Cleaning Toilet Bowls

Updated October 18, 2019
Woman is standing in the bathroom holding a bucket full of cleaning supplies

When it comes to cleaning house, no task is dreaded as much as cleaning toilet bowls in the bathroom. Even though cleaning a toilet isn't something that you're ever likely to see as fun, the chore can be completed faster and easier if you approach it the right way, use the correct types of cleaning products and follow a regular cleaning schedule.

How to Clean a Toilet Bowl Step-by-Step

Unless the toilet bowl has deep and dark rings, cleaning toilet bowls can be quick and easy.


  • Rubber gloves
  • Toilet brush
  • Homemade or commercial cleaner (1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar make a great homemade cleaner)
  • Wet and dry washcloth or rag
Cleaning supplies

Step 1: Prepare

Especially if you are using a commercial cleaner, you'll want to open a window. Then, you'll snap on your rubber gloves and open the toilet lid.

Step 2: Add Cleaning Product

Squirt a commercial or homemade cleaning product under the toilet bowl rim. Spray or sprinkle some cleaning product in the rest of the bowl.

Cleaning the toilet

Step 3: Wait

Shut the lid, especially if you have pets that are prone to being mischievous. Now, let the products sit for five to 15 minutes, or as recommended on the product label.

Step 4: Scrub and Flush

Take a scrub brush and scrub down the sides and bottom of the toilet bowl until it is clean. Flush the products down the toilet.

Step 5: Clean the Rest of the Toilet

After cleaning the toilet bowl, continue cleaning the rest of the toilet fixture. Do not use the scrub brush you used on the bowl to clean the rest of the toilet, as it may spread germs that were present in the bowl to the handle or seat.

  1. Spray the top and sides of the tank, handle, lid and seat.
  2. Wipe them down using a damp rag, following with a dry rag.
  3. Wait to clean the bottom of the toilet until after mopping the floor, as grime can be transferred from the floor to the base of the toilet when the mop brushes against the toilet.
  4. Finish up by wiping down the base of the toilet.

Cleaning Hard Water Stains

When you have hard water, cleaning your toilet might take a bit more elbow grease. You'll have to pull out the big guns to ensure that those hard water stains in your toilet go bye-bye. In addition to commercial cleaners, you might try baking soda and vinegar or even scrubbing out your toilet bowl with a pumice stone or steel wool. This takes a bit of extra work but will get those stains out.

A pumice stone

Special Toilet Cleaning

Despite your best efforts sometimes, your toilet needs special care. For example, you might have a sick family member or your son was not following the toilet cleaning schedule. Now you have a germ infested, rusty toilet. Not to worry. There are ways to get it clean and disinfected.


For special toilet cleaning, you'll need:

  • Gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Vinegar or bleach
  • Rag
  • Toilet brush
  • Pumice stone

Disinfecting the Bowl

After someone has been sick, you'll want to disinfect the bowl and toilet. Put the gloves on before you start to make sure you don't spread germs, then follow the steps below:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon of bleach and room temperature water, or straight white vinegar if you want the natural route.
  2. Spray down the toilet both inside and out.
  3. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Use the brush on the inside of the bowl and flush.
  5. Wipe the outside with the rag.
Cropped Hand Cleaning Toilet Bowl With Spray Bottle

Removing Rust Build Up

When you let your toilet go for too long, rust can build up. Before scrubbing, you'll want to loosen up the crud with bleach or vinegar.

  1. Turn the water off to the toilet and flush. You need an empty bowl.
  2. Fill the toilet with enough bleach or vinegar to cover the stain.
    • Never use bleach and vinegar together.
    • Use caution with bleach by opening a window and using gloves.
  3. Let sit for at least an hour, but overnight is better.
  4. Using a natural pumice stone, preferably one with a handle, carefully and lightly scrub the ring off, adding more pressure as needed. (Watch your pressure so you don't scratch your toilet.)
  5. Do small areas at a time, so any resulting scratches are small.

Toilet Bowl Cleaning Products

A number of products are on the market for cleaning bathrooms and toilets. You can also find products in your own cupboard.

Commercial Cleaners

Commercial brands of cleaning products that include toilet bowl cleaners include:

  • Clorox comes in an easy to apply bottle that fits under the rim. Uses bleach to break up rust and limescale.
  • Lysol uses a thick formula to eat way the scum. Easy to apply, just squeeze under the rim.
  • Scrubbing Bubbles is an easy and worry free cleaner with a unique neck for application. Removes rust with little scrubbing.
  • The Works has a unique formula that will literally eat away rust and nastiness in the bowl. It works great for those hard water stained toilets.
  • Comet comes in a spray and powered formula that uses bleach to break up the rust and crud.
  • Mr. Clean is designed to remove bacteria and comes in a fresh citrus scent. Simply pour in the bowl and scrub.

While these cleaners are good for tough rust and limescale, they typically use harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia. They can also be corrosive.

Homemade and Natural Cleaners

Commercial chemical cleansers are not always environmentally safe cleaning products. If you are concerned about using environmentally safe cleaners, you may want to make and use a homemade cleaning remedy or look for toilet cleaning products made by companies that specialize in earth friendly cleaners. A few good natural cleaners include:

  • Baking soda works as a great mild abrasive scrub and disinfectant on germs. Sprinkle a little in and scrub.
  • Vinegar's acidic nature makes it great for eating away at rust and grim. Simply pour it in the bowl and wait.
  • Lemon juice can make a powerful cleaner and has a great scent.
  • Baking soda and vinegar work great alone but if you mix them together, you'll have natural scrubbing bubbles.
  • Pumice stones work great to break up stains and remove crud after soaking in baking soda or vinegar. Just be careful to not use too much pressure.
Vinegar, lemon and baking soda

Toilet Maintenance Tips

Cleaning the toilet is a dirty job that no one wants to do. Try these tips to take the work out of cleaning the toilet bowl.

Daily Cleaning

The more often a toilet bowl is cleaned, the easier the job becomes. Add cleaning the toilet bowl to your daily house cleaning schedule. Maintaining the toilet bowl by doing a quick spray and scrub each day will keep stains, rings and germs out of the toilet and the bathroom.

Daily cleaning the toilet

Automatic Flush Cleaners

Rather than putting the chemicals in only once a week, hit the toilet every time you flush. Many top commercial cleaners, like Clorox and The Works, make automatic flush cleaners. These either fit under the rim of your toilet or in your toilet tank. With every flush, they work to remove scum, grim and rust that might otherwise build up. By releasing cleaning deodorizing chemicals with every flush, your bowl stays cleaner longer.

Automatic Cleaning Toilets

Much like a self-cleaning oven, these porcelain beauties have a self-cleaning system. Rather than spend your Saturday scrubbing, you simply push the button and let the toilet do all the work. These ingenious little systems work by releasing a powerful cleaner into the toilet that gets it sparkling and white in less than a minute. A deeper clean can take up to 10 minutes.

Cleaning Your Toilet Bowl

Cleaning the toilet is a dirty job. It is quite literally the dirtiest job in the house. However, using a few tips and tricks can make your toilet cleaning adventure a lot easier. From weekly maintenance to deep cleaning, there is a cleaner and tool to fit everyone's needs. Now that you've perfected your bowl technique, get tips on how to clean your toilet tank so your entire setup is as fresh as a daisy.

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Cleaning Toilet Bowls