Replace toilet seal without wax

If you’re installing a new toilet or fixing a rocking toilet or a bowl that was leaking from the bottom, you’re going to have to replace the wax ring seal that keeps water from leaking between the base of your bowl and the trap, or pipe that carries waste water away.

Someone who’s never replaced a wax seal or much less, ever seen an old one might be surprised at the concept of a wax ring. A circle of wax that when pressed down from the weight of the toilet (as it’s installed) conforms to the shape and pressure of the base and creates a water tight seal. Seems to make sense; and in fact, it has for decades. Millions and millions of toilets around the world have been sealed this way. There are problems though with this approach, and thankfully there are ways to deal with them. Read on to learn more.

Wax ring seal broken

We all know what happens when this occurs (we may just not know it’s because of the wax seal breaking!). And you guessed it, water comes out from under the toilet. Even when you’re not using it, water can leak out. The leak can be big or small. In fact, a slightly broken seal can leak out a little bit at a time, leading to rotting floorboards and much worse.

The issue lies in the fact that the wax ring might be deteriorating – they simply don’t last forever. If the toilet flange ever comes loose and the toilet rocks, the wax seal can be compromised. Remember, it adjusts its shape to the movement of the heavy toilet bowl. That bowl should be completely stationary to maintain the shape (and seal!) of the wax ring.

Aside from wax ring seals being so seemingly fragile, they are just plain messy. If you’ve ever lifted an old toilet off or replaced a seal before you know what a gunky mess is waiting for you under the toilet. The seal sits on top of the toilet flange (that’s bolted to the floor) and the toilet base or horn itself. Sound like fun, cleaning that off when you insert a new seal? Not so much.

So, if wax seals are so  sensitive and messy, what is the alternative? Read below to learn about wax free toilet rings – why they are better and how to install one in your bathroom. Note, if you have a non-standard toilet drain pipe such as in an older house, a wax seal still may be best – consult a plumber first.

Wax free seal example
Can buy at Amazon

Waxless toilet seal

Now that you know how a wax ring works, you’ll quickly understand how a wax free bowl gasket works. It does the same thing, but the difference is that the seal uses adhesive to “glue” itself to the base of the toilet, and the sealant part is made of rubber. This secure hold allows the toilet to be placed over the flange and drain pipe and set in place for a permanent seal – or at least until you buy a new toilet, whereby you’d have to put on a new seal no matter way.

These waxfree seals also work great for raised floors, such as the addition of a hardwood floor in a bathroom. So, there is no wax and no guessing whether the wax ring is really doing its job. Of course, this is true with any toilet gasket, but waxless gaskets are indeed easier.

If for some reason, you’re toilet bolts become loose, and the toilet moves, you have much less of a chance of damaging the seal, unlike the wax kind.

Lastly, it’s so much cleaner. Just ask someone who has improperly installed a wax seal, only to have to remove it and clean it all out before putting in a new one.

Install a wax free seal

The beginning steps for this process assume you know how to remove your toilet, i.e. turn off the water supply behind the bowl and flush out the water before unbolting the two flange bolts and removing them. Using a helper, or a proper lifting posture, carefully lift up the toilet. For the last time (at least with this toilet!), you’ll need to clean off the old wax seal.

Here are some tips for getting rid of all that waxy residue:

  • You can start with a small putty knife, or any tool that can dig out the bulk of the wax
  • Don’t use paper towels (they tear and get caught on the flange edges) – use a heavy cloth rag instead
  • Using a hair dryer can help warm up older or crusted wax, so it’s easier to wipe up
  • Use your favorite household cleaner on your rag to wipe up every last waxy substance. Windex can be good, or if you really want to go the extra mile, try a little WD40 as a solvent
  • Don’t forget to clean both the flange (if not replacing) and the base of the toilet (horn) for clean surface to stick the waxless seal to
  • Be a little careful when handling the bare adhesive – it is VERY strong, so just get it in place slowly and press it on

When all is clean, you’re ready to apply your new wax free seal. Two popular manufacturers, Femco and FluidMaster make wax free seals. The Femco product seems to be more tested in the market so you’re probably safe with them. Since size matters, be sure to measure your drain pipe hole. They will sell them in slightly different sizes such as 3″ or 4″ (see right photo and link). If you’re really not sure, pick up a couple different sizes to be sure since they’re only a few bucks each and are easy enough to return.

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