Unless you live in the woods, your home has a bathroom, and your bathroom has a toilet. I can’t overemphasize how important this little ceramic seat is when it comes to our daily lives. So, you’ll need to make sure you have the best seat possible when you’re relieving yourself (or spending an extra hour on your smartphone after the evacuation is done).

The question is, how can you pick the proper toilet seat? Is there a difference between the shapes? Do they all come in the same size or not?

In order to help you answer all of that, I’ve compiled this handy article on everything you need to know before shopping for a toilet seat. In addition, I’ll go over all of the materials that are popular on the market nowadays, their advantages and disadvantages, and how they can fit your home.

So, without further ado, let’s delve into the world of toilet seats.

The Shapes of Toilet Seats

There are lots and lots of different types of toilets around the world. All of them will require a seat, but there will be some who don’t even need a lid. Of course, the vast majority of lidless toilet seats are found in public restrooms, and with good reason.

Yes, there are some weird toilet bowls that require some bizarre seats (honestly, some of them are downright terrifying). However, you can equip most of the commercially sold bowls out there with a seat that comes in one of these five basic shapes:

Oval Seats

Oval seats (also known as elongated seats) are one of the two most common options that you can find in an average American bathroom. As their name suggests, they look like an oval, slightly pointed at the tip. Usually (though not always) they measure 18.5 inches from the tip to the center of the mounting holes.

Mayfair 847SLOW 000 Kendall Slow-Close, Removable Enameled Wood Toilet Seat that...
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Most people pick oval seats because of comfort and space, not to mention that they simply look, for the lack of a better term, elegant. However, their major setback is that they take up a lot of room. That’s why they might not be the best option if your bathroom is a bit small.

Round Seats

Just like oval seats, this option is quite common in the US. An average round seat measures 16.5 inches from the mounting holes to the tip, or rather, the front. These seats don’t really have tips, since they are shaped like a circle.

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Round toilet seats are perfect for compact bathrooms in small apartments. Though, I should point out that they don’t provide the same level of comfort as an elongated seat might. 

Square Seats

Moving from the US to Europe, we can see that a lot of modern homes have toilets with square seats. Each side of these seats is flat and they all connect at the right angle.

Because of their unique shape, these seats are usually found in hotels, restaurants, bars, cinemas, and other public areas. Of course, there are lots of people who install square toilets in their homes, and you can easily purchase one yourself. However, because of their shape, they don’t allow a lot of room for your genitalia if you’re a male. Moreover, if you’re female, you can expect some accidental ‘upward splashing’ while you urinate.

D-Shaped Seats

A D-shaped seat is a perfect option that’s somewhere between an elongated and a square seat. It provides all of the comfort you might need while relieving yourself, and it adds a touch of class to your home. And just like square seats, D-shaped ones are used in various public areas.

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Open Seats

When using the public restroom, you must have noticed that each seat has a distinct U-shape. These so-called open seats are actually the go-to standard for most public restroom areas. Here’s why:

  • These seats make sure that your nether regions don’t come into contact with any part of the toilet
  • They enable women to wipe their perineal area without touching the seat
  • They eliminate the contact between male genitalia and the toilet
  • There’s less surface area for urine to contaminate

Should I Get a Lidless Seat?

As stated, you can mostly find lidless seats in public restrooms and buildings. And since they are so effective, should you get one?

Well, it all depends on where you want to install it. If you need to replace a seat in your own restroom, I suggest going with a lid. However, if you happen to own a business and need to equip the restrooms in your building, lidless is the way to go.

Toilet Seat Materials

Wooden toilet seat (Toilet seat materials)

When discussing toilet seat material, you have to keep a few things in mind. First of all, you’ll need a material that’s durable and that won’t break after a few months of use. Next, you should consider cleaning; some bathroom cleaning products might cause damage to your brand new seat if you apply them. Lastly, there’s comfort — some material simply feels better on your skin than others.

Plastic

Plastic seats seem to dominate the market, and that’s not entirely unexpected. After all, a plastic toilet seat will always cost less than all other options, though there are some exceptions to that rule

Aside from being cost-effective, a plastic seat is also easy to replace, easy to clean, and quite light. However, it’s not perfect. Urine stains might get harder to clean as time goes by. In addition, cold weather can cause the plastic to crack, while excessive sunlight can cause the colors to fade.

