Toilet Seats 101

Toilet seat vocabulary:

  • Rim - The open seat.
  • Cover - The lid/cover/top that closes over the rim.
  • Bumpers: The spacers on the bottom of the rim and the cover.
  • Hinges - The mechanical part that raises and lowers the rim and cover.
  • Bolts - The threaded posts that comes out of the hinges.
  • Nuts - The nuts and washers that attach to the bolts .

Normal seat: Here are the three criteria which distinguish a normal-style toilet seat:

  1. The seat hinges are 5-1/2" apart from center-to-center.
  2. The hinges mount down vertically, not back horizontally.
  3. The shape of the front of the seat is curved; not angular, square or squared-off.

If a toilet seat is different from any one of these features, it is special, unique and proprietary.

Sizes: Normal-style toilet seats come in two bowl length sizes: Round or elongated. Round is also called "regular" and "plain." Elongated is also called "extended." Some consumers say "oblong." Although round and elongated are shapes, the difference of two inches is key. The shapes refer to the front-half of the seat. When measuring to determine the size, measure the porcelain toilet bowl, not the seat itself.

Dimensions: The widths of seats are not made in dimensional choices. Though there may be some fractional variance between wood vs. plastic or different brands and models.

Materials: Toilet seats are made primarily of two material types:

  1. Enameled wood.
  2. Solid plastic.

Enameled wood is a composition of tiny wood shavings (almost saw dust) which are mixed with resin and compression-molded to form a solid material. The "wood" is then enamel painted. Since around 2000, MDF, Medium Density Fiberboard, has also been used to make "wood" seats.

Plastic seats begin as a molten material which is injected into a mold to form the product. The material and color are solid-through.

Brands: Toilet seats are to toilets like tires are to cars. That is, there can be a Ford or a Chevy car. One might come with Firestone tires, the other might come with Goodyear tires. When the tires wear out, they might get replaced with Michelin. Any of the tire brands will fit each of the cars. There are many brands of toilet seats and they can go on each brand of toilets. Exception: Sometimes major toilet brands will have toilet seats private-labeled to match their product brand. E,g., American Standard or Kohler.

A common question is:

Q: Aren't wood seats better than plastic?
A: Not necessarily. "Wood" seats, aka enameled wood, aka composition wood, aka molded composition are not made of beefy lumber. They are made of sawdust and resin which are compression molded. ...Much like particle-board. The compressed sawdust is then painted. They look thicker and stronger and feel heavier because they must be two-to-three times thicker than plastic to achieve the same strength. The paint color is very thin compared to plastic seats where the color is solid through. (Drill a hole through each to see.) The moisture from bowl water and the acid vapors from urine and the chemicals from cleaning agents will eventually cause the paint on wooden seats to fail. Plastic seats are not susceptible to this failure. The paint on wooden seats can chip. Plastic seats won't chip. The bumpers on wood seats are screwed, nailed, or tacked onto the seat - they can fall off over time. The bumpers on our plastic seats are molded-in - they are integral and cannot come off. If you are replacing a wood seat now, it is probably for one of these reasons. In the case of toilet seats, plastic is better than "wood" in our opinion.
Q: What is the cover for?

A: A toilet seat cover is for two things: Cosmetics - To block the open toilet bowl from view and Function - to protect from dropping things into the toilet bowl.

Tip: Do not sit on the closed cover of a toilet seat. They were not designed to be a chair.

Slow-close hinges are a recent advancement/enhancement for toilet seats. This appears by various names such as slow-close, whisper-close, silent-close, easy-close. The feature is a winding mechanism when the seat is raised.  This creates resistance when the seat is lowered. The function is the seat lowering itself without dropping. The benefit is lowering the seat and closing the cover hands-free. Plus there is no slamming if the seat is dropped to close. This feature is mostly on plastic seats.

Quick-release hinges are a concealed feature that allows the hinges to disconnect from the mounting bolts by hand - no tools. The function is the ability to remove the seat from the toilet. The benefit is the ease of cleaning around the mounting area.

Not covered here are bidet toilet seats.