How to Remove a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper: Easy Ways to Do

Is your toilet running all the time, and you don’t know how to stop it? Annoying as it seems, the issue is generally easy to solve. More often than not, the toilet flapper is the culprit. This stopper is located inside the tank and stops water flow after you flush. If it becomes damaged or its chain breaks, the flapper won’t create a tight seal, leaving the toilet running continuously.

To remove a hard plastic toilet flapper, you have to shut off the water and drain the water in the tank. Locate the flapper and disconnect it from the chain, then remove it from the overflow valve to which it is attached with clips or pegs.

What Is a Toilet Flapper and How Does It Work?

If your toilet flapper is broken and doesn’t seal the overflow valve adequately, you have to remove and replace it. Learning what type of flapper your toilet has is essential because the piece isn’t interchangeable.

Different Types of Toilet Flappers

There are essentially two categories of toilet flappers: hard plastic flappers with a rubber seal and flexible, rubber, or silicone flappers. These two categories are further divided into various types. No matter what type they are, all flappers work in the same way, sealing the outflow water pipe. In short, a toilet flapper starts and stops the flushing process.

We can distinguish between five major types of toilet flappers, as highlighted below: 

Seat Disk Flappers

A type of hard plastic flapper, the seat disk is found in older toilets but also in modern toilets with a vintage design. 

The mechanism is very simple: when you flush, a system of levers raises the flapper, starting the flushing process. As the tank empties, the flapper shuts and lets the tank refill. Due to the multiple parts of the mechanism, these flappers are the least efficient and rarely used in modern toilets.

Tank Ball Flappers

Tank ball flappers are similar to float balls and use the same principle to open and close water flow. They are connected to the valve with a rod or chain and feature an opening that fills the ball with water during the flush. When the ball is full, its weight causes it to sink and seal the outflow pipe. 

Non-Adjustable Flappers

The most popular flapper design in modern toilets, the non-adjustable flapper, is attached to the overflow pipe with a hinge. A chain connects it to the flush handle, and a hole in the flapper allows it to gradually fill with water and close by its own weight.

Non-adjustable flappers are made of either rubber or hard plastic. The hard plastic types also feature a rubber gasket that seals the valve and stops the flow when the flapper closes.

Rubber Flapper with Floater

A type of adjustable rubber flapper, the rubber flapper with floater, allows more or less water to flow through the drain, depending on where you position the floater on the chain.

Rubber Flapper with Control Dial

Like the rubber flapper with a floater, the rubber flapper with a control dial has a design similar to the non-adjustable rubber flappers. The main difference is the dial, which is built directly into the rubber piece and that allows you to use more or less water with a simple turn.

Both rubber flappers with a control dial and the rubber flappers with floaters can replace a non-adjustable rubber flapper. However, they may be incompatible with toilets using non-adjustable plastic flappers or tank ball flappers, so make sure to check the toilet model before buying a replacement part.

How to Remove a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper

Once you know what types of flappers your toilet can use, it’s time to find out how to remove the hard plastic toilet flapper so that you can replace it. Follow the quick steps below.

4 Quick Steps to Remove a Hard Plastic Toilet Flapper

1. Gather the necessary supplies 

While accessing the tank and removing the flapper is easy, you must still have a few supplies at hand. Here’s a list of things you’ll need.

  • Needle-nose pliers 
  • Sponge
  • Clean rag or microfiber cloth
  • Bucket
  • A small cup
  • Rubber gloves 
  • Utility knife

2. Turn off the water and drain the tank

Removing the flapper without closing the water will make it near impossible to fix your toilet without creating a mess. That’s why you should turn off the water supply to the toilet.

You can do that by closing the toilet shut-off valve, which should be located somewhere near the toilet bowl. If you can’t find it, search the main shut-off valve in your bathroom and close it by turning the knob clockwise. 

Once you’ve turned off the water supply, flush the toilet to empty the tank.

3. Access the tank and remove excess water

While flushing the toilet will remove most of the water in the tank, you may still find residual water at the tank bottom.

To get rid of it (and to access the flapper), you have to remove the tank lid and access the tank. Most toilet lids aren’t fixed to the tank, so all you have to do is lift and remove them. If the tank is made of ceramic or porcelain, remember that the lid can be quite heavy.

You should pay attention when lifting it because dropping a ceramic or porcelain lid could not only damage your toilet or floor, but it could injure you – it is best to get a helper for the task.

