Do Toilets Wear Out? And How Long Do They Last?

If you've ever wandered through the local home improvement store and happened to pass the commode aisle, it might have made you question if your own toilets can wear out. How long do those porcelain thrones last anyway? Well, we've investigated this topic and have some great answers for you!

In the United States today, nearly 99% of residential toilets are composed of porcelain ceramic and vitreous china. Because of this, the fixture itself can last several decades if properly maintained. Some can even outlive a person! However, these appliances have inner workings made of plastic and rubber that can and do degrade over time.

So, why is porcelain ceramic so popular? What kind of issues can pop up with the privy? Are there ways to extend its lifespan? How do you know when it's time to upgrade?  Keep reading to find some valuable tips for maintaining a healthy, long-living throne!

plumber with tools trying to fix broken toilet. Do Toilets Wear Out And How Long Do They Last

Porcelain Toilet Fixtures Vs. Stainless Steel & Plastic

Porcelain is actually a type of ceramic. It's a non-porous material that is highly resistant to water. It is also extremely durable, sturdy, sanitary, and relatively cheap to produce. Porcelain is the most commonly used fixture material among American households, particularly for toilets. 

While stainless steel is certainly sleek and strong material, it is mostly seen in commercial settings. For example, stainless steel toilets are common in prisons, buses, cruise ships, and similar environments. However, it's also very expensive, cold to sit on, and quite heavy to lug around for installation.

Plastic is cheap, but it's a horrible choice for something like a toilet. It will snap under pressure. Since it's a porous material, eventually, the waste would seep into it, causing bacteria and staining. Yuck!

Causes of Wear & Tear on Porcelain Toilets

Now that we understand the material we're working with, let's take a quick look at a few things that can cause wear and tear on your toilet:

Poor Cleaning Practices

Poor cleaning tactics are a basic, preventable problem. By nature, porcelain is non-porous, which makes it easy to sanitize and hard to stain. However, without regular cleaning, the build-up of acidic urine and waste can eventually eat through the protective coating of the finish. It becomes a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and obnoxious odors, but cracks can begin to form, which is very damaging to the fixture.

Scratching or Chipping

Any scratches or chips in porcelain gradually weaken the structure. This often leads to more undesirable problems, such as large cracks that can eventually cause leaks. Both of these issues can cost you extra money in repairs and/or replacement due to water damage within the bathroom.

Exposure to Hard Water Minerals

Minerals in hard water cause erosion of the more vulnerable internal workings, such as the water jets and the flushing mechanisms. The culprits here are calcium, magnesium, and sometimes limestone that are present in your water supply. Over time, the residue builds up, hardens, and eats away at your plumbing materials. It can also cause small blockages in certain conditions. This is especially common in well water.

How to Make your toilet last longer?

Don't skimp on your cleaning! It is recommended to scrub your toilet weekly, getting all the nooks and crannies. Use an agent that is somewhat acidic for the best results. If you're not a fan of chemicals, you can use plain vinegar and baking soda. CLR is also a great product for any mineral build-up you might notice. 

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Grab your calendar and make it a point to inspect all the working parts of your throne every six months or so. You're looking for any cracks, leaks, rusted bolts, or deteriorating pieces. Also, since some seats on the market are plastic or wood, they can be weak. Don't overlook them.

Use a brand of toilet paper that is easily broken down. You definitely do not want to experience a backed-up septic tank. It's disgusting and expensive! Even if you do not have a septic, this tip still applies because sewage lines can get clogged just as easily. On a similar note, don't flush anything that isn't organic human waste or toilet paper. Dead fish, tampons, condoms, and car keys do not belong in your pipes.

Respect your toilet's desire to not have its parts slammed, kicked, or otherwise abused. Teach children in the house to do the same.

Consider investing in a quality water softener system if you find yourself having consistent hard water-related damage. The expense is moderate but useful if you're in that position.

If an issue comes up, fix it immediately. If you don't have the knowledge or the time, call and schedule a plumber. Ignoring problems can cost major damage and incur unwanted repair costs.

How do you know if your toilet is going bad?

There are several signs that it might be time to replace the bathroom throne. Let's list off a few.

  • It clogs often or won't flush at all.
  • You have to make constant repairs.
  • There are large cracks or possibly even leaks.
  • It shifts position when you sit on it.

Leakage of water from a toilet due to blockage of the pipe

Those are some definite signals to indicate a dying toilet! Yet, there are some additional reasons to consider an upgrade that are less time-critical.

  • The bowl has been permanently stained by age or mineral deposits, such as limestone, rust, or calcium.
  • You know that the fixture is old, 25 years or over. Today's toilets are far more water-efficient than in the past. Upgrading to a WaterSense model, for example, can save over 13,000 gallons of water a year due to their low-flush design. It's great for reducing your water bill and water waste!
  • Modernizing your bathroom appliances can often help increase resale value when or if you decide to sell.

How much does it cost to replace a toilet?

If you do decide to have a new fixture installed, you should know in advance that the price varies greatly. Typical charges run from $150 to $600 for a basic installation and rise for specialty or difficult jobs. Hauling off the old unit is normally included in the quote. Several factors can dictate the cost:

  • What type of throne you choose (i.e., a smart model will obviously cost more than a basic design)
  • The difficulty of the install if in a hard spot to access
  • If any other repairs or replacements must be completed at the same time
  • Your geographical location
  • The specific company you choose to do the job
  • If any permits are required
  • Current retail market costs (which fluctuate naturally)

Some plumbers recommend that you go ahead and purchase the unit that you decide on ahead of time and then hire a contractor. This can save damage to your wallet by eliminating a few material charges. Some water departments also offer a rebate for installing low-flush fixtures, so be sure to investigate that for more possible savings!

Water leak on a water pipe. Repair plumbing

DIY Installation

Performing a toilet replacement on your own is possible. However, the average person with no prior experience might be easily overwhelmed by the process and prefer to hand it over to a professional. Many things can go wrong during this type of project!

It is highly advised that you not attempt the job without at least basic plumbing knowledge or some help from an experienced friend. If you decide to tackle it, make sure you have all the proper guidance and know where to turn your main water line off before you start!

In Closing

It is clear that our commodes can last almost forever with the proper maintenance and attention. While seats, rubber, and plastic pieces might have to be regularly replaced, the fixture itself can prevail if not cracked.

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