How to Clean Toilets

The primary thing to keep in mind when you’re cleaning a toilet is that you’re not merely trying to make it look nice, as you might when dusting a lamp. You’re cleaning it for health reasons, and that takes more effort than dusting a lamp.

There are three approaches:

Quick and Easy


  • Toilet Brush
  • Scrub brush or wash cloth.
  • Disinfectant Sprays
  • Toilet Cleaner
  • Rubber Gloves


  1. Open the windows and door and turn on the fan – you’re ventilating your bathroom so you don’t choke on the fumes from your cleaners.
  2. Flush the toilet to wet the sides of the bowl.
  3. Squirt some liquid toilet cleaner up under the rim, all the way around the bowl and let it start running down the sides.
  4. Swab the interior of the bowl with the toilet brush, getting up under the rim and putting a little more elbow grease into cleaning the area at the water line.
  5. Flush the toilet. As the incoming water rinses the bowl, swirl the toilet brush to rinse it.
  6. Use another brush or a wash cloth to wash the underside of the seat, the top of the seat, and the exterior of the toilet.
  7. Allow the whole thing to drip dry.

Now, how about putting one of those continual cleaner devices in the tank? Not such a terrific idea. All you’ll get with them is cleaner water that may be colored blue, and that does not, on its own, clean toilet bowls. Moreover, if one of your pets should drink out of the toilet, that tank tablet could prove poisonous.

A Proper Toilet Cleaning


  • Goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from chemicals and splatters.
  • Stiff bristle brush with a storage container to put it in when you’re done. Brush and bristles should be all-plastic; twisted wire brushes can scratch your toilet and permanently damage it.
  • Rubber gloves.
  • Paper towels for cleaning the exterior of the toilet. Never use a sponge. A sponge can end up anywhere in the house, and you never know whether it’s been used on the toilet.
  • Non-abrasive cleanser. A powdered cleanser provides enough abrasion for scrubbing but not enough to scratch.
  • Spray cleaner.
  • Pumice stone.
  • Bleach spray. Bleach is a major pollutant, so use it for sterilizing only when there is a communicable illness in the household that may involve diarrhea or vomiting.


  1. Open the windows and door and turn on the fan – you’re ventilating your bathroom so you don’t choke on the fumes from your cleaners.
  2. Remove all items on the tank, remove lid covers, mats around the base of the toilet, and anything else nearby.
  3. Put the lid down, then flush.
  4. Sprinkle cleanser all around the bowl, as close to the rim as possible.
  5. With your eye protection on, grab your brush and begin brushing the bowl from the top down. Scrub under the rim first, then the bowl, and, finally, the trap or hole at the bottom of the commode.
  6. Where there are stubborn stains, use the pumice stone to rub them out; make sure the stone is wet to avoid scratching.
  7. Swish the brush around to rinse it.
  8. Put the lid down, but with the brush under it to drain off excess water, and flush. Never let powdered cleansers sit in the bowl; they can accumulate at the bottom.
  9. Spray the exterior of the toilet with your cleaning spray starting at the top and working down.
  10. Using several sheets of paper towels, wipe down the tank, starting at the top, being sure to get the handle, and then wipe the outside of the lid.
  11. Wipe down the entire bowl area – sides, front, and where the toilet meets the floor.
  12. Raise the seat, remove your brush, and put it away.
  13. Spray the seat, inside lid, and rim with cleaner and then wipe clean with paper towels, starting at the lid, then the seat, and ending with the rim. If you see urine stains, degreaser products like Greased Lightening will bring them to the surface for cleaning.
  14. Make sure you hit the area behind the hinges next to the tank. This area gets particularly filthy.
  15. Toss out the used paper towels. You’re done.

