Better Than Wax vs Wax Ring [A Comparison of Toilet Seal Options]

Installing a new toilet or replacing an old toilet seal can be a messy and frustrating DIY project. Two of the most common toilet seal options are wax rings and “better than wax” alternatives, both serving the crucial purpose of creating a watertight seal between the toilet and the floor flange. But how do you know which is the best choice for your toilet installation or replacement project? Here is an in-depth look at wax rings versus better than wax seals to help you decide.

Here is an in-depth comparison table contrasting better than wax toilet seals and wax ring toilet seals:

Better Than Wax Toilet SealsWax Ring Toilet Seals
Materials UsedRubber, plastic, foam, gelWax
FlexibilityYes, materials flex to fit inconsistenciesNo, wax provides rigid seal
Ability to CompressMaintains seal under compressionProne to flattening and compression failure over time
Ease of InstallationSimple process, no melting wax messRequires hot water prep, can be messy
ReusableYes, can reinstall after removalNo, wax gets damaged after removal
DurabilityLong-lasting, seals for yearsWax can dry out and crack over time
Leak PreventionExcellent, materials adapt to prevent leaksModerate, leaks as wax compresses
Price$5 to $20+, more expensiveUnder $1, very inexpensive
AvailabilitySpecialty plumbing stores or order onlineSold ubiquitously in hardware stores
FamiliarityRequires learning curve for someVery well-known and familiar
Ideal ForProblematic installs, floor inconsistenciesStraightforward installs on a budget

What is a Toilet Seal and Why is it Important?

The toilet seal is a critical component that makes the connection between the toilet and the drain pipe, known as the toilet flange, watertight. Sitting between the base of the toilet and the flange, the seal prevents water from leaking as you flush, keeping unsanitary waste safely contained in the plumbing pipes and out of places it doesn’t belong.

Without a proper, high-quality toilet seal, you are likely to experience leaks, messes, structural damage, mold growth, unpleasant odors, and potential health hazards. The tiniest gap between the toilet and flange can allow waste to seep into the subfloor, so selecting the right seal is essential.

Wax ring toilet seals have traditionally been the go-to choice for DIYers and plumbers alike. But modern “better than wax” alternatives have been growing in popularity due to perceived benefits like flexibility, durability, and ease of installation.

Wax Ring Toilet Seals

Wax ring seals have been used to install toilets for over a century. The classic design involves a ring made of wax that sits beneath the base of the toilet. Here is an overview of how wax rings work, along with their main pros and cons.

How They Work

Wax ring seals are simple in design – they consist of a ring made from wax that is pliable when warm. The ring fits around the toilet flange, forming a tight, watertight compression seal when the toilet is installed on top of it.

The weight and pressure from the toilet pushes the soft wax outward to fill the space between the toilet base and the flange. As the wax cools and hardens, this tight seal is secured.

Wax rings come in different heights to accommodate flange height relative to the floor. Standard wax rings are about 1/4″ thick. Extra thick rings are available for situations with a raised flange height. Wax rings with a plastic funnel are also available to aid alignment and prevent leakage.

Pros of Wax Rings

Time-tested design: The simplicity of wax ring seals makes them reliable and familiar to use. Plumbers have installed toilets successfully with wax rings for many years.

Inexpensive: Wax rings are very affordable, often costing less than a dollar. This makes them a budget-friendly choice.

Widely available: Since they are ubiquitous in hardware stores, wax ring seals are easy to purchase. You won’t have to hunt around for specialty products.

Easy to install: With no complex parts or configuration, wax rings go on smoothly beneath the toilet. The wax squishes down and conforms to fill the space.

Cons of Wax Rings

Messy: Wax can get very sticky and messy during installation. It melts at warmer temperatures and can be difficult to work with. Removing a toilet with a wax ring seal can also get messy.

Inflexible material: The hardened wax does not allow much wiggle room. Proper toilet alignment is crucial, as the wax cannot flex to accommodate small misalignments.

Prone to compression: The pliability of wax makes it susceptible to deforming and flattening over time. The seal formed by the wax ring can get compressed and fail.

Doesn’t seal repetitive leaks: If leaks occur after installation, simply replacing the wax ring often will not remedy the problem. The rigid seal cannot adapt.

This covers the key benefits and drawbacks of the tried-and-true wax ring toilet seal. Next we will examine modern “better than wax” alternatives and how they differ.

“Better Than Wax” Toilet Seals

Newer toilet seals have been engineered as an alternative to traditional wax rings. Sometimes called wax-free seals, better than wax products aim to provide superior sealing, durability, and ease of use. There are a few different types of these innovative toilet seals.

Types of Better Than Wax Seals

Rubber ring seals: Made of durable rubber, these are similar to wax rings but are reusable and often include multiple sealing points. Popular brands are Fluidmaster Better Than Wax and Danco Perfect Seal.

Plastic gaskets: These custom molded plastic gaskets fit around the flange to make a tight seal. Brands like Sani Seal and Fluidmaster Tower Seat use this design.

Foam seals: Foam toilet seals fill the gap below the toilet base with compressible foam. Brands like Fernco Seal and Oatey HydroSeat use open or closed cell foam.

