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How to Remove a Stuck or Stubborn Toilet Seat?

I can't seem to get the toilet seat off. What is an easy way to replace it? Are there any tricks in installing or choosing a new one?

Regarding the "most popular seat in the house", there are two types of toilet seat mounts to be concerned with...

1) Installing and removing a toilet seat with the "Infamous Integral Bolt"...

Corroded toilet seat mounting boltThe first type has an integral mounting bolt. These are the most hateful of all toilet seats! The bolt that fastens the seat to the toilet bowl is actually part of the seat hinge, and is not removable. To install, just screw on the nuts under the rear of the bowl till they are snug, using a wrench or a pliers for the last couple of turns. But now, let's travel into the FUTURE!!

"Oh, it's been six or seven years now, and the old toilet seat is looking rather nasty. Let's put on a new one. Hmmm... the nut seems to be rather tight... maybe just a little more force... OH Crud!!... the bolt is turning..."

If the nut becomes stuck to the bolt due to years of corrosion, these seats are virtually impossible to remove without either drilling off the nut, or ripping the seat to shreds!! Note the corrosion in the graphic!

Drill off the toilet seat nut or bolt!

Drilling the nut may work, but it will be very difficult if it happens to be a rusty steel nut on a rusty steel bolt (which some are, for who-knows-what dimwitted reason... Toilet + Moisture + Steel = RUST!  Duh!  If you are lucky enough to have plastic nuts, then they are easily drilled off. (Why are you guys wincing, pray tell?)

Toilets don't usually give you a lot of space to work underneath, so I have found that the best attack is a frontal one. Carefully drill into the concealed bolt head through the plastic, starting with a small 1/8" bit to make a pilot hole. Increase the bit size incrementally until the head detaches from the bolt. Once the bolts are free, and the old seat deep in the woods, its time to dance!

Extreme caution must be used to not break the porcelain.  Using the sharpest drill bit possible will decrease the amount of force you will need to drill off the bolt head!!

2) Installing and removing a toilet seat with conventional mounting bolt and nut...

The standard toilet seat mounting is simple. A metal (hiss) or plastic bolt goes through the hinge of the seat, usually through a hole that is concealed by a nifty cover. Some wood seats leave the bolt head exposed. To remove, first you have to determine how to open the cover over the screw head. You will then have access to a slotted bolt. This does not mean that you will be able to simply unscrew the bolt. It just means that you have a better chance! Hold the nut underneath the lip of the toilet bowl with your hand or pliers, and with a screwdriver try to unscrew the bolt.

If you cannot remove the nut from the bolt, and the nut is plastic, simply drill it off. If the nut and bolt are both plastic, it's easier to drill through the head, but this combo usually comes apart without too much hassle!

If you are again dealing with a rusty steel situation (as with the integral bolt-style seat example above), get the drill back out and go at the head of the bolt, starting with a small enough bit to start a center hole without skittering all over the place due to the slot. Try a 1/16" bit to start, and then your bigger bits will follow the pilot hole. Just be careful not to snap the small bit, especially if it means another trip to the hardware store!! I always keep a few extra littl'uns around, just in case.

Choose the correct toilet seat size...

Choosing the correct toilet seat size

In case you don't know it, there are two sizes of toilet seats, standard and elongated. Be sure to get the right one for your toilet!

Measure from the center of the seat bolt holes to the outside front of the bowl. The dimension for a standard toilet is about 16 1/2". For an elongated toilet, the dimension is about 18 1/2".

Open front vs. Closed front toilet seat

Toilet seats are available with open or closed fronts.  Most commercial toilets have open front seats for hygienic reasons and to comply with local health codes.   Enough said... use your imagination!  In your home personal preference still rules...at least so far!

Installing your new toilet seat... the easy part of this job!

Once you've removed the old seat, thoroughly clean the area underneath the old toilet bolts, including underneath the toilet rim.  I always wipe the area with denatured alcohol before installing the new seat... it's your last best chance to do a thorough cleaning of this area!

If your new toilet seat comes with little double-sided adhesive squares, don't laugh and throw them out... they really work! One reason toilet seats loosen is because there is so little friction between the smooth seat hinge and the  porcelain bowl, movement is inevitable.  This persistent movement, over time, causes the seat bolts to loosen.  The adhesive squares increase the friction.

AGAIN... make sure the area around the bolt holes on the bowl is squeaky clean- give it a wipe with denatured (rubbing) alcohol to remove all oil, grease, or other nasties before applying the tape. Oh... and always apply the adhesive squares to the toilet seat first, not the toilet bowl, so you have a better chance of proper centering!!

Return to Toilet Question List

Jerry Alonzy, the founder of Naturalhandyman.com

Written by Jerry Alonzy

Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.

As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+.