For That Deep Down Clean Toilet Feeling


  • Rubber or vinyl work gloves
  • Eye Protection
  • Disinfectant/detergent/cleaner (any chemical that calls itself a disinfectant and has an E.P.A. number on the label to back up the claim of being a disinfectant)
  • Disposable toweling or launderable cloth
  • Bowl Swab (12″ long plastic handle with “bunny tail” material at the end approximately 4″ in diameter)
  • Acid (if you have hard water deposits)
  • Bucket
  • White vinegar
  • Plunger
  • Small mirror
  • Black light


  1. Open the windows and door and turn on the fan – you’re ventilating your bathroom so you don’t choke on the fumes from your cleaners.
  2. Put on your gloves and safety glasses.
  3. Using a disinfectant/detergent cleaner, mixed either in a spray bottle or in a bucket (according to label instructions), spray or wipe down all hard surfaces outside the bowl, particularly high touch areas like the seat and flush handle.
  4. To disinfect the surfaces, they must remain wet for ten minutes, unless the label instructions state otherwise; this completely kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
  5. Flush the toilet, and rinse its outer surfaces.
  6. Lower the water line in the toilet; there are at least 4 different ways to accomplish this:
    • Push the bowl swab in and out of the hole at the bottom of the toilet quickly until the water level drops into the trap.
    • Quickly pour about 1.5 gallons of water from a bucket into the toilet.
    • Turn the water to the toilet off and flush the toilet.
    • Use a toilet plunger to force the water down and out of the trap.
  7. Spray the inside surfaces of the toilet bowl to totally disinfect the toilet; the surface must remain wet for ten minutes unless stated otherwise on the label.
  8. Apply a disinfectant or detergent cleaner or bowl cleaner to a toilet bowl swab.
  9. Starting under the rim and working down, clean the bowl.
  10. If there are tough stains on the bowl, apply a small amount of bowl cleaner to the stain or apply bowl cleaner to the swab and rest it on top of the stain. Hard, stubborn stains can be removed with a pumice stick.
  11. A small mirror can be used to look under the rim to detect any stubborn stains you have missed that may also be contributing to malodors.
  12. To clean toilets where hard water has left mineral deposits, use a pumice stone.
  13. If the going is too slow going using just the pumice stone and water, add one of the following cleaning solutions:
    • Citric acid is okay for mild deposits because, while it’s the slowest of any of the solutions to remove minerals, it’s safest to use.
    • Phosphoric acid is good on heavier deposits and not as caustic as muriatic acid or hydrochloric acid.
    • Where hard water conditions are extreme and the toilet has not been cleaned often enough, you will probably have to apply hydrochloric or muriatic acid; this stuff is highly caustic, so make sure you’re protected, that you don’t spill it, and that the room is well ventilated. Also keep it away from chrome fixtures, which it defaces.
  14. After the appropriate time, flush the toilet.
  15. Wipe dry the outside surfaces, including the toilet seat and handle, with a cloth or a paper towel.
  16. If you notice that mold or mildew has formed on the grout around the base of the commode, pour on white vinegar and clean it with a stiff brush.
  17. If you want to get really serious – and you have one or more males in the household with bad aim – a fluorescent-type black light will show, after the room lights have been turned off, urine salts and spots missed cleaning in and around toilets. Urine fluorescess a dull yellow under the light.


  1. I’ve managed to keep my toilet consistently clean by scrubbing it every week or so with the toilet brush, without using any detergent. That seems to remove the buildup before it gets bad.

  2. Just fill the bowl with about one cup of bleach and let it sit overnight.

    When you wake up, scrub it down, rinse it out, and take a shower.

    Happy toilet cleaning!

  3. I also use bleach but every morning before I leave for work I use a spray bottle filled with a 10:1 ratio of water and bleach. I spray the toilet, tub and sink. When I come home I flush and rinse the tub and sink. I don’t even own gloves or goggles. I have passed this trick onto my friends and they also swear by it. Why clean what you don’t have to?

  4. The best tip for cleaning a toilet is using “Tide with bleach” laundry detergent. It polishes the toilet bowl clean and smells really nice too.

  5. Lemon juice poured from the bottle and left on overnight – or all day while people are at work – helps remove that black gunk that nothing else will touch in the toilet. I have a friend who swears by Tang for the same purpose.

