Fixing A Toilet That Rocks, Replacing A Wax Ring, & Adding Dual Flush

So apparently the “Dude” in Sherry’s “Dude, Get On That Already” is calling my name. So I got on the toilet. Okay, that sounds weird. What I mean is – the toilet in our hall bathroom has rocked a little bit from the day we moved in (the inspector even noted it on our little home inspection form). We quickly diagnosed the issue as a loose bolt, so “replace bolts on toilet” has been on my to-do list for over a year now. Yup, over a year. Why? Because replacing those lose bolts necessitated removing the entire toilet and reinstalling it. But I finally decided to seize the day toilet (amidst all of the photoshoot craziness) and tell this rocking throne who was boss. Why now? Something had to be done now that photo folks were actually using that room every day (hmm, a rocking toilet… embarrassing, much?).

We actually gave a toilet installation tutorial back in 2009 (using my parent’s bathroom as our model), but I figured I’d document this process because this project involves removing an old toilet first. And it’s also a good read if you have to replace your wax ring (it’s pretty much the same series of events) so hopefully it’ll help anyone else out there with a rocking/needs-a-new-wax-ring toilet. So ready yourselves for lots of somewhat grody and uncomfortable photos of the Petersiks’ potty. Complete with odd inherited rust spots and various caulk/paint spatters and discolored grout. Sounds like fun, right? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s start with turning off the water.

With the supply line is turned off, I flushed the toilet to get as much water out of the tank and bowl as possible. Since that didn’t get things totally dry, I broke out a sponge to sop up the extra water by hand. And no, I won’t show you a picture of my hand in the toilet bowl.

Once things were pretty dry, I unscrewed the supply line from the bottom of the toilet tank. We’ve got Clara’s diaper sprayer attached so ours looks a bit crazier than your average toilet, but the idea is basically the same.

There was a bit of water leftover in the supply line, so I had some paper towels on hand to soak it up.

Next up was removing the tank, which is bolted to the bowl in three spots. I was pretty much able to do it with a screwdriver all from the top, but I did have to unscrew the nut from the bottom side at one point.

Once it was unscrewed, I lifted it up carefully and set it down somewhere soft and out of the way. In this instance, that meant an old towel the bathtub. Oh yeah – we’re a classy operation ’round here.

Speaking of classy: here’s our topless toilet.

To remove the bowl, I had to unscrew the bolts on either side – this particular guy was the culprit for the rocking situation that got us into this whole mess:

With both bolts unscrewed, I used a gentle rocking motion to detach the toilet from the floor. It’s stuck to the floor in place by a wax ring (just wait for that beautiful picture – it’s coming up!). But once you’ve got it unstuck, the bowl comes up pretty easily.

And here’s that beautiful picture I teased. If you’re eating breakfast, you might want to stop scrolling. You can see I plugged the hole with an old rag to minimize the odors creeping back up and assaulting my nostrils. You just have to be careful not to put it in so deep that it gets lost into the sewer system. You might anger the Ninja Turtles living down there.

Since the old wax ring had to come up to make room for the new one, I got to scraping. This is probably the grossest picture of the post, so please accept my apologies. But rest assured that it’s just wax and rust – nothing more.

Oh, and I made sure to remove the old rubber reinforcement ring too. This comes in some wax rings, so it shouldn’t be left in place (our new wax ring had one in it).

I also had to clean a little bit of the wax off of the base of the bowl too so it was all pretty looking. Well, pretty is probably a stretch.

Here’s the new wax ring kit. It came with new bolts and everything for a whopping $6 at Home Depot.

The new ring gets stuck to the bowl, not the floor. I just pushed it slightly down over the opening at the bottom of the bowl. Be sure to have an inquisitive chihuahua double check your work.

Oh, and of course the new bolts had to go into place around the flange (that’s the steel piece attached to the floor – ours is very rusty). And remember to pull up the rag right before you put your toilet back into place (again, so as not to meet the wrath of Ninja Turtles).

Then came the tricky part – which I’ve been known to mess up in the past – putting the toilet bowl back into place. It’s tough only because (1) they’re a bit heavy and (2) you have to line it up perfectly over the bolts. But if worse comes to worst, you just pull it back up and try again (though if you’ve squished your wax ring too much you may need to put a new one on). That’s why I always buy two wax rings just in case. Better to spend an extra $6 to save a trip to the store (or risk a leaky toilet). Plus you can always return it the next time you’re at the store if you don’t end up needing it. Oh and this step can be helpful with two people (not only did Sherry take this picture to document things, then she got on the floor and helped me slowly lower the toilet down onto those bolts so it was all nicely aligned).

