You’ve bought your paint, drop cloths are in place, roller and brush are ready to go, but you’ve got one big problem…
How Do You Paint Behind The Toilet?
No matter how you look at it, you can’t figure out a good way to get in behind your big smelly toilet.
You’re not going to remove the toilet, that’s out of the question. So how can you easily and effectively get the wall painted behind your toilet?
Well, it’s easy and I’m going to tell you how!
How To Paint Behind A Toilet
Painting behind your toilet requires only a few basic tools, a little bit of prep, and just a few minutes of work.
I’m going to show you how a little bit of prep, a brush, and mini roller will get the wall behind your toilet painted perfectly without missing any wall space or getting paint all over your toilet.
Three Different Methods
Tools Needed For Painting Behind A Toilet
For The Mini Roller Method
- Mini Roller Frame
- Mini Roller Pad
- Mini Roller Tray
- Small Drop Cloth
For The Stick and Rag Method
- A paint stir stick
- A t-shirt rag
- Small Drop Cloth
For Removing Your Water Tank
How To Paint Behind A Toilet Method #1: The Mini Roller Method
The mini roller method is the easiest and in my opinion, best way to approach when wondering how to paint behind a toilet.
It takes less than 5 minutes, uses common painting tools, and leaves your bathroom wall behind your toilet with a similar texture to the rest of the walls.
Start By Cleaning Up Around The Toilet
This one should be a no brainer. I’ve been painting for nearly 20 years and have painted hundreds of bathrooms. I can’t tell you how many homeowners don’t even bother to clean up their bathroom before I come in to paint it (ewww).
You’re going to want to completely wipe down that toilet because you are going to be on your hands and knees reaching around the toilet (basically bear hugging it) and the only way this is going to be tolerable is if the toilet is perfectly clean.
I’ve started using Better Life Natural Cleaner. It’s safe for kids and pets, which I like in our house.
Note: Make sure to clean off the trim behind the toilet during this process as well or your tape will not stick to it. All trim in your house gets dirty, and if it isn’t perfectly clean your tape won’t stick to it perfectly.
Prep Off The Toilet & Trim
I like to remove the water tank lid when I paint behind toilets. The tank lid actually hangs over the tank by about an inch and usually doesn’t have enough clearance between it and the wall. Plus the lid easily lifts off the toilet, no point in not removing it.
The tank its self should have plenty of clearance between it and the wall you are about the paint.
No tape is needed on top of the toilet if you removed the water tank lid.
When painting the wall above the toilet, I like to place a small drop cloth over the entire toilet to protect it from splatter.
Finally, run a strip of tape on the trim behind the toilet and press it firmly into place with a 5-in-1 tool or small mud knife.
NOTE: Another option for prepping off the toilet’s water tank is to take a garbage bag and place it over the tank from the top down. Next, wrap a couple of strips of tape around the entire tank to tighten up the bag (so it doesn’t hang off an into the paint). This will protect your water tank even better than a few strips of tape.
Brush Around The Water Inlet Pipe
Rollers cannot get in close enough to edges, corners, and pipes to look good. So, you’ll want to get out your 2″ cutting brush and brush around the water inlet pipe that is coming out of your wall and goes to the toilet. I like to brush out about 6 inches in every direction.
You’ll also want to use your brush and brush a coat of paint along the trim, going up roughly 6 inches again.
You should now have 6 inches of paint brushed in along the trim and around the water line.
Use Your Mini Roller Behind The Toilet
This is the simple tool that makes painting behind a toilet easy and doable for everyone.
With it’s 16″ long neck and roughly 1″ wide roller pad, a 16″ mini roller frame and 4″ roller pad will allow you to easily get paint in behind your toilet and even the water tank.
No special tray is required for your mini roller, just use it in the same paint tray as your normal 9″ roller (I love the Handy Paint Tray personally).
In all my years of painting, I have never had a toilet where this method didn’t allow me to get paint properly and easily in behind the toilet.
De-Prep and Cleanup
When you are done painting behind your toilet, simply pull your tape from the sides of the water tank on the toilet and from the trim.
Check to make sure that you didn’t get any paint on the toilet. If you did, make sure to wipe it off right away. The paint won’t bond tightly to a pocalin toilet (at least not for a week or longer), so make sure to get the paint off right away.