  6. In a spray bottle, mix one part OdoBan (available at Wal-Mart and Sams) with ten parts water. Spray and wipe down all surfaces in your bathroom and kitchen. Also, it is a good idea to wipe down telephones to prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. 99.9% of germs are gone, plus you have a refreshing scent afterward. Clean the inside of your toilet bowl with conventional bowl cleaners such as Lysol and follow the directions on the container.

  7. If you have a little boy in the house and his stream accidentally misses the toilet and hits the toilet lid screws, lift the lid and put a small piece of scotch tape over the two screws. Do the same for the seat screws. This keeps those screws from getting urine stained and looking disgusting. Change the tape every time you clean the toilet… well, the screws stay bright and shiny. You can always take the tape off if you have company, but nobody has ever asked why I have tape on my toilet because I’m hoping those that lift the lid are not paying attention to the screws, but the target.

  8. Clean your toilet however you want. Get yourself a plastic spray bottle ($1.00). Then get yourself a bottle of 91% alcohol from your local big box retailer ($1.00).

    Now, for about 2 bucks, you can disinfect anything within reach, including the toilet. By the way, fresh urine is sterile.

  9. I learned in the military that you can make any porcelain toilet, sink, or tub look brand new with a couple of drops of baby oil and a soft cloth. After cleaning, apply the drops of baby oil to the surface and buff until you feel the dryness. It will look shiny, non-greasy, and good as new.

  10. Those of us who have septic tanks don’t want to use harsh chemicals which destroy the natural bacteria. When a toilet in my house was not used for a long period, a ring of calcium was left at the water level. I tried the usual lime removers to no avail. An amazingly easy solution:

    1. Turn off the water and flush the toilet to empty.

    2. Put toilet paper soaked in white vinegar around the ring.

    3. Leave it overnight, then just rinse it away. Magic!

  11. Just drop a couple of denture cleaning tablets into the toilet every week when you do your normal bathroom clean up. Viola!, something to smile about.

  12. The best cleaner I have found is dish washing detergent. It will remove some really hard stains. Just pour it in, swish it around with your brush and leave it for a few hours. When you come back, flush and observe your clean, disinfected bowl.

  13. I hate to argue with anyone, but the tip that recommends adding bleach and ammonia together is dangerous! That combination will release chlorine gas, which is extremely toxic! Shutting the door and running just doesn’t cut it. Never mix these two chemicals!

  14. Use a piece of ordinary building brick. It works like a pumice stone.

  15. To remove dirt and deposits from the base of the toilet where it meets the floor, soak paper towels in vinegar and lay the towels snugly around the entire base of the toilet. Let it sit overnight. Clean up will be fast and easy the next morning!

  16. Try dropping a couple of Alka-Seltzers in your toilet bowl to get rid of calcium and lime build up!
    I use this blue stuff from the Dollar Store; it is a lot like Lysol and much cheaper and does the same thing!
    Bleach works really well too and any brand works; you don’t have to buy name brands of anything! Just be sure to have everyone flush the toilet each time they use it and clean once a week! But if you have hard water, try putting some hair conditioner in the toilet and it will help keep the calcium and lime away! It won’t take but a tablespoonful at a time, like every other day or two, buy the cheap kind! Cheap brands work as good as name brands!

  17. Swipe down the main toilet surfaces with a damp cloth, and swish with a brush each morning as part of your morning routine. It takes about thirty seconds, and you’ll never need chemicals of any sort. Occasionally, you can swipe the base of the toilet for that extra-special shine.

    Don’t worry so much about the “germs.” They’re your germs and your body has developed a healthy relationship with them (assuming you maintain basic hygiene). If you keep treating those germs with bleach, disinfectant, and antibacterial products, though, watch out! What you’ll do is kill off *most* of the germs, letting only the toughest survive–and reproduce. End result: strains of resistant germs colonizing your home.

