Informational Guide

How To Replace Toilet Wax Rings

This guide discusses signs that your toilet wax ring could need replacing & teaches you how to replace a toilet wax ring DIY-style.

by Holly Curell

Is there water pooling around your toilet bowl? Are your newly laid tiles coming up? Is there a sewer-like smell coming from your bathroom? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it's a good sign that your toilet wax ring could need replacing.

If you don't have any experience and are worried about high plumbing bills, we've got you covered. Today, we're going to teach you how to replace a wax ring on your toilet DIY-style.

A toilet wax ring is a soft, pliable seal that sits on top of your flange or the part of the toilet that sits on top of your drain pipe. This watertight seal is what keeps your floors dry, basically keeping the water where it is supposed to be.

Typically, a toilet wax ring can last for many years, but wear and tear and improper fitting can weaken the seal and cause it to leak. When this happens, you may need to replace the wax ring to make it watertight again.

So, does a toilet need a wax ring? The answer is yes. Flushing toilets work by using the power of gravity to allow waste water to flow out of the bowl and into the drainpipe every time you flush. Wax rings prevent water from splashing onto your floor and provide a secure barrier between the toilet and flange so that everything goes where it's supposed to.


Different Types Of Toilet Wax & Seals

  • Basic Wax Ring
    Your bog-standard typical wax seal. It is doughnut-shaped and is usually the most affordable kind of wax ring on the market. This is most commonly used when your flange sits at least a quarter of an inch above the floor.
  • Wax ring with sleeve
    Works in the same way as a typical wax ring but works better when your flange rests below a quarter-inch above the floor.
  • Wax ring with felt
    Typically used for wall-hung toilets and urinals. The felt helps keep the wax ring in place during installation and provides a more secure seal.
  • Sponge gaskets
    An alternative to wax rings, commonly used for wall installations.
  • Waxless gaskets
    are perfect for floor installations and are typically made from rubber.
  • Waxless foam gaskets
    are made from soft foam and are very popular since you can stack multiple gaskets if your flange is set deeply into the floor.
toilet bowl gasket

When to Consider Replacing a Wax Ring: Failing Signs to Look for

Wax rings are generally durable, but age can cause decay and damage, which is why you may need to replace them. While pooling water around the toilet base is the most obvious sign, here are some other red flags to look out for:

  • A sewer-like odor in your bathroom is a good sign that your wax ring has failed. The ring is supposed to act as a barrier between the toilet and flange, so a sewer-like smell could mean that the seal has been broken.
  • Water seeping onto the floor is another clear sign of damage. Toilet rings are made from silicone or wax, which creates a watertight seal. Water seepage means that the wax ring is failing to do its job.
  • If your toilet rocks while you're doing your business, then the first thing you should do is tighten the mounting bolts. However, it's also a sign of a poorly fitting wax seal that could lead to leakage and further damage if left untreated.
  • Water damage on your ceiling, especially if your bathroom is located directly above the area, could be a sign of a decayed wax ring on your toilet.

Determining the Size of Your Toilet's Wax Ring

If you've pinpointed the wax ring as the source of your troubles, the next step is to determine the correct size so you can replace it easily.

Luckily, this is easy as you only need to do 2 things:

Measure the bottom of your toilet

Turning the toilet on its side, measure the opening at the bottom, also known as the elbow neck. This measurement will determine the width of the wax ring. For example, if the width is 3 inches, you need to get a wax ring with a 3-inch diameter. A more straightforward method would be to measure the width of the old wax ring

Check the thickness of your flange

There are typically two thicknesses that are most common in modern toilets: regular and double-thick. If the flange sits directly on the floor, you will only need a regular thickness wax ring. However, if it sits below or under the floor, then get the double-thick wax ring. Again, it's a good idea to look at the thickness of the existing wax ring.


How to Replace a Wax Ring Seal on A Toilet (8 Easy Steps)

  • 1
    Turn off the water supply line and drain the toilet
    First things first, shut off the water to the toilet. The water valve is usually located near the tank and can generally be turned off by hand. Drain all the water using a combination of flushing, bailing, and using rags to sop up the water. You can also use a wet/dry vac to empty the toilet bowl if you have one.
  • 2
    Disconnect the tank hose
    Next, disconnect the tank hose. The tank hose connects your toilet tank to the water supply. There will be a little water in the hose, so make sure to mop this up as well.
  • 3
    Unbolt and remove the toilet
    Unscrew all the caps and bolts found on the bottom of the toilet. Gently rock and move the toilet so that it becomes loose before lifting it. Toilets generally weigh around 88 pounds, so ensure that you get a good grip before lifting it.
  • 4
    Remove the old wax ring
    Using a putty knife, remove the old wax ring by scraping it out as much as you can. Clean and dry the flange while you're there too. After that, check the flange to see if there is any denting or damage before proceeding. If your flange has damage, it's an indication that the toilet itself is the issue instead of the wax ring.
  • 5
    Install the new wax ring
    Follow the instructions on the wax ring packaging when installing the new one. Some are self-adhesive, so referring to the packaging will tell you how to install it correctly.
  • 6
    Put back the toilet
    Once the wax ring is placed and centered, lower your toilet slowly onto the flange making sure that the bolt holes line up correctly.
  • 7
    Tighten the toilet in place
    Return the bolts and caps you removed before and tighten them in place.
  • 8
    Reconnect the pipe
    Reconnect the tank hose and turn on the water supply. Close the toilet lid and then sit down on the toilet using your body weight to push down the wax ring and toilet in place. Lastly, test the seal by giving the toilet a couple of test flushes. You know that you did a good job if there is no sign of water leakage on the floor.
comfort room

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How long does it take to replace a toilet wax ring?

Depending on your experience, it can take a couple of hours to around half a day. It will be faster if you have all the essential tools to hand, and you do your research first starting.

How much does a plumber charge to replace a wax ring?

According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average is around $223, including labor and materials.

Can plunging a toilet damage the wax ring?

Yes. The downward flush caused by plunging down too hard can cause your wax ring to break, so go easy. Always use a specially designed plunger for toilets to lower the risk of causing damage.


Conclusion

Water leaks can lead to high water bills and potentially severe damage to the home. Aside from these issues, having this kind of leak is unhygienic. If you notice anything off with your toilet, check whether your wax ring may need replacing.

Even the best wax rings can decay, especially with old toilets. Fortunately, wax rings can be found easily online, in places such as Amazon, or in many hardware stores and are very affordable.

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.

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