Skip to main content

How to Paint Behind a Toilet Without Removing It

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.


How Do You Paint Behind a Toilet?

If you're painting a bathroom, you're likely wondering how in the heck to paint behind the toilet tank without making a mess. No doubt, walls around the toilet are one of the most challenging parts of a bathroom to paint because the space between the wall and tank is usually too narrow for a conventional paint roller. So how do you paint behind it, and does the tank need to be removed? In most cases, no, you don't have to remove the tank, but it depends.

Does the Tank Need to be Removed?

One option is to shut the water off and remove the tank with a wrench to easily access the wall behind it, but most people don't want to go through the trouble of dismantling their stinky toilet to paint a very small space, and usually, it's totally unnecessary. However, in some cases, removing the tank is necessary.

Are you removing wallpaper in your bathroom? While most bathrooms I paint don't have wallpaper, some do, and the only way to remove the paper from the wall is to remove the tank first otherwise the paper behind the toilet cannot be removed and remains visible from an angle.

So unless you're dealing with bathroom wallpaper, you do not need to become a plumber for a day and remove your toilet to paint the wall. Painting behind a toilet is actually quite easy, and in this article, I show you exactly how to do it without making a mess.


How to Paint Behind a Toilet - Pro Painter Tips

Before you open a can of paint, clear the space around the toilet by removing the plunger, scrub brush, floor mats and anything else that might get in the way of painting. Below I've included a helpful list of tools and supplies I use when I paint bathrooms and behind toilets.

Tools and Supplies for Painting Behind a Toilet:

  • Pre-paint cleaner for the walls
  • Scrub pad
  • Rubber gloves for cleaning
  • Painter's tape
  • 3M hand masker
  • 48-inch 3M masking film
  • Mini 4-inch paint roller (3/8-inch nap)
  • 2-inch paint brush
  • Paint tray

Step 1: Clean the toilet walls and floor. Let's face it, bathroom floors are gross, especially the area around the toilet, and you definitely don't want to be crawling around on soiled floor tile to paint. You also shouldn't paint over dirty toilet walls, so unless the bathroom isn't used much, cleaning the walls is a good idea.

Wear gloves and scrub the floor and walls with a pre-paint cleaner. You can use TSP, Dirtex, or even vinegar, if you're painting moldy bathroom walls, but one of my favorite cleaners for walls around toilets is Krud Kutter Cleaner Degreaser. The cleaner is non-toxic and very strong. Wipe down the toilet walls with a scrub pad and rinse with clean water.

Step 2: Cover the floor tile and toilet with plastic. Most canvas drop cloths are too big to fit into the tight space around a toilet. There's no need to stuff a nice clean drop cloth into that small space when you can simply use throw-away masking film. First, tape off the baseboard behind the toilet, cut off a piece of masking film to the desired width and stick it onto the tape.

The plastic I use to mask bathrooms and floors around toilets are the rolls of 3M masking film (48-inch) along with the 3M hand masker. The 48-inch rolls fit perfectly on both sides of a toilet so you won't have to worry about getting paint on the floor when you roll the walls above. Use the same plastic roll to cover the top of the toilet too.

Step 3: Remove the lid. The lid usually sits a little closer to the wall than the tank. Removing the lid makes it easier to paint the wall without getting paint all over the back of it.

Step 4: Pull back the water line cap. The cap is a circular fitting that sits against the wall underneath to hide the hole where the water line pipe goes into it. These caps usually pull back from the wall easily, but wear gloves because sometimes the edges of the cap are sharp. This allows you to easily paint the drywall underneath the cap without getting paint all over the metal.

Step 5: Cut-in the walls with a 2-inch brush. The only need for the paint brush is to paint the corners where the wall meets the taped baseboard and the tiny space behind the water line cap. The rest of the wall will be rolled, but if the tank sits too close to the wall for a roller to reach, simply cut-in around the tank with the brush.

Step 6: Roll the wall behind the toilet. The easiest way to paint behind a toilet tank is with a 4-inch mini roller (3/8-inch nap). You can use a mini roller with 1/2-inch nap too, but the added thickness of the nap sometimes hits the back of the toilet if it sits closer to the wall. The best mini roller frame to use is one that's longer in length so you can roll all the way behind the tank without the plastic handle of the frame hitting the porcelain. Mini rollers are also great for rolling underneath towel bars and underneath bathroom lights.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Matt G.