Do it yourself home repairs are quite common.  People try to conserve their resources and fix things themselves within reason.  If you do a quick search with the keywords fix and toilet, you will receive approximately 149,000,000 million results.  Saving money often means asking lots of questions during the repair process.

Can you reuse a toilet wax ring? No, you cannot reuse a toilet wax ring.  If you attempt to reuse the wax ring, it may appear to work, but there are likely unseen leaks that will eventually cause problems.

Whenever you work on a DIY project, the goal is typically to save money.  To save money, you need to be sure you don’t take shortcuts that will cost you more money in the long run.  Attempting to reuse a wax ring will likely cost you more.  This article will explain what you need to do when it comes to replacing your toilet wax ring.

Why Can’t a Wax Ring be Reused?

When you pull the toilet off from the spot it has likely been sitting in for many years, you are going to notice a ring that helped seal your toilet to the drainpipe.  These rings are usually black or dark red.  This is the wax ring.

It will likely look to be in relatively good shape, which will lead you to contemplate reusing it when you reinstall a toilet.  No matter how clean or usable it seems, do NOT try to reuse this part.  Reusing the wax ring can eventually cause problems that you may not see for quite some time.  Usually, these problems become very significant before they are noticed, which means they will require the help of an expert.

Two Things Could Happen

If you are brave or stubborn and decide to reuse the wax ring, two things are likely to happen.

  1. Water can slowly leak around the drain of the toilet. You won’t be able to see this leak, because it will be below the floor.  If you have a room under the bathroom, the damage will begin to show up there.
  2. Sewer gasses can begin to leak out around the drain. Again, this may not be noticeable initially, but over time you will smell the odor, and it can become problematic.

What is a Wax Ring?

A wax ring is a necessary part of any toilet installation.  The job of the wax ring is to keep sewage from seeping out onto the bathroom floor.  If you fail to install the wax ring or use an improperly sized wax ring, you will have problems such as leaking water or sewage gas.

Do All Toilets Use the Same Wax Ring?

When you go to the store in search of a wax ring, the good news is they are standard size, so you aren’t going to be searching through diameter measurements; however, there are two different classifications within the standard sizing.

Double Wax Ring Standard Wax Ring
You will need to use a double wax ring if the flange of the toilet is below the level of the floor. A standard size wax ring will work if your toilet is level with the floor surface.

How Much Do Wax Rings Cost?

Lucky for you, wax rings are inexpensive.  You can pick up a quality wax ring for between $4.00 – $10.00.  If you are installing more than one toilet, you may even be able to get a cheaper rate by ordering more than one at a time. Two highly rated wax rings that you can consider are:

Westbrass D6033-40 Thick Wax Ring Gasket for Toilet Bowl includes Flange and Closet Bolts

  • This wax ring also consists of a new flange and bolts, which can be helpful as you are replacing the wax ring.
  • This wax ring is a standard size, so it will work best with a toilet that is level with the floor.

Fluidmaster 7513 Extra Thick Wax Toilet Bowl Gasket with Flange, for 3-Inch and 4-Inch Waste Lines

  • This wax ring is what would be considered double and is useful when the flange of the toilet is below the floor surface.
  • This wax ring does not include bolts

Where Can I Buy a Wax Ring?

If you need the wax ring right away, you can go to your local home improvement stores.  If you are planning a project and can wait for the wax ring, you can easily order one online. If you are ordering online, be sure to check the return policy.  While it isn’t challenging to choose the proper wax ring, you may want to return it if it isn’t exactly what you are looking for.

How do I Know I Need to Replace the Wax Ring?

After reading about the specifics about wax rings, you may be wondering how you will know if you need to replace the wax ring.  According to The Pink Plumber website, there are four key indicators you can look for:

  1. Water leaking around the toilet base.
  2. A bad smell
  3. Damage to the floor around the toilet
  4. Damage to the ceiling below the toilet

You may not notice all these indicators, but if you see just one, you need to investigate further or hire an expert to look at it.  Although these three things don’t seem significant, the results of allowing them to continue can prove to be costly.

The following graph outlines the indicators of a failing wax ring and what can happen if you ignore them.

Indicator Problems if Ignored
Water leaking around the toilet base The water can cause significant damage to the floor around the toilet.  If let go long enough, it can weaken and rot the floor around the toilet.
A bad smell This smell is telling you there is sewer gas leaking out. Not only is the smell awful, but it is hazardous to breathe in and is also flammable.
Damage to the floor If you notice damage to the floor around the toilet, you have likely had a long-term leak that has slowly been deteriorating the floor.
Damage to the ceiling below the toilet Water damage to the ceiling directly below the toilet tells you there has been a leak for a while.  The leak will cause discoloration, weaken the ceiling, and cause mold.

How Often do Wax Rings Need to Be Replaced?

Luckily for you, wax rings don’t need to be replaced frequently.  According to Gary Sprague, in his article How Often Should Wax Toilet Seals be Replaced, wax rings may only need to be replaced every 20-30 years. Of course, if you are doing a remodeling project that involves moving the toilet, you will need to replace the wax ring.

How do I Install a Wax Ring?

Installing a wax ring will take some time, patience, and careful observation. Once you have determined the wax ring is the problem, you can replace the wax ring by following these steps.

  1. Turn the water off to the toilet
  2. Drain the toilet – you can use a plunger to force water out and towels to soak up excess water
  3. Disconnect the water line and bolts from the floor.
  4. Carefully lift the toilet off the base
    1. A toilet can be bulky and cumbersome, so you may need to disassemble the unit by removing the tank from the bottom portion of the toilet.
  5. Remove the old wax ring from the base of the toilet.
    1. You may need to scrape off excess wax from both the toilet base and the floor attachment. The wax is relatively sticky, so make sure you are prepared for this and have a place to dispose of it.
  6. After removing the wax ring, be sure to carefully check the parts for cracks that need to be repaired or any parts that may need to be replaced.
  7. Place the new wax ring over the toilet anchor.
  8. Replace the toilet over the wax ring carefully.
  9. Attach the washers over the bolts to secure the toilet to the floor.
  10. Reattach the water lines
  11. Turn to water back on to the tank.

Once you have completed these steps, and the toilet is filled with water, watch to make sure no new leaks are occurring, and there is no sewage smell.  If you happen to notice any of these things, the wax ring may not be installed correctly and warrants a re-check.

In Conclusion

Reusing a toilet wax ring is never a good idea. Fortunately, they are inexpensive and hardly ever need to be replaced. If you install your wax ring correctly, you should be able to enjoy a working toilet with no issues.