Here’s What To Do if Your Toilet Flapper Won’t Come Off

Replacing the toilet flapper in your toilet tank is one of the most common repairs a person will have to do in their bathroom. The rubber part of the flapper should connect to two mounting posts and the base of a length of pipe in your toilet tank. There are a lot of components to a toilet, as you will see.

Most of the time, replacing the flapper is a no-headache job. But sometimes it gives you a bit of trouble. This situation can be an issue if you are not trying to replace the flapper. Sometimes, you want to temporarily remove a stubborn toilet flapper to get a deep clean.

So, what should you do if your toilet flapper won’t come off? 

Here are some factors to consider and what to do if you have a problem while attempting to remove the flapper.

Removing the Flapper

Most of the time, removing the flapper is as simple as pulling up on the ears where they attach to the mounting posts. Most flappers can be removed and replaced because the rubber does not last forever. 

The ears of most flappers will curl around the mounting posts, so you can easily pry them up and remove them. Some, however, are made as an entirely closed circle without enough room to pry them loose by going around the mounting posts.

Still Soft Rubber

If the rubber of the flapper is still soft, there is a good chance you can still get it off. Try removing it with a bit more strength and a firmer grip. You may be worried about ripping a piece of rubber from the flap, but at this point, your only alternative is to cut the flapper free.

So, a little bit of tearing that might not ruin the flapper should be an alright price to pay by comparison. I would say that is a pretty good deal to have. 

But, if you can not get the flapper off in one piece, understand that you may have to replace it. Fortunately, a toilet flapper is not an expensive replacement. And once you know how to install it, it is easy to remove and replace it in the future.

Closed Flapper Arms

Open flapper arms are pretty easy to pry loose. But when the flapper’s arms are closed, things become a little more difficult. 

The protocol for removing closed flapper arms is to turn the pipe to the left and slide the flapper off that way. In most cases, that will solve your problem.

Unfortunately, the rubber hardens and becomes more difficult to bend as it ages. Sometimes you will end up with closed flapper arms that just will not give enough for you to get them off the mounting rod.

Aging Rubber

When rubber is exposed to light and air, its chemical composition starts to deteriorate

So, what happens to rubber when it gets hard and starts to crack in places? If you notice that you can not remove your toilet flapper from its mounting posts, there’s a good chance that the attached rubber is deteriorating.

So what do you do?

The bad news is that you will have to cut it off. A couple of careful snips around the arms should free the old flapper and allow you to get it out of the toilet tank. 

The arms might still be connected to the mounting post after this. But, it should be far easier to remove them when disconnected from the flapper.

The good news is, if you’ve gotten this far, you were probably planning on replacing the flapper anyway, so it does not matter if you have to cut it off because you are just going to throw it away.

Cutting off the Old Rubber

Make sure to be careful with your cutting instrument. 

A pair of scissors should do just fine, but they’ll have to be big enough to cut through the rubber of a flapper, and an aged one at that. You’ll want to ensure not to carve anything in the back of your toilet bowl that is not part of the flapper you’re trying to replace.

What to Do When You’ve Accidentally Cut the Flush Valves

What should you do if you already tried to carve off the toilet flapper and accidentally went too far? Specifically, cutting into the flush valves?

Hopefully, you remembered to turn off the water supply to your toilet before you got to this step. Whether you shut the water supply off or not, accidentally cutting the flush valves is a mistake no one wants to make. 

But accidentally cutting off the flush valves is not unfixable.

A new flush valve will typically run you about 20 dollars. The new valve may be a little more expensive if you plan on buying a nice one. Or if your local hardware store is trying to price -gouge you. 

Much more than that, and I’d advise taking your business elsewhere, but it’s not like people make a habit of haggling over toilet plastic.

Replacing the flush valve is considered one of the more difficult repairs to perform on a toilet. But once you know what you are doing, you can do it at home without calling in a professional.

A Small Nick

A small nick enough is easy enough to handle. If you barely chipped it while cutting off the flapper, you can likely sand down the flush valve and fix it without replacing the whole thing. 

Avoiding a replacement saves you about 20 dollars and is not that difficult to do, provided you have the materials and do not mind spending the time fixing it.

Pay attention to how deep the cut is. If it goes too far, sanding out the rough part will not cut it. Not only because it would take too long but because the flapper needs to be able to create a seal with the valve, and if you take off too much from the top, that will not be possible.

Major Damage

If you have done significant damage to your flush valve, you need to replace the whole thing. The first thing to do is check the serial number on your valve so you know what to buy to replace it. All flush valves are not the same.

Once you have the replacement valve, you’ll want to remove the toilet tank from the toilet. On the bottom of the flush valve, there should be a large plastic nut. Unscrewing that nut should allow you to remove the flush valve.

From there, it is as simple as putting the new one where the old one was. Just be careful not to overtighten the nut, or you might crack the flush valve, and repeated twenty-dollar expenses add up after a while. At that point, you might be better off just calling in a professional.

You can avoid having to replace your flush valves by taking your time with removing your toilet flapper.

Final Thoughts

A lot is going on in the back of your toilet, and the smallest inconsistency can cause a big mess on your bathroom floor. 

Fortunately, most of what goes on back there is fairly simple to fix as long as you take the time to learn the basics before you start. Plastic pieces rip and tear. And as they age, they become hard and brittle and stop doing the things they are meant to do.

If the rubber toilet flapper won’t come off, it might mean that you have to cut it off and replace it. Whether you give it a firm tug or cut it off, ensure you carefully remove the toilet flapper. That way, you can avoid causing harm to the flush valve and other toilet components.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid this. But fortunately, if you keep an eye on them as you go, you should be able to solve a small problem before it becomes a bigger one. And, try to keep an extra toilet flapper on hand.

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