How To Clean A Toilet: tips and tricks for doing the job properly

Updated by Lynda Stevens

cat cleaning the toiletNobody actually likes cleaning toilets, but just as sure as you need to breathe to live, you need to clean your toilet to have a happy, health home. Cleaning your whole bathroom every week is ideal, but even if you don’t get around to scrubbing the shower that often, you should at the very least take care of the throne.

As toilet reviewers, we spend an awful lot of time around these things. So, we wanted to share all our tips and tricks for cleaning them easily and effectively! You’ll find our step-by-step process below, as well as recommendations for our favorite cleaning products.

One of our writers worked as a professional janitor for quite a long time, so these are insider secrets!

Your new cleaning procedure

  1. Get some decent gloves

Toilets are icky places. Even if you’re not a germophobe by nature, it’s just good sense to exercise caution when you’re getting down and dirty with one. So, get yourself a good pair of rubber/latex/etc. gloves. Whatever works with your skin is good, as long as they’re sturdy and impermeable. Get something you can use repeatedly, not disposable gloves. Spray them down after you use them, and you can store them in a washbucket under the sink.

  1. Remove anything on the lid

As with any cleaning project, you want to get all the clutter out of the way. Take anything you store on the tank of the toilet off, so you can do a thorough job cleaning the toilet itself. Clean these items separately in the sink, if possible. Things like soap dispensers and candles are easy to wipe down or sanitize, and they do tend to attract airborne particles–especially when the toilet is flushed!

  1. Clean the bowl

Always try and clean the bowl first, since you might have some splashes or drips around the rim or seat after. It’s better to do this step first, since you’ll be wiping down those areas afterward anyway.

Use a good toilet bowl cleaner around the rim inside the toilet, making sure to get right up to the edge. It’s more important to get the cleaner up high than down low, since it’ll flow downwards anyway.

We use Seventh Generation cleaning products for everything in the bathroom. Theirs are the best non-toxic, eco-friendly options on the market, as far as we’re concerned. They clean very well, have no harmful chemicals, and no irritating chemical scents. Everything’s plant-based and biodegradable, but you can use them just like traditional spray cleaners.

Use this toilet bowl cleaner:

seventh generation - natural toilet bowl cleaner emrald cypress & fir - 32 oz.

Let the cleaner sit for a few minutes, to give the cleaning agents time to work. Once it’s been in there for a bit, scrub the bowl with a brush.

Always use a gentle brush, as most toilets sold today have a special glazing inside. You can easily damage the glazing if you use something with metal bristles or try something like a pumice stone.

If you’re using an older toilet with worn glazing or no special coating, you’re really missing out. New models make your life much easier with their non-stick glazing. Find in-depth reviews and recommendations for the best toilets on our homepage!

Foam scrubbers are generally good, but the traditional plastic bristle brush is easiest to clean and least expensive to buy! They sanitize easily, and most of them are harmless on glazing.

OXO Good Grips makes a good one, but you can also buy anything at your local hardware store.

OXO Good Grips Hideaway Compact Toilet Brush

Use it to clean around the bowl, up to the rim, and into the trapway. You want to get any visible sludge or scum while you’ve got the brush handy.

Then flush the toilet, leaving the brush in. Flush a few times, and you’ll clean the brush while you rinse the toilet! No need to rinse the brush in your shower or anything like that.

  1. Clean the rest of the toilet

Spray down the entire toilet with a disinfecting cleaner. We like Seventh Generation’s Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner. It kills the same amount of germs and bacteria as the horrible chemical products with bleach, but it’s completely safe and non-toxic. It also does an excellent job lifting filth from cracks and crevices!

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner - Lemongrass & Citrus - 26 oz - 2 pk

Spray from top to bottom, then give the disinfectant time to work (you should also pause if you’re trying to clean something particularly scummy).

Wipe down the entire toilet with paper towels, and make sure you get everything off, as opposed to just moving it around! Pay special attention to hinges, connections, and other common collection points.

We use Seventh Generations’ Unbleached Paper Towels.

Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels, 100% Recycled Paper, 6 Count

They’re really sturdy, and they’ve got the lowest environmental impact of anything we’ve found. They’re completely recycled, and frankly, there’s no reason to buy bleached paper products. You get a lot out of a roll, too, not like those stupidly thick ones from Bounty or other common brands, which are gone in two minutes.

Work from the lid to the base, and get every nook and cranny! The handle, lid, and any other high-traffic areas are especially important for controlling the spread of germs.

Don’t use sponges in the bathroom! That’s a surefire way to spread illnesses around your family. As long as you’re using paper towels made from recycled fiber, the environmental impact is minimal, and the sanitary benefits are overwhelming.

  1. Clean around the toilet

Spray and wipe the area around the base of the toilet with your disinfecting cleaner. Especially with guys in the house, things can get splattered around or dripped down the outside of the bowl. Even if it starts out at mist, you can end up with a gross yellow/orange film around the base and surrounding floor. Look around the base, and up the front of the toilet, and we guarantee you you’ll see something unsavory.

Full Circle Tough Stuff All-Purpose Scrub Brush, White

Scrub it all thoroughly before you mop the rest of the bathroom, to prevent the spread of bacteria! If the floor is tile, this is a great scrubber brush you can use all over the bathroom:

You can easily rinse it in the sink and it works very well in showers.

Once you’ve cleaned the area around your toilet, sanitized and removed your gloves, and washed your hands, you’re done!

General tips

Many common cleaning products that people use in bathrooms and on toilets in particular are downright dangerous. The fumes are toxic to breathe in, and they’re poisonous to the point that you have to lock them away from kids and pets. Just touching many of them can cause health issues. That’s not even getting into what happens when they go down the drain and get into the water supply!

You should avoid anything with harsh chemicals in it. If there are poison and toxicity warnings, or bleach involved, stay well clear of them! As well as the dangers, these harsh chemical products don’t actually work any better than the natural alternatives.

One of our top cleaning tips is using something non-toxic and plant-based, such as the Seventh Generation products we’ve mentioned above. There are plenty of other eco-friendly, healthy options as well.

Beware of green-washing, though! Major brands like Clorox lose out on profits when consumers become aware of how horrible their products are, so they often slap green labels and flashy “includes plant-based, etc.” marketing materials on the bottles. Look closely, and you’ll see that they’re still as toxic and dangerous as the old formulas. So, do you research carefully, or stick to Seventh Generation.

Want to go ultra crunchy? Use baking soda and vinegar! You think it sounds kooky, but there’s absolutely nothing better for purging black mold in a bathroom! That’s not usually a problem around toilets, but it’s a lifesaver for bathroom sink drains.

We also recommend avoiding pod dispensers: those things you slap inside the bowl and leave to dispense for a month or so. They’re usually made with nasty chemicals, and you’ll still have to clean the toilet anyway. They don’t address floor spatter, germs on the outside of the toilet, or anything up around the rim of the bowl. A pure waste of money, in our option.

Finally, don’t use any corrosives like Drano in your toilet. The fumes alone are downright dangerous, and they wreak havoc in the water table. If you want to avoid clogs, stop buying super thick toilet paper, or simply flush halfway through wiping if you know it’s going to be a big job.

Visit our homepage for reviews of different products like toilets, bathroom fixtures, tubs and other related products that you need for your home.

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