Once we had the toilet placed and straight, well, I sat on it. And Sherry took a picture. But the toilet-sitting was for good reason. I had to put a little bit of pressure on it to squish the wax ring into place to ensure that we were getting a good seal. I wish I could say this is the first post that featured a picture of me on the john, but alas…

Once it felt pretty set, I went to work bolting it into place. You can see how the new bolts stick up nicely through the holes in the bottom of the toilet bowl.

I hand tightened the nuts most of the way, but used a wrench to finish things off. The thing about a toilet is you don’t want to over-tighten because it can easily crack the ceramic. So just be sure to do this slowly. Note: that is not a hairball on the floor, it’s a weird rust stain that has been there since we moved in. So we plead the fifth.

I also had to bust out the hacksaw to cut off the extra length of bolt (so the little plastic covers can fit over them and hide the bolt entirely).

Bowl securely in place? Check. Not rocking anymore? Check. Now it was time for some tank action. I put the tank back into place on top of the toilet and screwed it in. Again, not too tightly because I didn’t want it cracking. But enough so that it felt secure and I didn’t think it would leak.

And last but not least, I reconnected the water supply line so we could check for leaks around the base of the bowl, the bottom of the tank, and where the water line is connected.

All of that checked out okay, so I ran a line of caulk around the base of the toilet. I only did it around the front 75% of the bowl so that if a leak were to happen in the future, it could escape out the back and alert us to the issue (that’s a little plumber’s trick we learned a few years back for ya).

Now this is usually where a toilet replacement adventure would come to an exciting conclusion. But this particular bathroom drama has another chapter. Because another thing on my more-than-a-year-overdue to-do list was to install a dual flush converter in here.

We did this in our last house so you can read a more in-depth description of the why and the how of dual flushing here. But basically this $20 converter kit which is now sold at Home Depot and on Amazon (here’s an affiliate link to it for ya) lets you take a normal toilet and give it two flushing options: a lighter flush for, um, lighter “activities” and a fuller one for the, you know, other stuff. Hooray for saving water (and money) and pretending your toilet is from the future.

The installation was a cinch compared to the whole wax ring replacement stuff. Here’s a shot of the finished product.

And for the grand finale – and “after” shot of our now fixed, now dual-flushing toilet. Sure, it looks pretty much the same. But just try sitting on it. It’s soooooo much better. No more seasick-esque motion. No more shouting a warning to guests who head down the hall to use the facilities. And admit it, that diaper sprayer on the right is hardcore. Like our toilet is wearing a little holster or something…

So that sums it up. Has anyone else had any bathroom adventures lately? Actually – let me phrase that more carefully. Has anyone else done any plumbing or bathroom fixture updates recently? Don’t want to hear about other sorts of activities going on in there. Oh and does anyone else know how to get hairball-esque rust out of tile? We’ve scrubbed that odd little squiggle of orange to no avail.

Psst- Now that I’ve assaulted your eyes with toilet pictures, check this out (it’s much cleaner and sweeter).


  1. Anne says

    This may sound odd, but have you tried using Coke (the soda) on the rust stain? I haven’t tried it on a floor, but I have soaked things in it before to get off rust and corrosion. Just a thought. You could also ask at the tile store.

  2. says

    Have you tried citric acid? I don’t know how hard it is to find in the US (it’s common here in Israel where people use it to get calcification of electric tea kettles and such) and I’ve used it to get up some rust stains that I thought were permanent. Just get the stain damp, sprinkle on the citric acid, let it sit, scrub it off. I don’t know how “green” it is, but it IS technically edible (I’ve heard unsweetened koolaid is high in citric acid) so it can’t be too bad!

    • Ye Jin says

      We have the exact same floors in our 1948 home. I found a thing on pinterest where you squeeze a lemon, allow it to sit with salt for 2 hours, and scrub with the lemon. It totally worked – I guess it is an acid thing b/c Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Citric acid – you can find in the canning section in a small baking powder like container. But try the lemon – I swear it worked! And I tried everything! Good luck :)

    • says

      Ye Jin, it’s funny you suggest that, because in Israel citric acid is actually known as “lemon salt” (melach limon)!

    • says

      Btw “barkeepers friend” is basically just citric acid, and citric acid truly is a super versatile cleaning product… I use it on my counters (don’t know what they are, but they’re something like Corian) whenever they get stained, and it’s amazing on porcelain fixtures too. It’s also great for playing pranks on fellow cast members on the final night of a show when they’re supposed to salt their food onstage (shhh) /DoneLobbyingForMyFavoriteCleaningProductNow/ :)

  3. Angela R. says

    Have you tried Whink? It’s a rust remover. I’ve used that on old cast iron bathtubs that have had rust issues.

