careful not to damage the post or other toilet tank components. Once you have cut through the arms of the flapper, it will be simple to remove the flapper valve and arms separately.
A man using a utility knife to cut a hard plastic flapper free from a toilet tank.
Carefully using a utility knife to cut the flapper free in my toilet.

These three methods are the best ways to remove a hard plastic flapper. Because rubberized flappers may harden over time, some models that were meant to bend and flex for easy removal may no longer do so. In these cases, I prefer to cut through the flapper’s arms to make removal easy.

5. Unhook the Flapper Chain

With the flapper detached from the post, you can finally remove the flapper itself. Start by unhooking the flapper chain where it attaches to the flush handle towards the top of the tank. There is usually a clip that makes unhooking this end of the chain easy.

A man unhooking the chain in the toilet tank to remove a hard plastic flapper.
Unhook the chain to remove the hard plastic flapper.

Do not attempt to unhook the chain from the top of the flapper itself—most designs do not make this removal simple. Plus, new flappers usually come with a new chain. So, you can throw away the old chain and flapper together.

Are Toilet Flappers Universal?

Toilet flappers are not universal. Depending on your model of toilet, you may need a specialized flapper. In order to make replacing your flapper simple, first remove the flapper. Then, bring the old flapper with you to the hardware store and search for a replacement that matches the one you removed.

  • Toilet flappers are not universal. The flapper you need depends on the type of toilet you own
  • Remove the old flapper before purchasing a replacement.
  • Write down the make and model of your toilet, if possible.
  • Bring the old flapper with you when you visit the hardware store for a replacement. Look for a flapper that is a similar style to your old flapper and advertises that it is a replacement for your make/model of toilet.’

This simple process will save you extra trips to the hardware store and make getting replacement parts easy. Your local hardware store will likely stock several different types of flappers, which makes replacement simple.

How Do You Replace a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper?

When replacing a hard plastic toilet flapper you should:

  • Turn off the water supply to the toilet.
  • Remove the tank lid from the toilet.
  • Flush the toilet until the tank is empty.
  • Unhook the flapper chain from the flush lever.
  • Detach the flapper from the posts at the base of the overflow tube.

Once you’ve removed your flapper, simply reverse these steps to install a new hard plastic toilet flapper.

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