Wood

There’s something classy and unique about having a wooden toilet seat in your home. It might be because wood is more natural and feels less intrusive than plastic, which is cold and manmade. On the other hand, it could be simply because wood feels more comfortable than synthetic materials when it touches our skin.

Just like plastic, you can get wooden seats in various different colors and designs. Of course, when you get one, you will need to take good care of it. Moisture can damage the wood underneath, and some cleaning products can be extremely harmful to the seat’s surface.

Related: Plastic Vs. Wood Toilet Seats

Polyresin

Polyresin seats are incredibly amusing. Because of their material, they can come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and design choices. Imagine having a toilet seat whose cover depicts fishes swimming about! It just looks amazing.

Daniel's Bath & Beyond Polyresin Round Seahorse Toilet Seat, 17", Green
  • Polyresin Fabric
  • Hard toilet seats
  • Installation Type: above bowl
  • This is an aftermarket of generic part

Unlike plastic and wood, polyresin is quite light, but durable at the same time. The only real downside is that it can be a bit on the pricy side. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from becoming more and more popular among users, especially those who want their bathroom to have a certain ‘theme’. For example, if the holiday season is around the corner, you can temporarily replace your regular seat with one that has Thanksgiving or Halloween motifs.

Padded Seats

Some people like to add padded or gel cushions onto their seats for additional comfort and hygiene. You can definitely try this option for your own seat, but there’s really no need to. After all, these cushions will not make your seat any cleaner than it normally is. Furthermore, they tend to wear out quickly, so you’ll be spending a lot of money replacing them.

The Colors and Lighting

Toilet seats if different colors.

The toilet bowls themselves don’t offer a lot of color options. Usually, they would either be completely white, jet black, or sometimes even taupe. And while there’s nothing wrong with those colors, some users like a little pizazz during their bathroom hours. With that in mind, let’s cover some of the color and lighting options for toilet seats.

Colored Seats

When it comes to different colors, both plastic and wood offer a wide variety of options. Plastic seats can literally be of any color you want, be it chrome green or mauve. In addition, you can actually print out any motif on the seat or the lid, if you’re the creative type. It can be a symbol, an animal, a person, anything.

Wood also comes in lots of colors, but it does have one major advantage over plastic. Because each tree is unique, you can get a seat that has a one-of-a-kind pattern.

Interestingly, you can even go a step further and really integrate your toilet seat into the bathroom decor. Take a paint chip off your restroom wall or a swatch of your wallpaper and take it to the printer. You can then ask them to 3D-print your new seat, exactly in the color and design that matches the rest of your bathroom!

Transparent Seats

One cool feature that polyresin seats have and others don’t is potential transparency. That’s right, you can buy yourself a completely transparent seat and lid. However, most people opt for something unique and creative, such as see-through lids with various elements. It’s a fun way to breathe new life into your bathroom and to give your guests a solid conversation starter.

Seat Lighting

That’s right, you can actually buy a toilet seat that has a nightlight function!

Of course, you might be wondering ‘why in the world would I want a toilet seat to shine brightly in the middle of the night?’ Well, the answer is rather simple — when you need to go during the late hours, you don’t have to flick the light switch. Simply follow the low, colored light and you’ll find your porcelain throne soon enough.

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Lots of these lighted products come with a heat-emitting option. So, not only will you get a decent bathroom nightlight, but it will also feel warm upon contact. The only real setback is that you’ll need to install a power outlet next to your toilet. And since there’s a lot of water splashing in the bathroom, you’ll also need to install proper moisture protection for the outlet. 

Hinge Types

Before buying a new toilet seat, you absolutely have to pay attention to the type of hinges your bowl supports. Lots of new toilets actually come without any hinges, so you have to be the one to buy them. Furthermore, they have to fit perfectly in order for the seat to go up and down without any issues.

Generally speaking, there are two types of hinges that most toilet bowls use. The types in question are:

  • Bottom fixing
  • Top fixing

Bottom Fixing

Of the two, bottom fixing is what we would call the ‘traditional fixing style’. Basically, what you do is place two bolts into the pan itself, after which you have to tighten them from underneath (which is why it’s called ‘bottom fixing’). Normally, you would use a wing bolt to do that, since they are the most easily accessible bolts to tighten in that position.

