Last Updated: September 14, 2020
Experts don’t recommend changing out your toilet seat too often, partly because it’s not easy to dispose of the old ones. However, there comes a time when you just can’t clean your old seat anymore.
When your toilet seat breaks beyond repair, the grime gets too much, or when you’re remodeling your entire bathroom and your old seat won’t match, it’s time to pick a new one. If you’ve ever shopped for a seat — or if you’re doing that now — you know the choices can quickly get overwhelming.
This article is all about helping you with a common problem: what should your toilet seat be made out of? Almost all seats are built from either wood or plastic, so today we’re going to put those two materials head to head.
We’ll give you the information you need to make the right decision, but be warned that bathroom debates like this one rarely have a single clear-cut answer. Your personal experience is the most important factor. With that in mind, let’s dive into it.
Pros and Cons at a Glance
As the only appliance in your house you’ll be regularly touching with your bare bottom, user-friendliness is paramount in a toilet seat. When buying one, ask yourself two questions: whether it feels good to sit on, and whether it will feel good to sit on in all conditions.
Both wooden and plastic toilet seats can be nice to sit on. Some people prefer the smoothness of plastic, while others enjoy the feeling of finished wood.
It’s temperature that makes the big difference. Wood is much less vulnerable to variations in air temperature. On a cold morning, when you’ve just gotten out of bed and haven’t been running the heater yet, a plastic toilet seat will be frigid. A wooden seat might be a bit cool, but it retains heat far better.
Of course you can buy heaters for plastic seats. You could also just put a space heater in your bathroom. But with a wooden seat, you won’t have to do either.
It might seem as though wooden seats would be more expensive. But after researching the prices of both wooden and plastic seats, we came to the conclusion that material doesn’t impact cost on its own. The quality of the construction, whether plastic or wood, makes much more of a difference, as do any extra bonus features like heaters or washlets.
You’d expect wood to last forever, right? Wood is what we use to make heirloom furniture that lasts forever, while plastic is for disposable things we throw out after one use.
But that’s not the whole story. Your grandmother’s antique china cabinet is not getting regularly urinated on (at least we hope it’s not). Toilet seats are constantly exposed to sweat, moisture, and human waste, and so the durability equation is vastly altered.
Wood is sometimes better able to stand up to impact, but over the long term, it’s more likely to warp and rot. While wooden seats are heavily treated to resist water, they’ll never be as waterproof as popular plastics. Over time, if a wooden seat and a plastic seat of similar quality are exposed to the same amount of sweat and caustic liquid, the wooden seat will become unusable more quickly.
Toilet seats are some of the most unsanitary objects in your house, and need to be regularly cleaned. When asking which type of toilet seat is easiest to clean, plastic comes out on top once again.
The waterproof varnish on wooden seats is also supposed to resist waste, grime, and dirt, and often does a perfectly good job. However, the texture of wood is naturally rougher than that of plastic, leading to more cracks and crevices where crud can gather.
Over time, wood holds in unpleasant smells that are tough to get rid of. If you get a wood seat for the look (see Aesthetics), be prepared for a harder time finding stains.
Despite plastics of equal strength being available, people and companies still make things out of wood. The aesthetic appeal of wood is the biggest reason why. Plastic is impersonal, plain, and mass-produced; when you look at something made of wood, you can easily imagine exactly how it got made.
Authenticity is increasingly important for today’s consumers, and wood will always look more authentic than plastic. At best, a plastic toilet seat disappears into a bathroom color scheme, but a wooden seat can enhance the whole space.
Yes, you can get faux-wood seats made out of plastic, but these tend to be much more expensive.
Many of today’s toilets come with bonus features. Far from being unnecessary bells and whistles, lots of toilet add-ons can greatly enhance the user’s comfort. Heated seats, washlets, and smart toilets are life-changing for people with mobility issues, and as of right now, they’re overwhelmingly being made for plastic seats.
While we cited temperature variations as a knock against plastic toilet seats, it works to plastic’s advantage when accounting for higher technology. It takes much less energy to change the temperature of plastic than wood, and there’s far less risk of burning.
Soft closure is also in plastic’s column. Wooden seats are almost always loosely hinged, meaning they drop with a thud if you don’t close them gently. Soft-closure seats, which are overwhelmingly plastic, can be released at any angle to float shut without a sound.
We said that bathroom controversies don’t always have clear-cut solutions, but this is one of the clearer ones. Plastic toilet seats are priced the same as wood, and they’re more durable and easier to clean. The only advantages of wood – a more reliable temperature and a superior look – can be negated by features available for plastic seats.
Unless you’re in the midst of a rustic bathroom makeover and are already over budget, we recommend going with a plastic toilet seat. If you don’t like the way it looks, you can always get an interesting seat cover.
Featured Image Credit: Pete, Flickr