Your toilet's wax ring provides a flexible yet airtight seal between the toilet and the drain pipe it connects to. Wax rings can dry out, harden, and even crumble apart with age, which can cause a variety of problems for your toilet.
If you want to avoid some rather unpleasant bathroom mishaps, replacing the wax ring if and when it fails is an absolute must. Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:
1. You See Water Leaks
A wax ring's airtight seal prevents the toilet's wastewater from going anywhere other than down the drain pipe. Wax ring failure due to old age, unusual stresses, and even accidental damage can result in wastewater pooling around the toilet's base. To make matters worse, the resulting water leak can also seep into the subfloor if left to its own devices.
Rule out other causes of water puddles around your toilet before replacing your wax ring. These include leaking water line joints and excess toilet tank condensation.
2. You Smell Odors
A wax ring's job isn't just to keep water where it's supposed to be. It's also designed to prevent unpleasant sewer gases from seeping into your bathroom and other living spaces. Sewer gases are noxious, and high concentrations can also have a negative impact on your overall health. A dried-out or broken wax ring can allow sewer gases to escape.
The presence of hydrogen sulfide in most sewer gases makes it easy to sniff out a possible wax ring failure. If your bathroom suddenly smells like rotten eggs on a regular basis, then there's a good chance your wax ring is in need of replacement.
3. Your Toilet Feels Loose
While the wax ring provides the seal needed to keep gases and wastewater where they belong, the toilet flange is what actually connects the toilet to the drain pipe. A broken flange can result in a variety of problems, including a toilet that suddenly feels loose or disconnected. A broken flange can also stress or even damage the wax ring surrounding it, compounding the problem.
You should keep an eye on the fasteners securing the flange to the toilet. If these fasteners work themselves loose due to improper tightening, the wax ring could suffer damage due to improper stresses. If you discover you're dealing with a broken flange, then it's a good idea to replace the wax ring along with the flange as a precautionary measure, even if the wax ring appears undamaged.
Contact a plumbing contractor in your area for additional advice.