When your bathroom door handle or door knob becomes old and worn, replacing it can greatly improve the aesthetic of the entire door.

Sounds like an easy enough job, right? Well, the issue here is that it's not just the door knob or door handle that's involved.

Bathrooms are areas in which people need a certain amount of privacy, which is why they most often come combined with a privacy latch or lock.

Privacy Locks Are Used On Many Types of Door Knobs

Bathroom door handle

The same goes for doors on toilets and changing rooms, and even bedrooms, which presents something of a problem when you come to replace them.

The good news is that it's not a particularly difficult job when you know what you're doing - something we'll be looking at here today.

We'll start by looking more closely at privacy locks and the different types that exist on the market, so you know what you're dealing with.

What Are Privacy Locks?

a man fitting a bathroom lock with thumb turn

Privacy locks are locks that can be operated by a thumb turn or other turn piece from the inside without using a key.

Typically speaking, there are three different types of privacy locks:

  • Turn button locks

  • Pushpin button locks

  • Privacy bolts

Both come with either a door knob or door handle, with the choice of either determined by where the door is and who uses it.

Some people prefer the look and feel of door knobs, whereas others prefer handles for their ease of use and accessibility offered to people who have a tough time operating a door knob.

Another feature of privacy locks is that they typically have a slot or some way of unlocking the door from the outside, should an emergency situation arise.

This feature is especially useful if you have elderly or disabled relatives who may need help from time to time.

You may only need a flat head screwdriver


The good news is that this is a fairly simple job, so all that you're going to need to complete the task is some spare time and a flat head screwdriver.

This screw head will allow you to remove the mounting screws and get the task done without too much bother.

Use a Drill to Make Unscrewing Quicker & Easier

a man unscrewing using a drill

If you'd like to make things that much quicker and easier on your hands and wrists, however, a good power drill with a screw head attachment might be a good idea.

We will look at the process of dealing with door knobs that have privacy locks contained within them a little later, but first, we'll be looking at handles.

Removing an Old Lever Door Handle & Privacy Lock (In The Handle)

Before we start, the first process we look at is applicable when the thumb turn or privacy lock is located in a lever handle.

We will look at the process when dealing with a separate thumb turn a little later in this article, so don't worry, it will get covered.

Step #1 - Removing the Door handles

First off, you should be taking your flat head screwdriver and removing each door handle from either side of the door.

You'll either see two or three exposed screws on each side, which need to be removed. Doing so will make the whole setup feel loose.

When taking off the door handles from each side, you'll then get to see the latch assembly that sits inside the door.

Depress The Latch Bolt If It's Difficult to Pull the spindles Out

As you're pulling each side out, you'll normally see three prongs or spindles, with the centre prong going through the hole in the middle of the latch mechanism housing.

The other two spindles will then meet up with the same prongs on the external part of the door handle privacy lock.

If you have any trouble pulling the door handles out, consider pressing in the door latch from the outside to loosen up its grip on the spindles.

Step #2 - Removing the Door Latch

a man unscrewing the latch

Although the door handles have been removed, the door latch will still be firmly affixed to your bathroom door, so you need to unscrew it.

Taking your flat head screwdriver, you'll be taking out the two visible screws that are holding it in place.

Once that's complete, you should be able to pull out the whole mechanism. So that's the job done when it comes to removing a privacy lock within the handle.

Removing a Lever Door Handle With Thumbturn On Backplate

Not all types of bathroom doors will have the privacy lock in the handle, as some levers have a backplate. You'll have some with entirely separate thumb turns and others with a thumb turn on the backplate under the handle.

With the first type i.e. those with entirely separate handles and thumb turns, it's a matter of undoing the mounting screws and pulling them off.

THUMB TURNS on the backplate work like external door locks

thumb turn with a backplate

However, when talking about thumb turns that are actually part of the backplate, you'll find that the lock behind is very much like an external door lock.

The only difference is that instead of a key, the thumb turn turns the locking mechanism when necessary. Removal is pretty simple and just involves undoing the screws and pulling everything apart.

Removing Bathroom Door Knobs With Privacy Locks (In the Handle)

If you happen to have a bathroom door knob with an integrated privacy lock in the handle, the removal process is identical to the one shown above.

The only real difference is that the lock is operated with a knob, as opposed to a handle, as the inner workings are pretty much identical.

Bathroom Door Knobs Tend to Come On Roses

While it's not true in every case, you'll most often find that door knobs tend to come with a rose fitting, rather than a back plate.

This could simply be for style reasons, however, it might also be because there are no door holes or visible screws of any kind to cover up.

So you'll go through the same steps with a door knob with an integrated lock:

  • Step #1 - Unscrew the door knobs on either side of the door, being careful not to let either drop out and impact the floor.

  • Step #2 - Unscrew the latch mechanism and pull it out

This is how things work with door knobs that have obvious exposed screws for you to undo, but when there are hidden screws, there's a trick to it.

How to Remove a Door Knob When Screws Are Hidden

a door knob

On occasion, you will come across a door knob design that intentionally hides the screws away for aesthetic reasons. To remove door knobs like these, an additional step is required.

What you'll find some have is a pin in the knob's spindle that needs to be depressed to release the bathroom door knob on the interior side of the mechanism.

The hole is likely to be pretty small, so you'll need a small allen wrench or screwdriver to push it in and release the doorknob. If you don't have an allen wrench, you'll likely find anything pointy - like a nail or a paper clip - will do the job.

You may still not see any visible screws

Even after you've released the door knob in this way, there's a good chance that you still may not see any exposed screws, as it may still be obscured by a round cover plate.

If so, you'll probably see a little groove along the line where the rose meets the door, and this is something that can be used to pry off the rose.

Simply place your flat head screwdriver into the groove and gently pull the cover plate away from the door. This is usually sufficient to pry it loose.

Be careful not to damage the rose when releasing it

Due to the fact that you don't want to damage the rose, you have to be quite careful not to scratch anything. Carefully pry it away and you should then see the visible screws behind it.

Then, with your cover plates out of the way, it's a matter of unscrewing the mounting screws to take off both sides of the handle.

Remove the Latch Plate or Not to Remove the Latch Plate?

If you're replacing your door knob or handle with an entirely new type of finish, you are most probably going to have a new latch plate to install.

The thing is, if the latch plate (a.k.a the strike plate) closely matches the finish of your new bathroom door handles, you could get away with leaving the existing one in place.

That's a judgement call for you to make, but it's a job that shouldn't take more than a few minutes - especially if you're using a power drill.

Removing the latch plate is simple

If the existing latch plate doesn't match your new bathroom door handles, then it's just a matter of swapping them out for the new ones.

By removing the visible screws, it will simply pop out from the door frame and allow you to install the new one, so long as the holes match up.

It's Pretty Simple When You Know How!

As we can see, the task of removing a bathroom door handle or knob with a privacy lock is pretty straightforward when you know how.

Of course, you've got the cover plate, mounting screws, and those dreaded hidden screws to contend with, but in practice, it's rather simple.

Ironically, the job takes less time to do than it does to describe in words, so the removal process should be completed within just a couple of minutes.

We hope that reading our blog, however, has made the job seem as simple as it is and leads to a well-performed replacement.