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Plastic vs. Wood Toilet Seat

A collage of different types of toilet seat.

When considering what sort of toilet seat to install, the two options available to most of us are plastic and wood. However, deciding which of the two is better can be confusing. So, which is better, plastic or a wooden toilet seat?

Plastic toilet seats are more durable and hygienic than wooden toilet seats. However, they are colder, less comfortable, and have a lower weight tolerance. They are also easily stained by urine, whereas wooden ones are not. It also matters whether your seat is for a public restroom or not.

However, wooden toilet seats come in two types, so things are not as clear-cut as you may think. Let’s look at these factors in more depth to decide which type of toilet seat you should choose.

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The 3 Main Factors Involved in Choosing a Toilet Seat Material

Modern bathroom with a vessel sink vanity, a toilet, a trash bin, and a patterned rug over tile flooring.

There are three main factors to consider when deciding between plastic and wooden toilet seats: durability, comfort, and hygiene.

The style factor is more subjective: some people love the look of a solid wood toilet seat. However, plastic or molded wood seats can come in any color to suit the decor of your bathroom or toilet area.

As for cost, many factors besides material affect cost. A basic wooden toilet seat will cost more than a basic plastic seat, but options such as heating and soft-close will make a plastic seat more expensive.

The Durability of Plastic Toilet Seats vS Wooden Toilet Seats

When it comes to durability, one might expect wooden toilet seats to be more durable than plastic. However, in general, plastic seats are more durable.

When considering durability, we first have to consider what type of wooden seat we are considering. Wooden toilet seats come in two types, namely solid wood toilet seats and molded wood toilet seats.

Solid wood toilet seats are thicker and heavier than molded wood seats and retain the natural wood color.

Molded wood toilet seats are painted and superficially resemble plastic toilet seats, despite being heavier. They are less durable than solid wood toilet seats or plastic toilet seats.

Because wooden toilet seats have greater weight, they slam down harder when they are allowed to fall, placing a more significant strain on them than plastic toilet seats. They are therefore more likely to break.

Furthermore, once the protective coating on wooden toilet seats (whether paint or varnish) has worn off, the raw wood is vulnerable to attack by microbes such as fungi and bacteria.

The high moisture conditions and high bacterial load of a toilet mean that wooden toilet seats are highly likely to be affected by rot.

Plastic toilet seats, in contrast, are not affected by microbes and will last longer.

The Comfort of Plastic Toilet Seats vs Wooden Toilet Seats

A closer look at the toilet with dark wood seat topped with a bathroom tissue.

Both wooden and plastic toilet seats are finished smooth and are therefore comfortable to sit on.

However, wood is a far poorer conductor of heat than plastic. It, therefore, acts as an insulator. Wood thus retains more of your body heat when you sit on it.

Visiting the toilet in the middle of the night, particularly in winter, will be a much more pleasant experience on a wooden toilet seat than on a plastic one.

The plastic one will suck all the heat out of you, leaving your rear feeling frozen. The only way you can address this problem is by buying a heated plastic seat. However, this will increase your electricity bill.

Plastic toilet seats are thin and generally not as strong as wooden toilet seats. They are therefore not as suitable for heavier people as wooden toilet seats.

The Hygiene of Plastic Toilet Seats vs Wooden Toilet Seats

Manufacturers mold and paint wooden toilet seats with enamel or seal them with varnish (in the case of solid wood seats). Either way, they are just as hygienic as plastic toilet seats in the beginning.

However, wear and tear results in the protective layer chipping, cracking, or peeling over time, leading to exposed raw wood.

Once raw wood is exposed, in the vicinity of the water, urine, and feces from the toilet bowl, you will have ideal breeding conditions for bacteria.

Older wooden toilet seats are, therefore, definitely far less hygienic than plastic toilet seats.

Plastic toilets seat are far easier to keep clean than wooden toilet seats. You can wipe away any spillages.

On a wooden seat, any urine and fecal splash will tend to get trapped in the grain of the wood. This trapped crud leads to gradual deterioration of the protective coating.

One consideration with plastic seats is that urine will tend to stain the material despite the ease of cleaning.

Additional Factors Involved in Choosing a Toilet Seat Material

Toilet bowl with plastic seat and bidet.

Some additional factors can tip the scales one way or another when considering which type of toilet seat to get.

Legal Requirements for Toilet Seats that Affect the Material

A law in the United States requires all public seats to have an open front (a U-shaped seat).

This law exists for two reasons: it allows women to reach back and wipe themselves far more effectively than closed front toilet seats, and it reduces the likelihood that men will leave urine on the front of the toilet seat.

Open front toilet seats are therefore more hygienic than closed-front toilet seats. Because all wooden seats are closed-front designs, you will not legally be able to use a wooden seat in a public restroom.

How the Material Toilet Seats are Made from Affects the Noise Factor

Because wooden toilet seats are heavier than plastic ones, they cause more noise if they are allowed to fall suddenly. A sharp noise can disturb people’s sleep.

Plastic toilet seats also sometimes come with a “soft-close” option. No wooden toilet seats come with such a feature.

Plastic toilet seats are therefore usually quieter than wooden ones, especially if they come with soft-close.

Soft-close also reduces the wear and tear on the seat and reduces the chance of injury to little fingers.

Plastic Toilet Seats: The Pros And Cons

White powder room with a wall-mounted sink and a toilet.

The Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Durable (less liable to crack)
  • Scratch-resistant
  • More hygienic
  • Quieter
  • Can be used for home and public use (provided they are open front)

The Cons

  • Cold
  • Not as stylish
  • Less comfortable
  • Lower weight tolerance
  • Prone to being stained by urine

Wooden Toilet Seats: The Pros And Cons

Bathroom with a drop-in bathtub and a toilet with wooden seat and cover.

The Pros

  • Warmer
  • More stylish
  • More comfortable
  • Higher weight tolerance

The Cons

  • Heavy
  • Less durable
  • Less hygienic
  • Noisier
  • You cannot use them for public restrooms

References: Plastic or wood? Which toilet seat do you prefer?