    Stick with water and–if you must–mild detergents, and you’ll maintain a nice equilibrium in your home.

  18. If you live away from the city, and have a private well, and you use a water softener, you may have a black ring in the toilet that develops over a period of time. This can be iron precipitated out from the already softened water, not calcium (“lime”).

    No amount of lime removal will be effective. You must remove the iron, which has set in the bowl. A product called “Iron-Out” will do just that. The instructions on the label tell you to put a certain amount in the tank (like a cupful or so). You only get enough for 2-3 uses in the average box, and while it is not very expensive, there is a much more efficient way to use and get many uses out of one box.

    First, locate the shut-off valve for the water to the tank and close it, so the tank will not refill after a flush. Flush it once. The bowl should be empty of water before you start.

    Put on a pair of disposable gloves. Wet the toilet bowl brush. Open the box of Iron-Out. Don’t get it on your skin, it may burn. I use the inverted plastic lid from a margarine container and sprinkle about a teaspoon or so on the lid (turned upside down, of course). Hold the lid still with one hand. With the other hand holding the handle of the brush, rub the wet bristles in the powder, then apply the bristles to the iron ring stain in the toilet bowl. It usually only takes touching the stain with the brush; it is so effective.

    You see, you are using it full strength directly on the stain. When finished, re-open the valve, let the tank fill, and flush once more. The bowl should be clean. Wash your gloved hands and the brush bristles before removing the gloves. This should avoid any accidental contact with the powder. DON’T WIPE YOUR EYES OR YOUR FACE WITH THE GLOVES ON! Remove the gloves and wash your hands again.

  19. Porkee Peeg says:

    Lysol works great to kill bacteria; cleans your bowl and surroundings. Sorry, bleach kills mildew, but not bacteria. Lemon juice smells great; that’s it. Clorox bleach tablets in the tank helps keep the bowl somewhat disinfected and clean. Lasts for 5000 flushes. If one has a phobia about germs, only hydrogen peroxide is the total germ killer.

  20. Buy the product, “Kaboom Never Scrub.” Install it in the toilet tank, replace it every three months and never scrub your toilet bowl again… literally. It really works… even in the hardest water.

  21. My Two and a Half Cents says:

    My experience with Kaboom Never Scrub was not as positive as the previous poster. I felt that it did a mediocre job at best; certainly not what they claim.

    The scrub brush and Lysol Toilet Bowl cleaner (or similar) seems to work best. To get the nasty stains at the bottom, empty the bowl (as mentioned above) and use CLR (if it’s a hard water stain) OR Comet if it’s just regular stains.

  22. Little Miss says:

    I find that if you pour a 300 ml bottle of Coke after it’s gone flat into the bowl and leave it overnight, flushing the morning, it comes up a treat.

  23. Never use those cleaning tablets that attach to the rim of the toilet bowl. The attachment fell into bowl and clogged up the toilet when flushing. Result: A $100.00 plumbers bill for removing the whole assembly and pulling the plastic attachment out of the “hole.”

  24. I use really cheap toilet cleaner on the inside of the bowl and scrub with a brush. It smells nice and cleans. I also use cheap disinfectant on the outside of the bowl and on the plastic bits. I also mop the floor with the disinfectant according to instructions about dilution. I have stopped using the pricier disinfectants. They’re nicely packaged and motivate me to clean, but the product doesn’t go far enough for my liking.

  25. Dump some baking soda in the toilet, followed by vinegar. The mixture will start foaming. Scrub as usual. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, while vinegar kills bacteria. Plus, its non-toxic.

  26. Someone showed me how to use 180 grit sanding screen to clean the toilet and it works great in the tub and sink as well. It will remove those rust stains, hard-water stains and pretty much everything. It’s cheap and you don’t use much. Take a full sheet and cut it into 1″ by 2″ pieces and use those. You take the piece with your fingers and scrub around the toilet and any stains you may have. Voila! They’re gone. It works great and I am so thankful for that simple tip.