Gel seals: Gel material that remains pliable is used to create a seal that fits any toilet. The Hornosafe Silicone Toilet Seal uses this gel technology.

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of better than wax toilet seals, let’s examine how they work.

How They Work

While better than wax toilet seal designs vary, they share a common goal of providing a durable, watertight, and flexible seal between the toilet and the flange.

Unlike wax, the rubber, plastic, foam, or gel materials used maintain their shape while still allowing compression. This gives them the ability to flex and conform to small gaps or inconsistencies in flange height.

The synthetic materials also withstand compression over time. If leaks occur, often these seals can simply be repositioned or tightened to remedy the problem rather than needing full replacement.

Installation of better than wax alternatives involves setting the seal in place around the flange, then installing the toilet on top as you would with a wax ring. The product directions provide specific guidance.

Pros of Better Than Wax Seals

Flexibility: The pliable but firm materials used can compress and adapt as needed during installation and everyday use. This allows accommodation of small inconsistencies.

Durability: Materials like rubber and foam maintain their sealing integrity over years of use. They typically outlast wax rings.

Reusability: Many better than wax seals can be removed and reinstalled multiple times without losing effectiveness. No need to purchase new rings for each install.

Ease of installation: Products are designed to allow smooth installation without the mess or hassle of wax. No melting required.

Superior sealing: Synthetic materials create a tight, durable seal that prevents leaks and resists compression over time.

Cons of Better Than Wax Seals

Higher cost: While prices vary by brand, better than wax seals typically cost more than simple wax rings. The extra cost may pay off long-term.

Less familiar: Those used to old-fashioned wax may find the newer alternatives require a learning curve despite product instructions.

Specialty sourcing: Better than wax seals are unlikely to be in your corner hardware store. You may need to order online or visit a specialized plumbing supplier.

Variable quality: Better designs do not automatically mean better quality. Make sure to choose reputable, proven products.

Now that we’ve examined both traditional and modern toilet seal types in-depth, let’s directly compare wax rings and better than wax options across a few key factors.

Wax Ring vs Better Than Wax: Direct Comparison

Here we will pit wax rings against better than wax seals in terms of installation, durability, flexibility, and cost to help determine the best choice for your needs.

Ease of Installation

Wax ring: Requires careful hot water prep and can drip and make a mess. But the process is familiar to most.

Better than wax: Often just involves setting the synthetic seal in place with no prep. Clean process. May have a learning curve.

Winner: Better than wax – The lack of sticky wax gives the edge for easier installation.

Durability and Leak Prevention

Wax ring: Prone to compression and flattening over time, leading to leaks. Wax offers a rigid seal with no flexibility.

Better than wax: Maintains shape and sealing capability for years. Flexible materials adapt to prevent leaks.

Winner: Better than wax – Lasting durability and leak prevention outweigh wax history.

Flexibility and Versatility

Wax ring: Offers a one-size-fits-all rigid seal. Cannot flex to account for discrepancies.

Better than wax: Engineered materials flex and compress to fit any toilet and flange height variation.

Winner: Better than wax – Built-in flexibility provides more options and margin for error.

Cost Comparison

Wax ring: Very inexpensive, available for under $1 in many cases.

Better than wax: Ranges from $5 to $20+ depending on brand and materials. More costly upfront.

Winner: Wax ring – For frugal DIYers, wax rings win on price alone.

In summary, better than wax alternatives beat wax rings when it comes to installation, durability, and flexibility. But wax comes out ahead based purely on affordable cost.


What thickness of wax ring should I use?

Use a standard 5/16″ – 3/4″ wax ring for a 3/4″ floor flange height. Use an extra thick wax ring if your flange height is taller. Measure first.

Can I reuse a better than wax seal?

Yes, most quality better than wax seals can be reused multiple times if removed with care. Simply reposition or tighten to reinstall.

How do I install a better than wax seal?

Follow product directions. Most involve simply positioning the seal over the flange before setting the toilet. No wax melting needed.

What if my floor flange is below floor level?

Use extra thick wax or a jumbo wax ring. Or build up beneath a standard ring with flange spacers. Some better than wax seals can adapt.

Should I replace the toilet flange too?

If your flange is corroded or broken, definitely replace it. Use a flange extension kit if needed to raise a flange now at floor level up to proper height.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Based on this in-depth wax ring vs better than wax comparison, a few recommendations can be made:

  • For straightforward installations with proper flange height, wax rings still get the job done reliably and affordably. Stick with the classic if budget is a concern.
  • For installations prone to leaks or needing to accommodate inconsistencies, spend a few extra dollars for a better than wax seal. The durability and flexibility justify the cost.
  • Consider your long term toilet needs. A better than wax seal may cost more initially but save money in the long run by preventing leaks and replacements.
  • Research brands and materials to choose a reputable better than wax product using proven modern technologies if you go that route.

Installing a toilet is an important DIY skill. But it only takes one poorly sealed toilet to create a soggy, stinky, expensive mess. Investing in a quality toilet seal designed to prevent leaks is wise, whether wax ring or new and improved option. With proper installation, your toilet seal choice will do its thankless job keeping waste where it belongs.

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