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how to open a toilet cistern
Posted in: Plumbing Fittings

Handy guide for how to open a toilet cistern - single and dual flush

When the toilet cistern starts playing up, fixing it yourself is to your advantage, but you need to know the very first step: how to open a toilet cistern.

It might sound easy, but in many cases it's actually pretty tricky and there are some things you need to know to do it right. This will ensure you don't damage the flush buttons or the internal system. It will also save you a lot of frustration.

The last thing you want to do is take on the project of fixing your toilet cistern and spend an hour just trying to open it, and when you do, you damage some parts in the process. This handy guide will help you avoid this, complete the job properly, and maintain your sanity at the same time.

How to open a toilet cistern - the dual flush button

The first thing to remember before you carry out any work on your cistern is to put on a set of rubber gloves. It's a toilet, so hygiene is always part of best practice. Next is turning off the water supply to the toilet. You'll find a valve on the inlet pipe feeding into the cistern that you need to turn to isolate it.

Once you've turned the valve to prevent any water filling the cistern, flush the toilet in order to fully empty the cistern. You're working on a dual flush toilet so use the full flush to completely empty it.

Once all the water is expelled, then comes tackling the push button arrangement.

how to open a toilet cistern

The tricky dual flush button

The most comon dual flush toilet cisterns have buttons that are round, made up of a larger segment and smaller segment to denote the full and half flush. They look like an oval shape and a 2/3 moon shape. Together they form a perfect circle.

These are really tricky to remove unless you know what you're doing.

You need a thin, flathead screwdriver and a towel. Place the towel over the oval part of the button and rest the screwdriver there, not on the button when you leverage it. The towel will protect the button from being scratched by the screw driver.

By pushing the single flush button down a bit, you'll be able to place the screwdriver into the side of the larger button. You'll find a little indent that the screwdriver can get into to allow you to lift the button up and out. Once you've taken it off, the other button should just lift off. Put the buttons somewhere safe.

By removing the flush buttons, it will reveal a large plastic pozi head screw that hides under the buttons. Unscrew it and lift off the top piece and screw. Put it safely with the buttons you've already taken off. 

The lid is now ready to be removed. Lift the lid off completely, and put it somewhere out of the way. Job done.

There are also dual flush buttons that don't require a screwdriver. Removing them is even easier. Simply rotate the round circular rim anti-clockwise with the buttons still inside it. It should all rotate and eventually come off once it's been turned enough times.

how to open a toilet cistern

How to open toilet a cistern - the older style, single flush button

Let it never be said that we left you stranded because you have an older style single flush cistern. In case you have this type and aren't sure how to remove the lid, it's easy as pie and takes seconds. Simply rotate the circular rim on top of the lid anti-clockwise until it screws off.

Remove it and place it somewhere safe. Then simply lift the lid of the cistern off, over the top of the button. You'll find that with the majority of the older style single flush toilet cisterns the lid should lift right off and leave the button behind in the cistern mechanism.

Now that you have learnt the steps for the most common toilets, you can access the parts of the cistern to start the next part of the project, fixing it!

It might be a matter of fitting a new inlet valve, such as the WDI B3200 Toilet Cistern Inlet Valve 15mm 1/2" BSP from Plumbing Sales.

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22 day ago