In plumbing, seals are an essential aspect of any properly functioning system. When it comes to toilets, without seals, the bathroom floor would consistently be flooded. However, not all seals are created equal, and sometimes, if you have the wrong seal, your bathroom floor still gets flooded.
There seems to be a consensus in the plumbing world about wax rings vs. rubber gaskets, but it does also depend on your specific situation.
Each seal has pros and cons, and certain situations make one better than the other. Wax rings are better when toilets are connected at an odd angle, and rubber gaskets are better if the bathroom has underfloor heating. Overall, wax rings are considered by most to be more effective than rubber gaskets.
When it comes to toilet seals, the consensus seems to be that a wax ring is generally superior to a rubber gasket.
The most common reason for this preference is that rubber gaskets have the tendency to leak even when properly installed. Wax rings are much less likely to leak or fail.
Wax rings are molded into the space, filling every gap. Rubber gaskets, on the other hand, will only work if the plumbing connections are near-perfect and the gasket is sized correctly. The second is easily achieved. The first…well, I’ve never come across near-perfect plumbing.
In addition, wax rings have a much longer life expectancy than rubber gaskets.
Now, don’t think that rubber gaskets are a useless invention. They are still being produced and used because they come with certain benefits.
One such benefit of rubber gaskets compared to wax rings is that they are easy to replace and can be reused, though it is not recommended to reuse a gasket. They are also much easier to install and less messy than wax rings.
Overall, though, many professionals agree that wax rings work perfectly fine most of the time, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Better Choice in Specific Circumstances
There are certain circumstances in which one is almost definitely better than the other, irrespective of user preference.
Skew Toilet Installation: Wax Ring
If you are looking to replace the seal for a toilet that is connected to the waste pipe at an angle, then you will likely find that a wax ring is a better choice than a rubber gasket.
A benefit of using a wax ring is that it is more malleable than a rubber gasket, meaning that it is able to seal any connections sufficiently well.
My toilet has a drainpipe that goes into the wall (as opposed to the floor) and it is installed at an angle, so one side is more compressed than the other.
When I moved in, the toilet was sealed with a rubber gasket, but it was leaking from the less compressed side because the seal here was not flush with the two connecting parts.
I considered trying to take the toilet off and replace the gasket, but I soon realized that a much easier solution would be to buy a wax seal and fill up the spaces. I only ended up using half the ring, because I only really needed it for one side and it’s been working great since.
Visible Connection: Rubber Gasket
If the connection is going to be visible, you may want to opt instead for the rubber gasket.
While a wax ring may work better than a rubber gasket in certain situations, the gasket is going to look much better than the wax.
Not only are rubber gaskets more uniform in shape and appearance, but wax rings pick up dust and dirt very easily.
Something else worth mentioning is that nicotine from cigarette smoke will stain the wax an awful yellow/brown color—the kind of color that you really don’t want in a bathroom, especially in connection with the toilet.
Therefore, if you are concerned with the appearance of the seal, then a rubber gasket is going to be a better choice for you (provided it works).
Underfloor Heating: Rubber Gasket
A common mistake is to just consider your toilet in isolation. But sometimes, certain bathroom features can end up making the wax or rubber decision for you.
For instance, if your bathroom has underfloor heating, then you will need to consider the effect that heat will have on the seal.
When it comes to wax rings, heat from the floor may cause it to shift and melt. This leads to the seal failing and leaking. Therefore, it is recommended that you instead invest in a rubber gasket.
Unfortunately, rubber gaskets are not impervious to heat. Because of this, they can still become deformed and fail. However, they are more heat-resistant than wax rings, so they are the better option of the two.
Wall-Mounted vs Floor-Mounted Toilets
When it comes to floor-mounted toilets, wax rings are typically going to be recommended over rubber gaskets. This is simply because, as stated before, they are typically better at preventing leaks than rubber gaskets.
However, with wall-mounted toilets, plain wax seals are not always enough to prevent any leakage. Walls are able to flex, which can cause openings in seals. As such, it is recommended to use a material that can bounce back and fill the gaps, i.e., a rubber gasket.
Pros and Cons Summaries
While it is impossible to cover every situation, it is possible to outline the pros and cons of both wax rings and rubber gaskets. From there, you can compare the strengths and weaknesses of each to decide which is best for your bathroom.
|Can be molded to fit better than rubber||Can often look ugly|
|Not prone to leaking||A challenge to replace|
|Lasts much longer than rubber||Oftentimes messy installation and cleanup|
|Cheaper than a rubber gasket||Underfloor heating will melt the wax|
|Can easily be adjusted if toilet still leaks|
If you are installing a seal on your own as a beginner, a wax ring is going to be much more difficult and strenuous than other options. However, if installed well, it is going to last longer and be a much more efficient seal than its competitors.
|Looks much cleaner||Often unable to compress enough|
|Easy installation||Short life-span|
|Quick and easy to replace||More expensive|
|Can’t be adjusted easily if toilet still leaks|
While it may not be recommended as often as wax rings are, rubber gaskets can be just as effective.
Should You Use Both?
While there is nothing stopping you from using both a wax ring and rubber gasket, there is very little point in doing so. In addition, there is likely not enough room to use both anyways (unless your toilet is skew, like mine).
By using both, you are basically spending extra money on an extra seal you do not need. In addition, many of the benefits of using a rubber gasket, such as the easy installation and replacement, are canceled out by adding a wax ring, and vice versa.
On the other hand, if you already have an old gasket installed and you’d like to switch to a wax ring, I’d say, if there’s space, just push the wax over the gasket.
If it doesn’t work, you haven’t wasted too much time and effort. If it does work, then you’ve solved your problem quickly and easily.