Toilet Wax Ring-How it Works, Sizes, Leaks, Replacement
Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by toilethaven
What is a Toilet Wax Ring?
A toilet wax ring is a ring of molded wax on a short plastic pipe that is used to create a water-tight seal between the bottom of the toilet and the drainpipe. Rubber gasket seals have, in recent times, proved to be an excellent alternative to wax rings.
A wax ring is mounted on top of the toilet flange, and then the toilet is installed on top of it. Toilet bolts on each side of the toilet are used to firmly hold the toilet on the floor and squeeze it hard against the wax ring creating a water-tight seal.
A toilet flange which is also known as a closet flange is a circular pipe fitting that is used to secure the toilet to the floor and also connect it to the drainpipe. The name closet flange dates back to when flush toilets were known as water closets.
Toilet Wax Ring Sizes
While buying a new wax ring, you will need to make sure that you buy one which will fit into your toilet. Toilet wax rings are universal, but the size has to be correct.
To determine the wax ring size to buy, remove your toilet and lay it on its side. Measure the outside diameter of the toilet outlet, called an elbow neck. Use that measurement to buy a new wax ring
It is also important to note down the size of the toilet drainpipe. Most toilet drainpipes have a standard size of 3 or 4 inches. It is also possible that your drainpipe has an old size, so make sure you measure. Most wax rings are fortunately designed to fit in both 4 and 3-inch drainpipes.
Another important measurement is the wax thickness. A wax ring will either have a standard thickness or a double thickness.
As a rule of thumb, if the toilet flange is installed flush with the floor, you will need a standard-thickness wax ring. If the flange is installed below the floor level, you will need the double-thickness wax ring.
How Do I Know a Toilet Wax Ring is Bad?
A toilet wax ring can last for many decades or as long as the toilet will last. Due to varied reasons, however, sometimes it will not work as anticipated and will therefore need to be replaced. These are the telltale signs that your toilet wax ring is bad and a replacement is required.
1. Water pooling around the toilet base
If you ever notice water collecting around the base of your toilet, it is one of the clearest indications that your wax ring is leaking. This happens because every time someone flushes the toilet, some water does not flow down the drainpipe but rather leaks out through the wax ring.
You should, however, be careful since it is not always when water pools around your toilet that you have a leaking wax ring. Sometimes you might have a leaking toilet tank, water supply line, or shut-off valve.
It, therefore, helps to do a little investigation to find the source of the water. If it is a leaking wax ring, you must replace it as soon as possible.
The problem with having stagnant water on your bathroom floor for too long is that it might cause it or the subfloor to start rotting, especially if it’s wooden. This can result in more expensive repairs.
2. Water leaking from the basement ceiling
Sometimes, when the wax ring leaks, instead of the water pooling around the toilet base, it penetrates through the floor, causing the basement ceiling to start leaking or being dumped. This happens especially when you have caulked around your toilet.
When you notice water leaking from your basement ceiling, you would be well advised to quickly replace the wax ring, lest you will have to replace the entire ceiling. A dump ceiling and walls also make the house cold and uninhabitable.
3. Sewer smell in the bathroom
Have you ever entered your bathroom only to be met by a horrific sewer odor? Apart from being water-tight, the wax ring should also create an airtight seal. If there is a small opening between the wax ring and the bottom of the toilet, sewer gases will leak from the drainpipe to the bathroom through that opening.
Do you see the water at the bottom of the toilet bowl? It acts as a barrier for the sewer gases, and that is why you should always make sure the bowl has sufficient water. A small opening between the wax ring and the toilet is enough to let out a bad smell in your bathroom.
It is, however, not every time you notice a sewage smell in your bathroom that your wax ring is bad. Sometimes this smell comes straight from the bowl. It is caused by a clogged toilet drain or vent stack.
As a result, the sewer gases build up pressure in the drainpipe and finally break the toilet bowl water barrier. When this is the case, you will most likely hear your toilet bubble and/or gurgle every time you flush it.