The Stick and Rag Method For Painting Behind A Toilet
The mini roller method doesn’t always work. That’s why it’s nice to have a backup option.
What If The Toilet Is Too Tight To The Wall?
If you find that the long mini roller method doesn’t work for you because your toilet’s water tank has an inch or less clearance from the wall, don’t worry, there is a simple method to get into even this tiny areas in your bathroom.
What many painters do in this situation is to first put a plastic bag over the toilets water tank so the plastic goes between the water tank and the wall. A simple trash bag works perfectly for this.
Wrap a few strips of tape around the bag and toilet to hold it tight. You don’t want it moving during your painting.
Next, take a painting stir stick or any thin piece of wood. Wrap a rag around it and wrap a piece of tape around the rag and stick at the top.
Next, dip one side of the rag covered stick into your paint (or brush the paint onto it with a paintbrush). Don’t get the rag overly soaked with paint, it will make a mess!
Next, slide the stick back and forth between the water tank and the wall until the wall is thoroughly painted.
This process is slow and doesn’t leave a perfect texture, but it will get the job done in a tight situation. Texture behind a toilet doesn’t really matter anyway.
Extra tip for painting behind your toilet with a rag and stick: I’ve found that with this method you need your last coat to be 100% dry so you don’t rub it off if there is a lot of friction because of the tight space. Also, a third coat of paint can often be necessary since you cannot apply very thick coats of paint.
Removing The Water Tank To Paint Behind A Toilet
Sometimes no matter what you do, you just can’t get the paint in behind the toilet as you’d like.
Honestly, if there isn’t enough room to fit a mini roller or flat stir stick in between your toilet and wall, I would personally not bother painting the bathroom wall behind the toilet. In that tight of an area, no one will ever see that you didn’t paint it!
Can You Remove The Water Tank From Your Bathroom Toilet?
In these situations, the last resort is removing the water tank so that you have complete access to the wall.
Notice, I am only suggesting that you remove the water tank. Personally, I never remove an entire toilet. I don’t want to put in a new wax ring or mess with any of that stuff. So if the water tank doesn’t separate from the bowl, this is not an option for you.
Turn Off The Water
First, to remove the water tank, start by turning off the water going into the tank. There should be a valve coming out of the wall right behind the toilet. Then flush the toilet to empty the water tank. Finally, unscrew the water hose from the bottom of the water tank on the back of the toilet, this can be found typically on the left bottom side of the water tank.
Detach The Tank
Next, most water tanks are attached to the bowl using two plastic blots and plastic nuts. reach directly under the two sides of the water tank and you should feel a plastic bolt and nut on either side of the tank. This is all that is holding the tank on.
Unscrew both of the nuts from the bolts. Now the tank should be able to be lifted gently off of the bowl. I like to set it carefully into the bathtub in case it decides to drip some water while I am working.
Paint Your Bathroom Wall Behind The Toilet
You can now go ahead and paint the wall behind the toilet. This should be very simple and the toilet bowl that is still sitting there should have plenty of clearance from the wall to not interfere with your painting.
Replace and Reattach The Water Tank
Once you have completed the painting and it has had time to dry, simply place the water tank back onto the bowl making sure that each plastic bolt goes through the correct holes in the bowl. Screw the nuts back onto the bolts to tighten the tank to the bowl and re-attach the water line to the left bottom side of the tank.
The last step is to turn the water back on and give the toilet a test flush to make sure everything works as it should.
Final Thoughts For Painting Behind A Toilet
As you can see, getting paint in behind your toilet is rather easy.
There is no more excuses for funny looking unpainted wall spots behind the toilet in your bathroom!
Did this tip work for you? Got any questions or advice of your own? Let me know in the comments below
Other Resources You May Find Helpful
I’ve been a professional painter since 2001 and spent the last 12 years specializing in kitchen cabinet refinishing. I started the DIY Painting Tips blog in 2015 to start sharing everything I’ve learned over the years and help all the people who’d rather tackle their painting projects themselves. In 2019 I started the DIY Painting Tips Youtube channel where I publish in depth videos all about kitchen cabinet painting, painting gear reviews, and interior/exterior tutorials.