What To Know About Toilet Seats

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

Often maligned and misunderstood, there's actually quite a lot to learn about the humble toilet seat.

Invented in China more than 2,000 years ago, the toilet seat has evolved from crude cut-outs in stone benches to the Western-style seat we know today.

Designed for comfort and hygiene, they’re no longer limited to just a ring and a lid. Now some toilet seats even come with high-tech functions like electronic cleaning, built-in nightlights and even stereo speakers. Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Toilet Seat Sizes?

There’s no one-size-fits-all. Here are the most common shapes and sizes:

  • Standard round (16-1/2-in. long);
  • Standard elongated (18-1/2-in. long);
  • D-shaped;
  • Open/U-shaped;
  • Square/Rectangular.

How To Measure a Toilet Seat

Before heading to the hardware store or ordering online, measure your toilet to ensure the replacement seat fits properly.

Using a tape measure, calculate the distance between:

  • The mid-point of the bolt holes and the front edge of the bowl (length);
  • The back edge of the bowl or wall and the center of the bolt holes (depth/height);
  • The outer sides of the bowl at its widest point (width);
  • The two bolt holes.

How To Remove/Install a Toilet Seat

A toilet seat can last from five years to more than a decade, depending on what it’s made of. Installing or replacing a toilet seat is one of those DIY jobs that pretty much anyone can do. All you need are a few tools  — pliers, an adjustable wrench and flat-head screwdriver. It takes about 15 minutes to switch out your old seat for a new one.

Most seats are attached to the toilet with hinge bolt screws hidden behind plastic caps. Removing the seat is easy.

Step 1: Take a flat-head screwdriver and pop off the caps to expose the bolt screws.

Step 2: Use pliers to loosen the bolts, then unscrew and remove them by hand.

Step 3: Lift off the seat.

To install, line up the bolt screws in the holes, tighten the bolts until the seat stays firmly in place, then close the caps.

How To Tighten a Toilet Seat

You know that unnerving sensation when you’re sitting on a wobbly toilet seat? You may be able to solve the problem by simply tightening the bolts.

If one or both hinge bolts worked themselves loose, tighten them with pliers. If the bolts don’t have rubber washers to act as cushioning, or they’ve become old and threadbare, follow these steps:

  • Undo the hinge bolts (from the top or the bottom, depending on the style of seat you have) with pliers, remove the old washers and toss them.
  • Take off the seat, wash it with hot soapy water and let dry.
  • Line up the bolt holes on the bowl with those on the seat.
  • Slip new washers over the end of each bolt and insert them through the holes in the toilet.
  • From underneath or above, re-tighten the bolts.

A toilet seat tightening kit can also come in handy.

How Much Does a Toilet Seat Cost?

On average, expect to spend from $15 for a plastic toilet seat to $700 or more for a high-tech, smart seat with all the bells and whistles.

This no-frills toilet seat does the job for less than $20. For a few bucks more, this wood model offers a sturdy perch. Want a pampering spa experience? Splurge with this heated seat and bidet combination.

How To Use a Toilet Seat Cover

Once believed to be a breeding ground for nasty germs and bacteria, scientists have determined you can’t really “pick up” a disease from a toilet seat. If you find yourself in a public restroom and, for peace of mind, want to use the disposable tissue-paper toilet seat covers, here’s how:

  • Make sure the seat is dry. Wipe it down with toilet paper, if necessary.
  • Pull a seat cover from the dispenser and unfold it carefully so it doesn’t tear.
  • Punch out the center flap and place the paper on the seat to fully cover it, letting the flap fall into the water;
  • Once you’re done, flush.

For at home or when you travel, these biodegradable/flushable toilet seat covers won’t damage septic systems. Easy to install, these washable fabric toilet seat covers warm up the rim and come in round and elongated styles. Choose from various colors to match your bathroom décor.

How To Clean a Toilet Seat

Bruce Vance, a certified house cleaning technician (HCT) and president of Town & Country Cleaning, says studies have shown toilet seats are one of the cleanest places in the home. “We clean well over 1,000 bathrooms a month,” says Vance. “Our tests using an ATP meter (which measures actively growing microorganisms) have generally borne that out.”

Unless there’s a problem like norovirus, C. Diff or other intestinal problems, a disinfectant isn’t unnecessary. “Your general cleaner should do the job,” Vance says.

What about that tricky area where the seat attaches to the toilet? Vance recommends cleaning that with a toothbrush with stiff bristles (or try this cleaning brush set). Pay special attention to the hinges as well as the edges of the bumpers.

Follow these steps for a sparkling clean toilet seat:

  • Put on rubber gloves before lifting the lid and seat.
  • Spray the toilet rim and the underside of the seat, bumpers and hinges with a general-purpose cleaner.
  • Take a toothbrush or other small stiff brush and scrub around the hinges and the bumpers where soil tends to collect. Wipe the entire surface with a microfiber cloth.
  • Set the seat down and spray the topside of the seat and hinges. Wipe, using the brush if needed.
  • Now spray the underside of the lid and hinges. Scrub thoroughly.
  • Close the lid and spray the top and the area where the hinges meet the toilet bowl. Wipe.
  • If hinges have caps, open them and spray inside. Use the toothbrush to get deep into the grimy pockets.
  • Give one last wipe to the top of the lid, hinges and the area behind the seat.

“The whole process for weekly cleaning should take less than five minutes,” says Vance.

Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.