What is the best way to clean a toilet?

What is the best way to clean a toilet?

Many people ask, “What is the best way to clean a toilet?” In the average week, I clean approximately twenty to thirty toilets. Once you master this simple routine, it becomes fast and easy to clean a toilet.


Remove the clutter.

The most frustrating and time-consuming part of cleaning a toilet is having to work around clutter. Some people like to add decorative touches to that handy little shelf that is created by the tank cover. Others use that space to keep their personal toiletries, extra toilet paper, or air fresheners. These items trap dust and bacteria and make your bathroom harder to clean.

There are many styles of shelving units made to hug the space behind a toilet and they can be attractive as well as practical. If you permanently remove the clutter, it will cut your cleaning time in half.

Get rid of the rugs.

I strongly suggest that you avoid the cozy little rugs people like to put around the base of the toilet because they trap all sorts of nasty things and need to be washed regularly. Bathrooms often get steamed up which makes bacteria very happy. Moisture trapped by the rug can lead to mold and mildew, another hazard.

Keep dust at a minimum.

Bathrooms are dusty! Public bathrooms don’t share this problem but when they offer a shower or tub, there tends to be a lot of dust. Little fibers from towels and toilet paper mixed with hair and skin particles make up most of the dust we see in bathrooms. Sometimes toilets sweat or get damp from steam and this causes the dust particles to stick to it. It helps to avoid hanging towels directly over the toilet if you can.

Clean the outer surfaces.

Once you have the “stuff” out of the way, you can start to clean. You may think that the bowl is the dirtiest part of a toilet, but in most situations, that’s not the case. Most of the “yuck” in the bowl gets flushed away regularly and rinsed thoroughly with water, so it’s not the worst part. The rim of the bowl that’s hidden under the seat is often a “catch-all” for all sorts of nasty things. The outer base around the toilet is often overlooked and catches nasty things, too.

I use a simple, non-toxic spray and spray the entire toilet from top to bottom, making sure to get the flush handle, under the seat and around the base. After that, I wipe the whole thing down with either paper towels or a microfiber cloth. Microfiber is great because it removes bacteria which is better than using sanitizing wipes that are designed to kill bacteria. The wipes can be harmful to your skin and sinuses and they only work if you saturate the surface and leave it wet for several minutes.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Clean the bowl.

Next, clean the bowl. If your toilet gets used daily and therefore flushed regularly, this shouldn’t be a big problem. Sometimes, just swishing it with a bowl brush is enough. Be careful not to use one that has wire under the bristle that might scratch the finish off of the bowl. It’s easy to find plastic brushes, but my favorite are the ones with a soft tuft at the end. I have been using the same one for twenty years, but they no longer make it. This is the closest one I can find. It works fairly well. I like that it allows me to feel the texture of mineral deposits before I can see them.

Most of the toilets I clean are in churches and some of them do not get flushed very often, allowing the water to evaporate leaving hard-water stains. I usually use a toilet bowl cleaner, such as this one made by Lysol. It works best if you flush the toilet first and then wait for the water to stop running. Then squirt the bowl cleaner all the way around under the rim and let it drip down and do its work while you are cleaning the rest of the bathroom. In most cases, this takes care of the problem.

The chemicals in bowl cleaners are very toxic, so take care to ventilate the room as much as possible and try not to breathe the fumes. If you get any on your skin, rinse it thoroughly with water to avoid burns.

If you get hard water stains and you don’t want to use chemicals, a pumice stone works nicely. This one with a handle is nice.

A reader commented that she uses a natural bowl cleaner, so I’m adding this one to my personal shopping list to try.

Don’t use bleach.

Bleach is a popular agent for cleaning bathrooms because it is a powerful weapon against germs. It is also a whitener, but bleach does not clean. You are better off to remove the bacteria than to kill it. Using bleach or products that contain bleach in the toilet tank in an effort to sanitize the bowl with each flush does more harm than good. It eats through the rubber gaskets and can cause issues with leaking and water running.

That’s all there is to it!

