How to Clean a Toilet for a Pristine Bathroom

These easy cleaning tips make quick work of rings, rust, and stains lurking in your toilet.

Few household chores are more groan-inducing than cleaning a toilet. No one wants to get up close and personal with their commode, but it's a necessary part of a good bathroom cleaning routine. As one of the most-used fixtures in most bathrooms, toilets need regular attention to keep germs and stubborn stains at bay.

bathroom with toucan pattern wallpaper
Kim Cornelison

Before Getting Started

Cleaning a toilet starts with removing any visible dust, dirt, or other grime. It's important to clean the area before you disinfect to make sure the disinfectant can effectively eliminate germs on the surface. We've developed a few tricks to make cleaning a toilet easier, many of which utilize household ingredients and require little to no touching of the actual toilet. You should plan to clean and disinfect your toilet about once a week, depending on the frequency of use, or more often if someone in your household is sick.

How to Clean a Toilet

The best way to clean a toilet involves disinfecting the entire surface, including the bowl, seat, rim, handle, and exterior, to eliminate any viruses, bacteria, or mold and mildew growth lingering there. Luckily, this doesn't have to be a tedious or gross task. Learn how to clean a toilet and remove tough toilet stains with these simple steps.

What You Need

  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Disinfecting spray or wipes
  • Dry cloth

Step 1: Clean the Exterior

Using an all-purpose cleaner, spray and wipe down the seat, lid, handle, and entire exterior of the toilet, including hard-to-reach areas around the base and rim.

Step 2: Disinfect and Wipe Dry

Follow up with disinfecting spray or wipes, ensuring the area stays wet for at least 5 minutes (or according to the manufacturer's instructions) before wiping clean with a dry cloth.

How to Clean a Toilet Bowl

If you're in a hurry, you can quickly clean the inside of your toilet by popping a denture tablet or two into the bowl. The effervescent action will deliver a quick clean in minutes—no brush required.

What You Need

  • Bucket of water
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Toilet brush

Step 1: Empty the Bowl and Add Cleaner

Empty the toilet bowl of water before disinfecting. Pour a bucket of water into the toilet bowl before coating the inside with a toilet bowl cleaner like Scrubbing Bubbles Bubbly Bleach Gel ($2, Target). This will flush the toilet without triggering a bowl refill. The lowered water level lets you put cleaner directly on the bowl for a deeper clean. You can also turn off the water valve near the base of the toilet and flush to drain the bowl (just remember to switch it back on after cleaning).

To streamline the cleaning process, empty the toilet bowl and add cleaner while you wait for the disinfectant to work on the handle, seat, tank, and exterior. By the time you're done wiping down these areas, the toilet bowl cleaner will have soaked in. Scrub it clean with a toilet brush ($6, Target), then flush.

How to Clean a Toilet Tank

The tank often gets overlooked when cleaning a toilet, which can lead to a buildup of rust, mold, mildew, and other grime inside. A dirty toilet tank can result in unpleasant bathroom smells or even damage to the toilet, so it's best to clean this area at least twice a year.

What You Need

  • White distilled vinegar
  • Scrub brush
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Dish soap (optional)

Step 1: Empty the Tank and Fill with Vinegar

Before cleaning the inside of your toilet tank, empty the tank of water by turning off the water valve and flushing until the water is completely drained. Then fill the tank with distilled white vinegar up to the overflow valve and let sit for 12 hours (or overnight) before flushing.

Step 2: Scrub and Refill Tank

Use a scrub brush to remove any leftover residue. Turn the water valve back on and flush a few times to rinse and refill the tank.

If you can't go 12 hours without using the toilet, combine vinegar with baking soda and dish soap for extra cleaning power. After draining the tank of water, add two cups of vinegar, one cup of baking soda, and a few squirts of dish soap to the tank. Use a brush to mix the solution around and scrub the sides and bottom. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, scrub again, then turn on the water and flush to rinse.

blue gold ostrich wallpaper bathroom
Jay Wilde

How to Clean Toilet Stains

Hard water, mildew, and mold can leave unsightly stains or rings around your toilet bowl.

What You Need

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Cleaning brush
  • Pumice stone (optional)
  • Vodka (optional)

Step 1: Add Cleaners and Soak

To remove toilet stains, start by emptying the bowl of water. Add one cup of vinegar and let sit for one minute. Sprinkle baking soda over the stained areas and pour in another two cups of vinegar. Let the mixture fizz and soak for about five minutes, then use a brush to get rid of any loosened stains.

Step 2: Tackle Tough Stains

If tough stains remain, scrub the inside of the emptied bowl with a pumice stone, which will loosen hard-water stains without scratching the porcelain surface. Choose a pumice stone with a handle ($18, Bed Bath & Beyond) to avoid having to come too close to the toilet.

To prevent toilet stains from forming, use vodka to clean your toilet. (A cheap bottle of vodka will work fine). Pour 1/2 cup of vodka into your toilet bowl each month to keep rings from forming.

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