• Geoff Burke

My Toilet Handle Is Broken... Now What?



This week, we’re going to look at something oddly specific – how to fix or replace that loose, rattling toilet handle. Out of the blue, we had 3 toilet handle calls this week, so it must be toilet handle season!


Loose and broken toilet handles can be more than just an annoyance – they can cause the whole flush mechanism of your toilet to malfunction. The handle is what attaches to the flapper, which allows the water from the tank to flow to the bowl, and subsequently down the drain! If any of these parts aren’t working properly, you’ll have flushing issues.


The first step is to determine if you can fix the handle you have, or if you have to replace it altogether. Often, toilet handle will simply loosen up over time. Of course, the quick and easy solution is just to tighten it and make sure everything is working normally again. Before you run off and try anything, there is one very key thing to know: the nut that screws onto the handle, holding it in place against the tank, has what are called REVERSE THREADS. This means that the old “lefty loosey, righty tightey” adage won’t apply here. You’ll have to use our old toilet handle adage, passed down through the generations of plumbers instead: “lefty tighty, righty loosey” (plumbers aren’t poets, don’t blame me). This just means that everything you ever knew about how to tighten/loosen something is in reverse, so don’t get frustrated when it won’t screw on!


If you’ve tried tightening the handle and it’s still wobbling around, something has broken and you’ll likely need to replace it. Things can get slightly trickier here. There are a few different styles of handles out there, depending on the toilet (side mount, front mount, and angle mount). If you want to play it safe, you’ll have to order the parts directly from the toilet manufacturer. If you want to live on the wild side, head to Home Depot and find the handle that is the closest match to what you have – just don’t be frustrated when it takes you three trips!


Installing the new handle is quite straightforward: Start by shutting the water off to the toilet, using the valve at the bottom left side, and flush it to remove the water in the tank. Next, we simply thread the new handle into the hole in the toilet tank, screw on the nut (in reverse), and attach the chain. Most handles will have a few holes for the chain to attach to; we usually like to leave about 1 inch of slack in the chain, so it’s just trial and error on which hole to use. Once you’ve found the sweet spot, turn the water back on and flush a few times to make sure everything is working properly.


Voila! You’ve saved the day! It’s a humbling experience, but be ready for those in your household to bow in reverence – a properly flushing toilet is worthy of such praise 😊


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