Cleaning a toilet isn’t difficult at all once you know how to do it. When you don’t have to work around clutter and you use a non-toxic spray, you can keep the spray nearby without harming children and pets. This makes it easy to do quick touch-ups and that makes cleaning even easier!

I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite cleaning tips? What are your challenges? Leave a comment below and I will reply as soon as I can.






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22 thoughts on “What is the best way to clean a toilet?”

  1. Thanks for this Theresa, I always use bleach but now after reading this, I’m going to look into Lysol! I had no idea that bleach did more harm than good, to the rubber seals anyway! (Iknow it can be pretty harmful to your health and your coloured clothes!) Personally I strap on those rubber gloves and get right in there, but understand cleaning public toilets would be a whole different challenge! Thanks for sharing! Love your site, and I will be looking for more tips as we transition to a chemical free home!! 🙂

  2. Theresa,
    This is great information on cleaning a toilet. I do use Lysol cleaner and use a bleach based cleaner for the outside of the toilet. I only have four toilets to clean each week. You are totally correct on the top under the lid having the most debris when cleaning.
    I also do not like any type of floor covering around the toilet. I do have stuff on top of three of my toilets that have to be moved to clean when needed.
    What do you think about the products that are used in the tanks to help keep toilets clean.

    • Hi, John. Some of those tank inserts have bleach in them. That’s how I found out that bleach can cause problems. I don’t use them at all since they target the bowl and that gets flushed regularly. If they have one that addresses hard water, I would find it helpful. I’ll have to check into that. Thanks for your input!

  3. Great post! I love the idea of spraying down the outside of the toilet. I tried this and it is super easy.

    I have been using an environmentally-friendly toilet bowl cleaner for a while now. I replace the chemical ones I used to buy.

    Are you saying that they are unnecessary? Because that would be great. I would love to not have to use these types of products. I would love to know if these types of products are just a marketing ploy.

    • I use Lysol because of hard water issues. A brush is usually enough to remove anything else. Because I clean numerous public toilets, it’s not cost effective to use the pumous stone. I’ll look into a more natural substitute for the Lysol. I hadn’t thought about that. Thanks! Theresa

      • This post has been updated with links to products that were mentioned in case you are interested. I added a natural toilet bowl cleaner because I was not aware that there was such a thing until you mentioned it. Do you mind sharing what product you use? Thanks! Theresa

  4. This post has been updated with links to products that were mentioned in case you are interested. I added a natural toilet bowl cleaner because I was not aware that there was such a thing until you mentioned it. Do you mind sharing what product you use? Thanks! Theresa

  5. I live with a boy toddler and his aim is not always the best. I like the keeping the clutter away part, sometimes the back of the toilet can be a good place to store something real quick and then you forget about it and stuff just piles up. I need to remember to stop doing that. I also need to remember the microfiber washcloth part. They are very handy and I wouldn’t have considered cleaning the toilet with one. Thanks!

  6. Well. You learn something everyday! I have never heard of a toilet MOP. Amazing. We have a couple of serviced apartments so I will be giving it a try. I have things on the toilet top and I agree it’s another step to clean toilets! Thank you for the information.

    • I hope you like the toilet mop. It looks similar to the one I use, but it’s more than twenty years newer, so may not be the same quality. I’m ordering some for myself so if I’m disappointed I’ll update my post. Happy cleaning!

  7. Excellent article! No joke, you can tell through this entire article that you are experienced AND knowledgable. The bleach information is accurate. It is an excellent sanitizer and whitener, but it’s not for rinsing away dirt. It might erode it or whiten stains, but it can make holes in clothes, anything soft can be a victim too, say rubber 🙂

    I’m either going to post this article or share it.

    Still not sure about microfiber though. Haven’t had time to look into it. 🙂

    • You’re right about bleach making holes in clothes; I used to splatter myself all the time and I ruined most of my clothes that way. It’s hard on our skin, too. I never wore gloves when I used bleach, although I should have. Feel free to post or share as you like. Thank you!

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