4. A wobbly toilet
A wobbly/rocking toilet is caused by several factors, mostly a broken flange or loose toilet bolts. Each time the toilet wobbles, it compromises the integrity of the wax ring. If the toilet wobbles for a long time, it will finally break the wax ring seal resulting in a leaking toilet.
If the toilet flange is broken, it will need to be replaced. Replacing a toilet flange means removing the toilet first. You must replace the wax ring every time you remove the toilet. Wax rings cannot be reused.
Another thing that can make you replace your toilet wax ring is when you are replacing the entire toilet or just the toilet bowl. Even if the wax ring were in perfect working condition, it would need to be replaced.
Toilet Wax Ring Alternatives
Wax rings were the only seals used to install toilets for a long time. Over the last couple of years, however, a toilet wax ring alternative has been developed. This is the rubber gasket seal.
“But what is wrong with a wax ring? It has been working for all that time. Why change it then”? One may ask.
If you have never replaced a wax ring, you may never appreciate how challenging it can be to set it properly and not have a leak later. Wax is easily deformed. Rubber is not.
If you make a mistake when installing the toilet and deform the wax ring, there is a good chance you will have a leak when you turn on the water. And when you deform the wax ring, you cannot remodel it. You will need to buy another one.
Another thing about wax rings is that they are messy. It will therefore stick on your hands and the floor, which will not be the case with a rubber gasket seal.
Having said that, some homeowners and plumbers still prefer the old good toilet wax ring. Ultimately, the decision to use the wax ring or the wax ring alternative comes to the homeowner.
If you need to buy a rubber gasket seal, these ones are among the best ones to buy:
1. Fluidmaster Universal Better than Wax Seal
- WAX-FREE TOILET SEAL: Toilet seal gasket offers wax-free solution to installing a toilet on any flange without the mess
- UNIVERSAL GASKET: Stackable seal and slide-on spacer fits any 3-inch or 4-inch drain lines with no-rust brass bolts & hardware
- SECURE SEAL: Seals on uneven floors or over tile floors with recessed flanges; Plunging won't cause leaks
2. Next By Danco Perfect Seal
- NO MESS: Perfect Seal has a hidden wax ring which causes no mess and 3X's stronger seal than regular wax rings
- REPOSITIONING CAPABILITY: Both the Perfect Seal and Zero Cut Bolts allow for multiple toilet repositions as needed during installation
- NO CUTTING REQUIRED: brass and stainless steel bolts are adjustable up to 3 inches and can be easily turned by hand for perfect height. The SLIDING ADAPTERS tighten the bolts and the low-profile caps...
The Best Toilet Wax Rings
All wax rings are not the same. Some are well made than others, which is needless to say. If you are looking to buy a good wax ring to install with your toilet, these are the ones we recommend:
1. Fluidmaster Extra Thick Wax Ring
- NO LEAKS: Seal your toilet to the floor with extra thick protection
- EASY-TO-INSTALL: Even with or below the floor
- ADAPTABLE: Fits 3” and 4” waste lines
2. Lasco Extra Thick Wax Ring
- #35B extra thick toilet bowl wax gasket with brass Bolts for floor mount toilets
- Polyethylene flange fits 3-inch and 4-inch waste line
- Forms a gas, odor and water tight seal between toilet bowl and waste line
How to Replace a Toilet Wax Ring
If your toilet ring is bad, causing water to leak or bringing in foul odors in your bathroom, you will definitely have to replace it. Replacing a wax ring toilet is not a quick repair since you will need first to remove the toilet.
It is, however, an easy task that you can comfortably do without the need to call in a plumber. Remember that you might need an extra pair of hands while lifting the toilet.
If you have a 2-piece toilet, you may decide first to remove the tank and then the bowl. This is a long process, but it will be way safer.
On the other hand, if you own a 1-piece toilet, you will need to lift the entire piece at once. Toilets can be very heavy and are definitely very fragile. This is why having someone help you with the lifting makes sense.
This is a detailed guide on how to replace a toilet wax ring.