The wax ring has been the default seal ring for toilets for a long while now. It’s proven to be reliable, easy to use and needs little maintenance. However, all is not rosy with the wax ring given that it has its weaknesses which may make it unfavorable for use in some situations.
For example, the wax ring can’t be repositioned once installed, it can leak when subjected to a lot of plunging, doesn’t fit all toilets (not universal), it can’t withstand lots of heat, doesn’t fit toilets on uneven floors or recessed flanges, it’s messy to replace, it can’t be reused, it can’t be stacked (more than one ring on the same toilet), and other issues. This calls for alternatives to the toilet wax ring.
The alternative to the wax ring is to use wax-free toilet seal rings. These materials come with the features to overcome the weaknesses of wax rings. You can thus have an easier time installing and replacing them and can install them in more places such as homes with heated floors. Wax, on the other hand, melts when subjected to high temperatures and becomes brittle when it’s heated and cooled several times over.
The other types of toilet seals you can use in the place of wax rings include the following:
Sponge gaskets use thick sponge to provide a seal rather than the wax found in wax rings. They are mostly used to replace felted wax rings and are often used for urinals and toilets hang on the wall. Besides that, they’re also recommended for some toilets mounted on the floor although not a common occurrence.
Sponge gaskets come in different sizes and thicknesses as recommended by the manufacturer.
Wax free foam gasket
Wax free foam gaskets are some of the best when it comes to sealing toilets with deep flanges. They can be used to seal toilets with flange heights up to 3/8 of an inch above or below the floor level. This comes in handy when installing toilets for story buildings and other types of floors besides concrete ones.
This is made possible by the fact that you can stack these gaskets as much as you like and they will provide a good and proper seal. This is a major advantage given that wax rings can never be stacked without compromising their quality. Another advantage of the wax free foam gaskets is that they will still provide a reliable seal even when the toilet is wobbly.
Wax free toilet bowl gasket
Another great alternative to wax rings is the use of wax free toilet bowl gaskets. This type of gaskets comes with a rubber seal which fits into the bottom of the toilet seat on the upper side, and a deep seal flange which goes into the drain pipe. An leakproof O-ring is constructed around the flange providing an airtight and watertight seal between the drainpipe and the toilet seat.
The best bits about this type of seal is that it can be reused each time you adjust the toilet or carry out some other job which requires accessing the drain pipe. It’s also a long type of seal which can be used with 3 to 4 inch drains.
If you’re tired of dealing with wax rings and their inconveniences, you’re better off with the alternatives detailed above. You should first look at the qualities of the alternatives you pick, their dimensions and other aspects to find out how suitable they are for your toilet.
Disadvantages of wax rings
The downsides to using wax rings include the following aspects:
Wax rings can’t be repositioned once installed
If you’ve ever dealt with wax, chances are that you know how delicate it can get. Wax rings are meant to provide an airtight seal and will stick to the opening of the drain pipe and the underside of the toilet seat. Once you place the toilet seat on the wax ring, it assumes the shape of the connection and fills up any gaps present. In this position, you can’t remove the toilet seat and reposition the wax ring. This is a major downsides to wax rings.
They can leak when subjected to a lot of plunging
Given the jelly-like nature of wax rings, plunging can force water and air through the seal of it’s done repeatedly.
If you clog your toilet a lot, and plunge it many times to unclog it, you may easily have a leak due to the pressure generated by the plunging. This leak can continue even after you stop plunging the toilet.
They don’t fit all toilets (not universal)
With wax rings, you have to find the right size and type of ring for your type of toilet. Otherwise, it won’t provide the needed seal for your toilet. In most cases, wax rings will fit toilets simply based on their sizes in inches. There are thicker or thinner wax rings which should be obtained as instructed by the toilet manufacturer.
They can’t withstand heat
Wax isn’t a friend of heat since it melts at a certain level which is quite low. This makes it quite inappropriate when used in toilets on heated floors. The heating and cooling also damages them and will likely make them brittle. In this state, they fail to provide a tight seal for the toilet.
Don’t fit toilets on uneven floors or recessed flanges
Wax rings are meant for even floors with flanges that are flush with the floor of the house. Uneven floors make it hard to provide a watertight and airtight seal when you’re using a wax ring since these rings are meant to work with specific gaps on a flat plane.
They’re messy to replace
When you want to replace a wax ring on your toilet, you will need to destroy the one in place since it can’t recover its shape for use elsewhere. In fact, you have to scrap it off the opening of the drain pipe to install a new one. This can create such a mess that can gross you out.
They can’t be reused
As stated above, a wax ring can only be used once as it gets destroyed when you try to remove it from its position. Using a putty knife or other object to remove the wax ring results into broken pieces which can’t be used again. Instead, a used wax ring is part of the debris on the toilet that should be cleaned away.
You can’t stack them (more than one ring on the same toilet)
Wax rings can’t be used on uneven floors and recessed flanges since you can’t stack them to provide the needed seal. As you can only use one wax ring, you can only seal a gap equal or less than its thickness. Any more than that and the seal won’t work.
These aspects have led to the adoption of other types of seals for the toilet like the ones stated above.
Why wax rings alternatives are better
On the other hand, non-wax seals have the following advantages over wax rings:
1. They can be repositioned once installed
Gaskets and seals without wax don’t change shape to that of the connection between the toilet seat and the drain pipe on a permanent basis. When you remove the toilet seat off the seal, the latter regains its shape. Foam material and rubber make such good seals that can be repositioned when renovating or simply adjusting the seal.
2. They can’t leak when subjected to a lot of plunging
Unlike wax rings that may yield to pressure caused by plunging and other such activities, foam and rubber seals stay in place when you plunge the toilet. This ensures that they keep a tight seal that won’t break apart.
3. They fit all toilets (are universal)
A majority of the wax free toilet seals are universal in nature in that they can be used with different types of toilets without a compromise on the quality of the seal provided. This is a major advantage given that you won’t need to struggle with details about a toilet that was installed several decades ago when purchasing a new seal.
4. They withstand heat
Unlike wax rings, seals made of rubber, foam and other materials don’t melt or get brittle due to exposure to some heat. Your foam seals won’t melt away when you use them with heated floors like wax rings do. Also, heat won’t have a significant impact on their lifespan like it has on wax rings.
5. They fit toilets on uneven floors or recessed flanges
The fact that you can stack up toilet seals made of foam is a major advantage as they can be stacked to adapt to uneven floors and even recessed flanges. This means that, even when the toilet is located in a room with materials that don’t allow the toilet to be on a flat surface, you’d still get a good seal that keeps sewer gases and wastes within the drainage system.
6. They’re not messy to replace
Foam and rubber seals will regain their shape when you remove the pressure exerted by the toilet seat. Even when damaged, they won’t be in messy pieces like the wax rings are at the end of their useful life. This makes it easy to work with wax free rings than the ones made of wax.
7. They can be reused
You can reuse non-wax toilets seals thanks to the materials retaining shape and sealing capabilities after each use. Most seals made of rubber or foam regain their shapes once they’re removed from the toilet. This allows you to place them back unlike wax rings which loose shape and even disintegrate when used. This saves a lot in terms of the costs as you don’t need to buy other seals.
8. They can be stacked (more than one ring on the same toilet)
Stacking is what allows non-wax seals to be used on recessed flanges and uneven floors. Stacking also allows the toilet to have a tighter seal if you feel that the current seal isn’t steady enough.
These aspects have seen a rise in the number of people switching to wax-free toilet seals. However, given that a toilet seal is something you only need to check on every few decades, wax rings still work quite fine.