Plastic lids are lighter and easier to remove without risks, whereas some plumbers may fix the lid with putty when installing the toilet. In this case, use a putty knife to dislodge it, then lift and clean the lid and tank edge before replacing it.

Once you’ve removed the lid, use a small cup to remove the water from the bottom of your toilet tank.

4. Remove the flapper

Most hard plastic flappers are attached to the handle lever with a chain or plastic rod. Use the needle-nose pliers to detach the chain or rod from the lever, then disconnect the plastic flapper. Don’t pull the chain expecting it to come loose, as you may damage the tank components, such as the handle lever, float ball, or fill valve.

Hard plastic flappers can have a closed-loop or open-loop design. To remove a closed-loop flapper, remove the arm on one side and take off the flapper from the peg. Repeat on the other side to detach it completely. Open-loop flappers require you to remove one side from the post and then the other side. 

Toilet Flapper Won’t Come Off – Try This

While flappers shouldn’t stick to the other components in the toilet tank, old flappers could harden due to age and use. When this happens, it becomes nearly impossible to slide it off the post without damaging it. That’s why you should cut the flapper’s arms to prevent damaging the post.

You can accomplish this with a utility knife or a pair of scissors. Pay attention when cutting to prevent damaging the post.

Cut the flapper’s arms, then remove the flapper from the tank. Once that’s done, remove each arm carefully by sliding it off the post.

How To Replace An Old Plastic Toilet Flapper

Once the old flapper is removed, you may wonder how to replace the old-style plastic toilet flapper. Follow the easy steps below.

1. Find a right replacement flapper

As mentioned above, not all toilet flappers were created equal. If you have an older toilet, it is crucial to replace its flapper with the same type.

Most home improvement stores sell old-style flappers, or you could find the appropriate model online. Don’t try to adapt a new flapper to an old toilet tank because you could damage its interior components.

2. Remove the old flapper

Follow the steps above to remove the old flapper. Don’t forget to turn off the water and flush the toilet before removing it.

3. Install the new flapper

Place the new flapper over the overflow pipe and connect it to the post. If the flapper has arms that attach to the post, slide them on, then position the flapper in its place.

Attach the chain to the handle lever. Give the handle a push to see how the action feels and adjust the chain length if necessary. 

4. Fill the tank and test

When you’re done, open the shut-off valve and fill the tank with water. Flush the toilet and watch the flapper movement. Check that it seals the flow correctly before replacing the lid.

5. Replace the tank lid

After you’ve replaced the flapper, put the lid back on. You can continue testing the toilet three-four more times to make sure that everything is working properly. That’s it. You can now start using the toilet again or seal the lid with plumber’s putty if you want to.


Where should the flapper float be in a toilet?

Not all toilet flappers have floats, but if you have a modern toilet and want to use an adjustable flapper, you may wonder where the flapper float goes in the toilet tank.

To answer that question, you must first understand the flapper’s design. Flappers with floats consist of a rubber ball that blocks the flow and a buoyancy float that is similar to the float ball. This floater delays the flapper from closing once you let go of the flush handle.

The flapper float is located on the chain that links the flapper to the handle lever, but it doesn’t have a fixed position (hence, it’s adjustable).

You can place it up the chain if you want the flapper to close faster or lower it if you want the flapper to stay open longer. In this way, you can control how much water your toilet uses at each flush. 

Are toilet flappers standard size?

Yes, all toilet flappers have a standard size, which can be two or three inches. All toilets manufactured before 2005 use a two-inch flapper. Three-inch flappers have become popular in the last decades because they allow for a stronger flush stream. 

How long do toilet flappers last?

While toilets can last for a long time, you may have to replace the components inside the toilet tank now and then.

Generally, a toilet flapper lasts for about 4-5 years on toilets that are used daily. It could last longer in the guest bathroom, for instance.

When replacing the flapper, you should also control the float ball and fill valve to make sure everything’s working properly and prevent leaks.

Why won’t the flapper in the toilet close?

One of the most common causes a flapper doesn’t close is a short chain. You should check inside the tank and see if the chain is too short, especially if you have problems with a new toilet.

Another reason is a worn-out seal or gasket if your toilet has a hard plastic flapper with rubber seals. A broken trip lever could also prevent the flapper from closing properly.


Removing a hard plastic toilet flapper and replacing it with a new one isn’t hard. However, it is crucial to use the right flapper type and size to prevent damaging the tank and avoid potential leaks. While you can’t switch from one type of flapper to another, we hope the guide above can help you carry on this project like a pro.

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