Wax rings are made from a combination of petrolatum and proprietary ingredients that vary among manufacturers. The wax rings made by Hercules Chemical in New Jersey are typical of the way that the manufacturing process works. The petrolatum is shipped into the factory and stored in liquid form at 170 degrees Fahrenheit until it is needed. The petrolatum is then mixed with other chemicals that keep it solidified at room temperature and then poured into aluminum molds coated with a soap compound.
Wax ring molds come in standard 3- or 4-inch sizes. Hercules also makes a heavy-duty version of the wax rings with more wax but in the same standard sizes. The aluminum molds are cooled with water until the wax turns solid and sticky. The molds are then turned upside down, and the rings fall onto a belt, where they are transported to a packaging area then readied for shipment.
If your toilet is leaking around the base or you smell sewer gas, a faulty or deteriorating wax ring may be the culprit. Installing a new one is easy, but it takes time and is a messy job. Lifting a toilet from the floor and moving it far enough to the side to gain access to the sewer drain is a job best left up to two people. Replacement wax rings are easy to crack or set in place incorrectly.
A bowl gasket made of metal is an alternative to a wax ring. This gasket sits over the sewer pipe; the bottom of the toilet slides down over the top of the gasket. Another option is the improved version of the traditional wax ring with a plastic gasket set into the bottom of the ring; this provides a secondary seal in case the wax ring isn't installed properly.