In order to figure out what kind of hinge you need, simply feel the bottom of your bowl with your fingers. All bottom fixing toilets will have a spot for a bolt back there. In addition to that, make sure that the bolt you found can actually accommodate a pan.

So, what do you do when there’s no space for a bolt in the back of the toilet? Well, you might just need a top fixing hinge.

Top Fixing

As its name suggests, top fixing is the polar opposite of bottom fixing. It actually works a bit like a wall plug, which makes it a lot easier to do than replacing a bottom fixing seat. All you have to do is feed the bolts in the pan, or more specifically feed them into the plug, and then tighten them from the top. The process is so easy that anyone can do it in a matter of minutes.

Other Minor Bits to Consider

So far, I’ve covered all of the shapes, materials, and color options you can find on the market. However, there are some other options for toilet seats that you might want to look into, options that might actually benefit both you and your family greatly.

Soft-Closing Seats

If you’re in a rush to leave the bathroom and go about your day, you can accidentally slam the cover or the seat when pulling it down. In addition, your kids or other family members might develop a nasty habit to always slam the seat down whenever leaving the restroom. That can be extremely annoying and quite distracting, but luckily, there’s a solution.

Soft-closing seats are exactly what their name suggests they are. Instead of slamming them down, you can simply let them slowly descend until they reach the bowl, producing absolutely no noise in the process. When you compare them to regular seats, you can see just how effective they really are.

For these reasons, and more, homeowners around the world are using soft-closing seats. So if you’re looking for a decent replacement, consider this seat type as an option.

Family Seats

Do you happen to have a toddler or a small child that can’t seem to fit on that big toilet of yours? If so, consider getting a proper family seat.

Typical family seats come with an extra section that’s perfect for any child. The miniature seat can move easily so that even your little one can pull it down. And if you need to flip it back up, simply secure it onto the magnets on the bottom of the lid.  

Quick-Releasing Seats

There are times when you’ll need to clean the seat and the lid thoroughly, and you can’t do that when it’s still attached to the bowl. Of course, removing the seat entirely will take a while, and so will putting it back. Well, that was the case with old-time toilets, at least.

Luckily, most new toilets come with a quick-release mechanism. Usually, it consists of a few buttons that you need to press in order to remove the seat from the bolts that hold it in place. That way you can save yourself some time and trouble AND give your seat a thorough cleaning.

Smart Seats

Most people hear the term ‘smart seat’ and immediately think of Japan and their high-tech bathroom elements. But nowadays, these cutting-edge toilet seats can be found anywhere.

Normally, one of these products will contain a bidet option, as well as seat heating. But some models go a step further and contain options such as:

  • Spraying a freshener before and after use to remove the smell
  • Blow warm air onto your nether regions to soothe them
  • Raise or lower the seat if necessary
  • Generate white noise or play music in the background

Of course, the biggest setback when it comes to smart seats is the price. Some of the cheapest models are at least $600, and the high-end models go well past that price range.

Ultra-Thin Seats

Do you want to add a dash of minimalism to your bathroom? If so, try getting an ultra-thin model for your bowl; the sleek, thin look will fit any restroom decor. However, don’t expect any major differences between this seat and a regular-sized one. Aside from how thin it is, it doesn’t really provide anything new in terms of functionality.

Raised Seats

The tall, the disabled, and the elderly homeowners tend to have a lot of difficulty sitting down when going to the bathroom. After all, most seats tend to be under 17 inches in height, which can be a bit low for any user.

If you fall under any of the three categories above, you might need a raised toilet seat. It gives you a few extra inches so you can sit comfortably while trying to relieve yourself. Moreover, it comes with handles and slip-resistant pads, so you will stay firmly seated and safe until you’re done.

Related: What Are the Best Padded Toilet Seats?

Toilet Seat Types: Final Thoughts

Your bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home, so it’s extremely important to always have a proper toilet seat. It doesn’t matter if it’s made of wood or plastic, if it’s round or square, as long as it’s durable, easy to clean, and easy to replace once it breaks. Hopefully, this article has helped you figure out what type of toilet seat your restroom needs. As long as you know the measurements of the bowl and the basics of seat cleaning, you can always find the best option for the right price.

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