How to Clean a Toilet

Gloved hands scrubbing a toilet.

I decided to clean our toilet with vinegar because someone told me that it actually works. So, this article is itself a sort of experiment in the ways of cleaning a toilet. On paper, cleaning a toilet with vinegar makes a lot of sense. Studies have shown that your average bottle of vinegar (usually a 5% solution) will kill just as many germs as any antibacterial concoction you’ll find in the cleaning aisles of your local grocery store.

Not only does vinegar kill bacteria, germs, and mold quite readily, but it is also a natural lime remover, because it’s an acid, and acid reacts with lime deposits. Perhaps the most important reason I chose to use vinegar is because chemical cleaners are bad for you and they’re bad for the environment. Case closed. Now, some might say that the smell of vinegar is something they don’t like. You can’t argue with them, vinegar can be a bit overwhelming for the senses, but that smell will dissipate in a matter of hours. So, are you ready to learn how to clean a toilet with vinegar? So am I.

Cleaning a Toilet with Vinegar

  1. Pouring vinegar into toilet tankCleaning the toilet’s water tank seemed to me like the place to start. Why the water tank? Lime, calcium, and other minerals found in tap water tend to accumulate and plug up or corrode certain parts in your toilet’s water tank. Pour a bunch of vinegar in the water tank and allow it to sit while you complete the next four steps. Then, flush the toilet a couple of times to make sure you get all of the vinegar out of the tank. You don’t want acid corroding the metal in your tank for too long, just long enough to descale it.
  2. Scrubbing toilet rimCleaning the rim of the toilet is my next suggestion, because we all know what happens when you leave the rim of your toilet sitting for too long. It’s positively disgusting, and I imagine the only reason we didn’t notice this before was because the area where our toilet sits is in the least lit area of our bathroom. Spray some vinegar on that rim and let it soak for a moment, then if you need to scrub, scrub; otherwise, just wipe the vinegar off with a paper towel.
  3. Scrubbing bowl above waterlineCleaning the toilet bowl above the water line is perhaps the trickiest part of cleaning a toilet. Spray bottles don’t work so well upside down, but this is hardly an obstacle that deserves much thought. Simply soak a sponge in a small bucket or bowl of vinegar (or even just pour the vinegar onto the sponge), and then wipe the sponge around the edge of the toilet bowl and allow the vinegar to sit there for a moment. Then, take out your trusty toilet bowl scrubber and go to town.
  4. Pouring vinegar into bowlDon’t flush the toilet just yet. It’s time to pour a bunch of vinegar into the water and scrub the toilet bowl beneath the waterline as well. You may want to wait several minutes to allow the vinegar to lift up some of that calcium that has built up around the edge of the water line. Thank god vinegar is so damn cheap, because I poured about half of the bottle of my Heinz vinegar into the toilet bowl to make sure I had an adequate concentration of acid.
  5. rubbing down outside of toiletThe final step in cleaning a toilet bowl is a quick rubdown of the outsides of the toilet. There are some bacteria growing in places where you thought your personal waste would never end up. And I mean, all over. Spray down the entire toilet with your spray bottle of vinegar, allowing it to soak for a moment, and then give the whole toilet a good rubdown with some paper towels, or if you’re going to be really eco-friendly, a leftover rag. This should complete the process of cleaning a toilet with vinegar.

Commercial Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Despite what the companies who make automatic toilet bowl cleaners will tell you, toilet bowl cleaners are actually bad for your toilet. Bleach is particularly bad for the parts in your toilet tank. So don’t plop and just forget. There are plenty of alternative automatic toilet bowl cleaners out there. Flush ‘n Sparkle™ Bio Balance, or any Flush n’ Sparkle toilet tank treatment product is better for your toilet parts than other treatments because none of the chemicals actually touch the water in the tank; they all go straight into the toilet bowl to clean with every flush. If you’re not looking for an automatic toilet bowl cleaner, but an eco-friendly toilet cleaning solution, I have listed a number of different products that are considered good for the environment. We’re big fans of the Ecover line of products, but Seventh Generation cleaning products come in a close second. Take some time to peruse the natural toilet cleaning options before caving in and buying a big brand chemical toilet cleaner. Most of these natural cleaning products can be found at your local co-op or health foods store. Whole Foods has a great selection of natural cleaning supplied as well.

Natural Toilet Cleaning Products

bottle of earth friendly toilet bowl cleanerEarth Friendly Toilet Cleaner is a cedar oil based toilet cleaner. Cedar oil and citric acid work together to leave your toilet clean and smelling fresh–not like a bucket of harsh chemicals waiting to splash up all over your butt. Good stuff here, but I’m not sure you can get it in the states. You may have to order it online. You can order bottles of it from Amazon.

Box of BoraxBorax is something most of us have heard of. Derived from borate, a naturally occuring substance mined from the Western regions of the U.S., Borax is a really tough cleaning acid–and it’s all natural. Be sure to wear gloves if you’re going to use this stuff.