Wax Rings

Toilet Wax Ring

Wax Rings

You may have heard of wax rings before.  You may even know that they go between the bottom of the toilet, and the closet flange (the flange in the floor)… but do you know what they are really for?

The common misconception is that they are meant to provide a leak-proof seal between the toilet and the floor.  The truth is that while they do keep the toilet water from splashing onto the floor, they are not really designed to provide a “leak proof” seal.  The actual function of a wax ring is to provide an odor proof seal.

A toilet has an internal trap, that holds water and keeps the sewer gases out.  A seal also needs to be placed between the sewer and the toilet, and that is what the wax ring does. If you have ever had a main sewer line backup, and saw water leaking from under your toilet, that does not mean that the wax ring was bad.  It just means it was not designed to keep the water out… at least not water with any force (or weight) behind it.

What Might Cause a Wax Ring to Go Bad?

Wax rings can go bad for a number of reasons, although age is not usually one of them.  Actually, in ideal conditions, a wax ring should never go bad.  There are, however some things that may cause them to no longer function properly.

One very common cause of wax ring problems is loose toilets.  If the toilet is not firmly mounted, or gets loose to the point where it rocks a bit, it can cause the wax ring to lose its seal.  When installed, a wax ring is compressed to fit the flange and the toilet, creating the seal.  If a toilet rocks, the wax ring is already done compressing, and may not compensate for the movement.

I mentioned the mainline backup scenario earlier.  If water has seeped past your toilet, onto your floor, you will want to replace the wax ring.  Once the water seeps past it, the seal is pretty much lost.  If you have your toilet removed for some reason, you should always replace the wax ring.  Never reuse one.

Other issues that may occur is when there are problems with the closet flange… specifically the height in relation to the toilet.  This is very common in homes with tile floors.  If the home was built with a thin floor covering (such as linoleum), installing tile or other thicker floor covering will leave the closet flange low.  This creates an increased space between the toilet and the flange.

When the space between the toilet and the flange are too far apart for a wax ring to do a good job of compressing to fit, many people will try using two wax rings.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not.  While it is the least expensive way to go about it, a better way would be to use special flange heighteners to raise the flange height so that a proper seal can be made with only one ring.

There you have it… everything you ever wanted to know about wax rings, and then some.  If you still have questions or are ready to replace yours, give Gogo Rooter Plumbing a call.  We will have that pesky wax ring replace in no time!