Projects & Improvements

Painting the Trickiest Spot in Your Bathroom is Actually Simpler Than You Think

published Apr 10, 2020
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Credit: Franke Chung

We love a good bathroom remodel.  Bathrooms are often unique (sometimes tiny) spaces that require you to think outside the box when remodeling.   We know that a relatively easy way to spruce up your bathroom is to give it a fresh coat of paint. Sounds simple enough. But how do you paint behind a toilet? “With fear and trepidation,” jokes professional painter Wayne Rushing of Jackson, Tennessee. But actually, Rushing says, what determines how you take on the project and how easy it will be is one question: “how much space did the contractor or plumber leave you between the tank and the wall?”

The answer determines the painting equipment you’ll need. If there’s very little space between the toilet tank and the wall, you’ll want to use a small 1-inch paint brush for the area; but if the contractor left you a standard amount of room, you should be able to use a 4-inch mini roller to get the job done. Note that this step of painting behind the toilet should take place after you have fully primed and painted the entire wall—touching up behind the toilet is the last step in your paint process. Here’s how to paint behind a toilet the right way.

Credit: pidjoe/Getty Images

Supplies you’ll need to paint behind a toilet

Directions for how to paint behind a toilet

Remember, you’ll take on this step after the rest of your painting is done for the most seamless finish.

1. Take the lid (or top) off your tank, and cover the tank

Take the top off your toilet tank to avoid accidental bumps and breaks. Once you take the top off the tank, you’ll need to make sure to cover the toilet, including the exposed tank water, to prevent having to do more cleanup later. You can do this with a plastic tarp or a garbage bag. Use painter’s tape to secure it in place.

2. Optional: mix an extender with your paint

Worried about making sure your brush strokes are blended perfectly with your wall paint? “There are several products that will help eliminate roller marks or brush strokes on walls,” says Rushing. If you’re using a water-based paint, he recommends mixing your paint with  X-I-M Latex Extender before you begin to paint, as it will help to cut down on those inconsistencies.

3. Use a small brush or roller to paint

Use a flat 1-inch brush to paint the space behind the toilet. “Reach in from the sides to cover that area little by little until you’re happy with it,” says Rushing. If there is enough room between the tank and the wall for you to freely paint, then use a 4-inch mini roller to ensure equal coverage.  

Feel like you’re playing a strange game of Twister? You might need to purchase a pole extender. “Make sure the mini-roller handle you buy is long enough to get behind the toilet tank, and if it’s not, consider buying a short extension pole,” advises Mateusz Zawada, professional painter and owner of Mister White Pants in Brooklyn, NY.  “A wood pole will be fine, but if you want to get fancy, then Wooster Sherlock poles are the way to go.”

4. Remove the tank cover, replace the lid, and clean up

“After the second coat has dried, you can remove the plastic and place the cover back on the tank and you’re all done,” says Zawada. Really, that’s it—you’re done! Now you can show off your own bathroom before-and-after photos with confidence, knowing that every last detail was tended to.