    Thanks for doing this post- our toilet has been rockin’ for the last 7 years I think. I’ll have to show this to my dear hubby! Actually, I might even just have to do it myself some day and see if he notices!!

  4. says

    I must be twelve because bathroom humor cracks me up. I’m still giggling about “topless toilet”. Haha.

    When Joe and I were on our honeymoon in the UK, it felt like everywhere had those dual flusher buttons. I’m a fan of them (well, after I got used to them, of course).

    • Rhune says

      If you’re twelve, then I’m eleven. Because I actually visualized Beavis & Butthead having a field day with this toilet post.

      By visualized, I mean vocalized. /shame

  5. Kristen H says

    Must be toilet week – My sister’s was leaking, so I put all new guts and a supply line in it on Sunday. I’m intrigued by the dual flushy thing though. Might have to head back to Home Depot.

    Oh, and get on that dishwasher install will ya? :D My new one arrived yesterday, and I’ve decided to tackle it myself. Got it for a STEAL. Originally $800 bucks, I got it for $368 plus tax and free delivery! yay me! :) I have a builders grade one in my kitchen now – only a couple of years old. But it is so loud, you can’t hear anything on the whole first floor when it is running (open floor plan)> This new one is 12 dB quieter and Energy Start compliant, so here’s hoping! :)

  6. Jill Stigs says

    I know you guys are “anti-chemical” but I swear by using a product called Whink. It comes in a oval shaped brown bottle and if it’s not at the grocery store, check a hardware store. Works miracles. Really.

    I am going to do the caulk thing….will make mine look way better. thanks!

  7. Dee in BC says

    will a cleaner like CLR do the trick for the rust? Just be careful not to let it seep into the grout as I think it could damage or visibly lighten it. We had a few spots on the ceramic tile of our last hpuse where nothibg seemed to make them come clean ( Actually I think it could be that someting had damaged the surface & thisis why it wouldn;t clean up) I used an appliace touch up paint that matched the white tile quite well. At least the spots were then less visable. I did need to retouch every year or 2 but we couldn’t afford to tear up the tile and this was better than having a floor that looked like it had dirt spots on it.

  8. Valerie says

    If you want to remove the rust stain get some Bar Keeper’s Friend (I use the powder) and it will be gone in 2.5 seconds…

    I had some rust stains when I moved into my apartment that were unsightly and this was the only stuff that got rid of it…

    • Connie says

      Here’s another vote for Barkeeper’s friend. It’s inexpensive and no fumes, etc.
      I bought it when I had a porcelain sink, but also use it on my current stainless steel sink. It temporarily makes the stainless steel sink look a little “dryed out” for lack of a better term, so I spray furniture polish all over the sink and wipe it out and it looks like new!

    • Katie says

      Another vote for Bar Keepers! I often leave bobby pins on the tile on the side of the tub and they rust so quickly. This removes the stain in an instant. With other cleaners the stains hardly budge.

    • says

      Another vote for Bar Keepers! It keeps my porcelain sink all pretty and my pots and pans and any other tough thing I need to get clean without much scrubbing or effort and no fumes. Loovee the stuff. It was a requirement from my Dad when he bought me some AllClad haha.

    • says

      I was just going to suggest BKF. It really is amazing stuff and no fumes or anything. I used it on horrible rust stains in a place we rented a few years back and was amazed at how easily it cleaned everything.

  9. Angela M says

    We have lived with a wobbly toilet for 2 years… but we live on a slab thats not level in that particular spot. The people that lived there before apparently tried re-caulking the front end over and over and it looked gross. We cleaned that mess up! But we’ve tried shoving wood paint stirrers under the front but that doesnt help. I think we’re just stuck with our wobbly john! Glad you got yours fixed! If you have any suggestions for me, they’d be appreciated :)

  10. Laura says

    Seriously, Captain Safety???? Barefoot and holding a toilet? I’m waiting for the post where you go to the ER with a severed toe or two. :)

    • says

      The way the toilet goes down with two people doesn’t really give anyone the opportunity to get a toe under there (the way that you straddle it with your legs on either side would make it really hard to curve your legs back under and get toes under it)! Sorry if it looks crazy but it’s very slow movements with two people holding just the base up, so nothing toe-related really happens unless you’re not being careful. Haha. And you know Captain Careful…


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