When and How to Replace Your Toilet’s Wax Ring

A wax ring is the seal between the toilet and the sewer pipe. It prevents water leakage from the joint and keeps the sewer odor out of your home. These seals usually last a long time. Of course, like everything else, when they go bad they must be replaced quickly.

A wax ring is a ring of sticky wax.  These seals dry out over time, crumble and fail. When this happens, water starts leaking from around the base of the toilet. As the seal gets loose, so does the joint between the toilet and the sewer pipe. You will notice the toilet becoming wobbly too. The first thing most people notice is a sewer odor. Once these symptoms appear, things get worse with time.

You can find these wax rings at most hardware stores as cheap as $10. Only a few common tools are required to replace them.


  • an adjustable wrench
  • a putty knife
  • a bucket
  • some towels/rags or paper towels
  • a wet/dry shop vacuum (optional, to make the job cleaner)

Prepare to Replace the Ring

toilet shut off valve

  • Close the water supply to the toilet located behind and below the toilet. The valve can be closed by hand. If you find it difficult to turn, use a rag to hold it firmly. Apply force gently to avoid breaking it.
  • Flush the toilet. Get the bucket handy near the flush tank and disconnect the water supply line from the bottom of the flush tank. Use the bucket to collect the little water that is left in the line.
  • Empty and dry the bowl. It will be easier if you have a wet/dry shop vac. If you don’t have one, then use rags and towels to get the remaining water out of the bowl. The bowl and tank have to be totally dry.



Removing the Toilet

Now you are ready to remove the toilet. If there are protective caps covering the bolts at the base of the toilet, remove them first.  Then use an adjustable wrench to remove the bolts and washers.

With the bolts removed, there is nothing that holds the toilet in place except the stickiness of the wax ring. You can now gently rock the toilet a bit to loosen it. Next, get a good grip near the center by keeping the weight of the bowl and the tank distributed evenly. Pull straight up and lift with the knees. Put it aside gently.

Cleaning up the Joint

clean old wax ringThe replacement job begins here. You can now see the pipe-fitting in the floor which is called the toilet flange. Remove as much of the old wax ring as possible from the bottom of the toilet. Use a putty knife. Also clean and dry the flange thoroughly before preparing it to install the new wax ring. Make sure that the flange is in good shape and not dented or damaged. If in doubt, get it examined by R&R Plumber at (951) 492-8609 before proceeding.




New Wax Ring

New Wax RingRead the instructions on the packaging before you affix the ring. Some wax rings have adhesive. Different brands may be slightly different in design. You can either affix the new wax ring to the bottom of the toilet or to the top of the flange. You can do whichever way you find easier. With the new wax ring in place, lower the toilet carefully onto the flange. While doing that, align the bolt holes on the toilet’s base with the holes on the flange. Replace the nuts on the bolts.  Finally, applied a thin bead of caulking between the toilet and the floor to prevent lateral movement of the toilet.

Press the Toilet in Place

After putting the toilet on the flange, close the lid and sit down on the toilet to push the toilet down and to compress the new wax ring. Shift your weight around equally in all directions to press down the toilet by evenly compressing the ring. This will help to get the base of the toilet flush with the floor.

Finishing the Job

Replace the mounting bolts and bolt covers. Attach the water supply line back to the tank and open the water valve. Test your job by doing a few flushes. Inspect around the joint for any signs of leaks. It is as simple as that.

If you discover any damage to the toilet or the flange or if you are in doubt at any point, during the job, give a call to your local R & R Plumber at (951) 492-8609 for expert emergency service.