How To Drain A Toilet? (7 Step Guide)

Last Updated On June 11, 2024

Updated on January 11, 2023



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Do you need to drain your toilet but don’t quite know how to do it correctly? Toilets, by design, constantly have water flowing through them, so how do you completely empty them? 

Most people don’t know the details about how to drain a toilet, so give yourself some slack and get ready to learn, since it’s something even a beginner DIY plumber can do with the right tools and a handy mindset.

In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:

  • What you need to know about how to drain a toilet
  • Reasons you may want to drain a toilet
  • Supplies you’ll need for draining a toilet
  • How to drain a toilet

What's In This Guide?

      What You Need To Know About How To Drain A Toilet

      Before you drain your toilet, it can benefit you to know the different parts of a toilet and how a toilet works

      The two main components of a toilet are the toilet tank and the toilet bowl. However, there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface. 

      A supply line fills the tank with water, and an inlet valve closes once the tank fills to the proper water level. If for some reason the inlet valve doesn’t close, an overflow pipe prevents the supply line from allowing too much water into the tank. 

      A problem with one of these components is often behind why a toilet tank doesn’t fill with water properly in the first place, or why it whistles after a flush.

      When someone flushes the toilet, a flush valve chain (or flapper) opens the flush valve, sending the water in the tank into the toilet bowl. Some of the water is used to automatically clean the bowl through rim holes, or jet holes

      When toilet water enters the bowl, gravity tales over, and the entire contents of the bowl siphon into the sewer pipe and through the sewer line away from your home to the treatment plant. 

      Fun Fact: About 60 million Americans use a septic system containing a septic tank instead of being connected to the city’s main sewer line.

      Reasons You May Want To Drain A Toilet


      Sometimes, water gets in the way when you want to reach deep stains. 

      Stains not only come from natural human waste, but they can develop even when no one uses the toilet, especially if you have hard water. Black stains in your toilet bowl can occur due to high levels of minerals, such as magnesium, in the water. Cleaning brown stains at the bottom of the toilet bowl are more common, and draining toilet water will aid this process.

      Toilet Repair 

      In the case of a toilet problem that requires extensive repair, such as a damaged pipe, the plumber may need to turn the water off to avoid a continuous leak while they work.

      Supplies You’ll Need For Draining A Toilet

      Basic Tools 

      Grab your toolbox for some of the following items:

      • Pipe wrench
      • Pliers
      • Hammer
      • Plumber’s tape

      Wet/Dry Vacuum

      A wet/dry vac is a powerful vacuum specifically designed to work on moisture and water. 

      A wet/dry vacuum, if you have one, can help soak up any remaining water in the toilet after you complete draining it. 

      Toilet Plunger 

      A plunger is a tool that provides a seal around a drain, such as a toilet drain, and then creates pressure in the drain. You can use it to break up a toilet clog, but it can also increase the flow of water. See this guide for how to unclog a toilet.


      You will need a bucket that can hold at least three gallons of water. 

      How To Drain A Toilet (8 Steps)

      Step 1: Prepare For Mess 

      It’s always best to plan for a mess when working on your toilet. Be sure to wear old clothing that covers your extremities and sensible shoes. You should have towels available nearby in case you need them. You likely won’t have one, but it’s best to be ready just in case.

      Step 2: Remove Clog

      You will not properly drain your toilet if you have a clogged toilet due to excessive use of toilet paper. paper towels, or other paper products. You will need to unclog the toilet before moving forward. However, this can lead to frustration if time is of the essence. 

      A powered auger, or drain snake, will get the job done immediately. You can even use a coat hanger if you don’t have an auger. However, if you have a clog deep in your plumbing system, you may need to use a fast-acting chemical drain cleaner to unclog your main line or sewer line. 

      Chemical drain cleaners use chemicals to eat at whatever created the clog. However, excessive use or improper use can lead to plumbing damage. Use with caution. 

      You can use a homemade drain cleaner made out of baking soda and vinegar or a natural drain cleaner overnight if you have more time. 

      Step 3: Turn Off Water

      Before touching the toilet, turn off its water at the shut-off valve by turning it counterclockwise. You may find the handle on the toilet itself, the wall, or the floor. 

      If you can’t find the shut-off valve to your toilet, you can shut off the water to your entire home. 

      Step 4: Drain Toilet Tank

      You need to start by draining the tank before the bowl. If you drain the bowl first, water from the tank will just flow into it again. 

      To reiterate, drain the tank before you drain the bowl. 

      You will drain the tank by simply flushing the handle and holding it down until the water finally flows into the bowl. 

      Step 5: Drain the Toilet Bowl (and Toilet Bowl Trap)

      Now, it’s time for you to drain the toilet bowl. 

      While it may seem counterintuitive, you will pour water into the toilet bowl in order to force the water out of it. 

      Fill a bucket with at least 3 gallons of water and pour it into your toilet bowl. Avoid using excessively hot water and opt for cool or warm water instead. 

      Step 6: Soak Up Remaining Water

      If you notice a small puddle of remaining water, you can attempt to remove it using a plunger or a wet/dry vacuum. This is necessary if you plan to remove the toilet and replace it with a new one.

      Step 7: Perform Maintenance/Repairs

      At this time, you can move forward with your plumbing maintenance or repair. 

      While you are at it, you should also deep clean the toilet while it’s drained. Be sure to pay special attention to the toilet seat since that’s the part of the toilet we come into contact with the most. 

      Step 8: Restore Water 

      After you finish your task, it’s time to restore water to your toilet again. To do this, you will close the shut-off valve by turning it clockwise. 

      Once you turn the water back on, flush the toilet to ensure that everything works properly. 

      FAQs For How To Drain A Toilet

      How do you completely drain a toilet?

      Follow these steps to completely drain a toilet:

      • Step One – prepare for a mess
      • Step Two – turn off the water
      • Step Three – drain the toilet tank
      • Step Four – drain the toilet bowl
      • Step Five – soak up the remaining water
      • Step Six – perform maintenance/repair 
      • Step Seven – restore water

      How can I get my toilet to drain without refilling?

      To prevent the toilet from refilling, you need to turn off the water by closing the shut-off valve. 

      Where is the toilet drain opening?

      You can find the toilet drain opening on either the floor or lower wall near the toilet. 

      Final Thoughts On How To Drain A Toilet

      If you want to perform maintenance on a new low-flow toilet to avoid a clogged drain or thoroughly clean your toilet, you need to drain the water out of it. 

      Anyone can drain a toilet with the proper tools and know-how. With this guide, you now know how to drain a toilet yourself. 

      Now all you need to do is learn how to get your kids to use less toilet paper. 

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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