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How Long Does a Porcelain Toilet Last?

toilet in bathroom

So you buy a toilet. You install a toilet. Or you buy a new house with new toilets. All your toilets are porcelain. How long can you expect your porcelain toilets to last?

The good news is that porcelain toilets should last you 15 to 20 years.  It’s likely the plumbing (exterior or inside the tank), the seat or where the toilet is attached (floor or wall) will deteriorate before the actual porcelain toilet does.

If you hadn’t realized already, porcelain is one tough material. It’s hard to chip, scratch or otherwise damage.  If you ever lifted a toilet you can tell it’s a solid, durable material by its weight (I recently installed a new toilet and hauled that sucker from the driveway to the bathroom).

Why is porcelain so durable?

It all starts with how it’s made.

Toilets in a factory

It’s a result of the materials used to make it and how it’s made.  The process specifically for making toilet bowls is called casting which is where liquid porcelain is poured into a mold and then hardens.  The materials used for the porcelain are kaolin, feldspar and quarts mixed with water.  At first, it’s a thicker substance (the same consistency of clay).  This mixture is refined so it can be poured into a mold.

Surprisingly, it only takes a few hours for the mixture to harden in its mold.  The duration varies depending on the type of toilet (larger will take longer) as well as the precise mixture or type of porcelain.  But we’re not done yet. I should say the manufacturer isn’t done yet. It’s not as if I’m making toilets in my house.  

Once it’s removed from the mold, it’s fired in a kiln (just like your kids’ pottery) and super high temperatures (2,550 to 2,900 degrees F) to create a rock-hard (I should say “toilet hard) and glossy finished toilet.

How you care for your toilet can also impact how long your toilet lasts

If you use overly abrasive brushes or scrub too hard that might reduce the lifespan of your toilet. Porcelain used for toilets is tough but it’s not indestructible.

100s of years later, porcelain is still the primary toilet bowl material

You know it’s good when something is used (hasn’t been improved upon) for hundreds of years.  The first use of porcelain for toilet bowls was in the 1700s in Europe.  Back then they were handmade. If you had the money, you could get one made. If you had more money, you could get it nicely decorated with patterns and designs.  

Once indoor plumbing hit the scene (1900s) many more people wanted them which resulted in entrepreneurial folks setting up factories to manufacture them by the thousands, tens of thousands and ultimately millions.