  27. I have a unique problem. When my house was being built, a very lazy tiler poured leftover grout down my toilet. It has set hard and no amount of scrubbing has removed it. I also have a Biocycle system and can not use any chemicals. So my toilet always looks dirty, and one use and it looks very dirty. Any ideas?

  28. I had a tiler do the same thing. Dump a pail of water down the toilet to get the water out of your way and use a small sharp chisel, a razor scraper, and/or small flat head screwdriver (I used all of the above because the curve of the toilet bowl made the larger tools awkward in spots) just chip it off CAREFULLY. Once it starts moving, it comes off surprisingly easily. Pick up the larger pieces of grout to throw in the garbage; you don’t want that stuff down your pipes.

  29. I use muriatic acid to remove mineral stains in the bowl. We have a lot of iron in our water.

  30. I use The Works. It really does work and you can get it at Dollar Tree for a buck. You only need a little to do the job and use your toilet wand to help get the nasty stuff off. Also, an added good tip: use a paper towel and add a little baby oil around the rim – no more nasty stuff for two weeks – just reclean and apply again.

  31. I’ve seen, in mail order catalogs, something you drop in the tank. It doesn’t dissolve, but is supposed to work on had water stains up to 5000 flushes. It’s about $6.99. Has anyone ever used it, does it work and what catalog did I see it in?

  32. Teach all the kids, the big ones too, to sit when they go to the bathroom or at least at home. It makes cleaning the bathroom much easier. If they don’t want to do that, stop cooking, washing their clothes, etc. until they learn the lesson.

  33. I agree with Jenni. As a male, years ago I noticed, when cleaning the bathroom, a buildup on the wall next to the toilet. This was from standing and urinating. You don’t notice it, but when the urine hits the water, some sprays out onto the wall. I now only sit, when even urinating! Funny, I know, for a grown 50-year-old man to sit when urinating, but hey… my walls are a lot cleaner!

  34. Any tips for cleaning the outside of the toilet efficiently? I always seem to make a bigger mess than I started with on that task!

  35. Let me let you all in on how the professionals clean a dirty toilet.

    First, get yourself a bowl swab, also known as a johnny mop, from a store that caters to the cleaning industry. This should only cost a dollar or so. While you’re at the store, also buy a quart bottle of toilet bowl cleaner. If you have bad stains, you may need a cleaner with a high concentration of hydrochloric acid. If not, a lower concentration of HCL, or a phosphoric acid-based one will work fine. Remember goggles and gloves in all cases, but especially if you’re using a product with a high concentration of HCL.

    When you’re ready to get to work, work smart, not hard. Use your bowl swab to force as much of the water out of the bowl as you can. Don’t pour the bowl cleaner directly into the water; that dilutes it and robs it of its power. Instead, hold the mop over the toilet and saturate the bowl mop with the cleaner and use it to swab the inside of the entire bowl, paying special attention to the area under the rim. Let the bowl cleaner work for a few minutes and then swab the bowl one more time without any additional cleaner. Flush the toilet and be sure to rinse the acid out of the swab. You’re done. Finally, forget about those stiff bristle brushes that they sell in the grocery store. You’ll never be able to really clean under the toilet’s rim with one of those.

  36. You can also use an S.O.S scrubbing pad on them! At first I didn’t think it would work, but a friend of mine proved me wrong by actually showing me! Wow, does it ever clean it well! Works great on bath tubs too.

  37. Yes – everyone should sit on the toilet when using it; who on earth taught boys the disgusting habit of standing up? Common sense says it’s unhygienic – spraying everywhere. They should also use tissue afterwards to dab away any dribbles.

  38. This is a question for Frank. Where do you get the 180 grit sanding screen?

  39. When using muriatic acid to remove mineral stains in the bowl, use a couple of pounds of baking soda afterwards to neutralize the acid before flashing.

  40. I read the cleaning directions that came with my new toilet and they said don’t use toilet bowl cleaners, but use dish detergent. I use the grease cutting stuff. Not dollar store stuff, but the good stuff.

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