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How Do You Remove Rusted Bolts From A Toilet Tank?

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

If you live in a warm and humid place, then it is more likely that pieces of metal that have iron will become rusty a lot quicker.

Of course, taking care of your toilet tank and keeping it dry will help prevent rust for a while, but it will rust eventually. You may even notice some rust in your toilet bowl.

How Do You Remove Rusted Bolts From A Toilet Tank (2)

The bolts inside a toilet tank are always submerged in water, so it’s natural and inevitable that rust will build up over time.

This is especially the case if your toilet is made from cheap metal that easily rusts, and if this is the case, regularly replacing the bolts in your toilet tank is essential. 

When you buy new bolts for your toilet tank, you should opt for brass or stainless steel as these are the least affected by rust. They are more expensive, but as they last longer this is more cost-effective in the long run.

Replacing your toilet tank bolts may look easy, however, it’s not without its difficulties. One of the most common difficulties is that the bolts may be so rusted that unscrewing them is near impossible.

But when there is a will there’s a way, and this article will take you through all the steps of removing rusted bolts from a toilet tank, (see also ‘How To Fix A Slow Filling Toilet Tank Without Calling A Plumber‘)  and why toilet tank maintenance is so important in the first place.

Why Is It So Important To Maintain Your Toilet Tank?

We take our toilets for granted, and it’s easy to forget that toilets need regular maintenance to make sure their parts are still working and are up to scratch.

After all, if you want anything in home to be long-lasting then you have to take care of it. Without regular maintenance and small checks when necessary, your toilet tank can run into problems like leaking (see also ‘How To Replace A Leaking Toilet Tank To Bowl Gasket’) and rusting.

So to keep your toilet in fantastic condition, keep these things in mind.

Clean Your Toilet Tank Regularly

You should clean your toilet tank on a regular basis to avoid issues like a buildup of germs and dirt. 

Empty Your Toilet Tank If It Hasn’t Been Used For A While

If a toilet tank is rarely used it can grow moldy inside, which not only smells awful but can negatively affect your health. So even if you haven’t used your toilet tank in a while, be sure to empty it. 

Avoid Using Bleach

While bleach is a popular cleaning product, do not use toilet tank cleaning products that have bleach in them as they erode rubber parts.

Make Sure To Check For Parts That Are Damaged

While you’re cleaning your toilet tank, check for signs of damage and replace them early before they break down.

Replace Bolts When They Begin To Rust

Your toilet tank usually has two large nuts and bolts that keep the tank secured to the toilet bowl that can rust over time and cause leaks. When these bolts start to rust, replace the bolts as soon as possible. 

If the bolts are incredibly rusty, then you might not be able to remove them. This doesn’t make unscrewing the bolts impossible, however.

Removing Rusted Bolts From A Toilet Tank

Now let’s go through the steps to successfully remove rusted bolts from a toilet tank

Remove The Water

Switch the water supply off before flushing the tank it empties of water. Use a sponge or an old towel to soak up the residual water. 

This is an important step because when the toilet tank bolts are loosened, it may cause a leak.

Another option is to lay a towel on the floor where you will be working. You may not be too worried about this step if you have a tiled bathroom, but it’s still important to be mindful of leaking water. 

Unscrew The Bolts

To unscrew the bolts, you’ll need a flat head screwdriver and a wrench. First, hold the bolt in place with the screwdriver and turn the wrench counterclockwise around the nut below the tank. 

As long as the bolts are not seriously rusty, you should be able to unscrew the bolts.

Be Ready To Explore Alternatives

If the head of the bolt essentially crumbles when you begin to use the screwdriver, you’ll need to consider a different angle. 

Attempt To Remove The Bolts Using A Mini-Hack Saw

A mini-hack saw has a flexible blade that gives you access below the head of the bolt.

Even when the bolt is extremely rusty, this solution should work. Stripping the rubber washer is also beneficial and helps you easily cut through the bolt. 

Use A Reciprocating Saw

This undoubtedly works better than a hack saw, however it may break the toilet. Shorter blades are more controllable, but longer blades give you better access. You may even find you need to use both.

Try Bolt Cutters

Bolt cutters can be a good alternative if the nut is loose and you’re still struggling to remove it. Bolt cutters are also not too expensive.

When using a bolt cutter, put the nose on the stem of the bolt, as this makes the process a lot simpler.

Drill The Bolts Out

If the bolts are incredibly rusty and just won’t come out, then this is the last resort.

Using a small drill, remove the bolts. You should proceed with caution with this method as it could damage the porcelain. Also when attempting this method the tank should be totally dry.

How Do You Remove Rusted Bolts From A Toilet Tank (1) (1)

How Do You Install New Bolts?

Now that we’ve removed the rusted bolts, let’s find out how you can install new bolts!

Use High Quality Bolts

If you replace your old bolts with new, high quality ones then this will mean less time replacing rusty bolts in the future! When looking for new bolts, make sure they are corrosion and rust-resistant. 

Screw The Nuts Onto The Bolt

With a flathead screwdriver, you need to hold the bolt inside the tank and screw the nut onto the bolt but not on the opposite side.

Also make sure not to overtighten the nuts! Doing this will squeeze the washers, and keep the water in the tank.

Overtightening the tank can be accidental, so don’t be too worried if the tank moves a bit. Flexibility doesn’t hurt.

If the toilet tank cracks, also try not to worry about that either and it can be remedied with epoxy.

Important Things To Remember

Let’s take a look at a few more important considerations when removing rusty bolts from your toilet tank.

Find Replacements Ahead Of Time

The best replacement for rusty bolts is to get bolts made of stainless steel and solid brass.

A big complaint amongst DIY enthusiasts is that it’s difficult to find bolts that properly fit your toilet, and if you’re replacing bolts for the first time, it’s easy to just replace the old bolts with bolts that can easily rust again, so it’s important to do your research and find the right bolts.

Stop When The Bolts Are Tight Enough

Many people wonder when the bolts on their toilet tank are tight enough.

While this is something people learn with experience, there are some things to keep in mind if this is the first time you’re replacing the bolts on your toilet tank. 

For example, using a smell wrench helps you to resist the urge to overtighten, and the bolts should always be snug, not too tight.

Make Sure To Inspect The Toilet Tank Gasket

Since you’re already installing new bolts, you might as well install a new gasket too.

This is actually the next logical step after removing the rusted bolts, and it’s easier to do these jobs all in one go instead of having to remove the bolts again a few months down the line to install a new gasket.

Be Mindful Of Other Sources Of Leaks

Toilet tank (see also ‘Best Epoxy For Toilet Tank Repair‘) leaks are not just caused by rusty toilet tank bolts. They can be caused by the tank being cracked, a leak in the gasket in the middle of the tank, or a leak in the tank water supply. 

Be Prepared!

Plumbing is rather unpredictable, and a lot of DIY plumbing involves trial and error.

You may start a job and midway through realise you need other tools to finish the job.

It’s good to be aware of the opening hours of your nearest hardware store, and get to work early so you have plenty of time to get the tools you need quickly.

Final Thoughts

Removing rusted toilet tank bolts might seem incredibly difficult, and how dexterous you are and how rusty the bolts are can have an effect on how difficult it is to get the job done.

But we hope our guide has been helpful, and with the proper tools and some patience you’re sure to successfully replace the rusted bolts on your toilet tank!

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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