How To Properly Clean Your Toilet

updated Jul 10, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Your toilet may just be the most important place in your home to keep clean. Bacteria and viruses, like Norovirus and salmonella, can live on bathroom surfaces and spread from person to person if toilets are improperly or infrequently cleaned.

Plus, a totally-clean toilet really does feel like the cherry on top of a spotless home—and a sign (to yourself or to others) that you didn’t miss a detail. Let’s be honest, if you’ve ever gone into someone’s home and had to use a less than fresh toilet, chances are you won’t be going back.

If you learn how to clean the toilet properly—and how to keep it that way—you’ll be able to enjoy that fresh commode feeling around the clock.

A Few Things to Know Before You Start 

  1. Never mix bleach and vinegar. If vinegar is in your all purpose spray, be sure to keep it out of the toilet bowl if your cleaner contains bleach. 
  2. Never put a dripping toilet brush in the holder. Sandwich the brush between the toilet lid and rim to allow excess water to drip out when you’re done with it. 
  3. Always clean in a well-ventilated area. Keep doors open, and open a window (if you can) or turn on the bathroom fan.

How to Clean a Toilet

Before you start, here’s what you’ll need in your cleaning caddy: toilet bowl cleaner and a toilet brush, all purpose cleaner (for the exterior), a cleaning cloth and/or paper towels, and a detail toilet scrub brush (like an old toothbrush). You might also want a pumice stone or some other abrasive tool, if your toilet has tough stains. And always wear gloves when cleaning the toilet.

1. Clear away clutter.

Remove anything on or around the toilet. Take candles off the back, move hampers, storage bins, and any towels away from the toilet before you begin cleaning. Open a window, close the toilet lid, flush the toilet, and put on your gloves. 

2. Apply cleanser.

Open the lid and add the toilet bowl cleaner as close to the rim of the toilet as possible. Close the lid and let the cleaner sit while you clean the exterior, for at least 5 minutes.

3. Clean the exterior.

Wipe down the toilet with a dust rag, collecting any dry dust debris before you wet clean. Spray down the entire surface of the toilet with an all purpose cleaner and wipe it clean from top to bottom; cleaning the tank and working your way down the toilet to the caulk or grout line around the base of the toilet. Take extra time and care with both sides of the toilet lid and seat as well as the rim of the toilet. Use a new towel or paper towels to wash the seat and rim of the toilet. If your toilet seat hinges don’t pop up for easy cleaning, use a toothbrush or detail brush to work free any grime stuck in between the hinges. Apply disinfectant to frequently-touched surfaces like the toilet handle and the edge of the lid.

4. Scrub the toilet bowl.

Using a toilet brush, begin scrubbing just beneath the rim and work your way down into the toilet bowl. Try to break loose any stains, debris, or hard water deposits. Flush the bowl, rinsing out your brush in the clean toilet water before allowing it to dry and returning it to its stand. If stains persist in the bowl, you can use a pumice stone to gently work away the stain then flush the toilet (more on that below). 

5. Rinse.

Wipe down the toilet seat with a warm, damp rag to remove any chemicals left behind by your cleaners. Replace any items you moved away from the toilet, and shut the lid. 

How To Clean A Stained Toilet

First, wash and disinfect the toilet bowl following the steps above. Then (still wearing your rubber gloves!) pick up a pumice stone, and begin scraping the stains away from the sides of your bowl. The pumice stone works especially well with hard water stains and streaking. The process gets a bit messy, so keep splashing water on the stains to see how clean the bowl is coming. 

How To Keep Your Toilet Bowl Clean

Daily maintenance is the best way to keep your toilet clean. A few shakes of baking soda can help to keep the toilet fresh between cleanings; keep some baking soda in a salt shaker and shake it into the bowl, then flush or use a toilet brush to agitate it. You can also lift the seat and wipe down the rim as needed. A little bit of daily attention (make it a part of your morning routine!) should cut down on the time you spend deep cleaning your toilet each week. 

How Often Should You Clean A Toilet?

Clean your toilet with toilet bowl cleaner weekly, and deep clean the toilet to removing stains monthly.