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Most likely, you don’t relish the thought of cleaning out your icky toilet bowl. Still, the task is essential on your bathroom cleaning checklist so you can avoid an unsightly and smelly situation. And fortunately, there are plenty of cleaners available to make the task easier—there are gels and sprays you can apply, as well as disposable wands, and more automatic options, like tablets. Depending on your situation, you might want to seek out a natural option or a cleaner that won’t tax your septic system.
Here are the best toilet cleaners to keep your bathroom in top shape.
Best Automatic: 2000 Flushes Bleach Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
As the name indicates, this set-it-and-forget-it automatic toilet bowl cleaner will keep your toilet bowl clean for 2,000 flushes. Here’s how it works: Remove the lid to your toilet and place a tablet in the corner of the tank. With each flush, the tablet will help to clean and deodorize the toilet bowl.
This product kills nearly all bacteria, per the manufacturer, and each tablet will last for about four months. The bleach in the tablet helps to remove stains. Just note, you may notice the smell of bleach when you flush, so if you're sensitive to smells, this might not be the best pick for you.
Best for Stains: Lysol Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Unsightly stains are the last thing you want to see in your toilet bowl (and it can be a bit embarrassing if you have guests over). You can use Lysol’s toilet bowl cleaner to ward off stains as well as water rings. The product’s angled bottle design makes it easier to apply the cleaner under the rim of the toilet bowl. Lysol Power will both clean and disinfect.
After applying the thick gel, you can let it sit for a while and then flush, or give it a scrub with a toilet brush for better distribution around the bowl and under the rim. And, unlike many other cleansers, this Lysol toilet bowl cleaner doesn’t leave a noxious odor after use.
Best for Septic Systems: Method Cleaning Products Antibacterial Toilet Bowl Cleaner Spearmint
If you have a septic system, you know the last thing you want to do is flush something down your toilet that can cause costly damage. That’s why sticking with septic-safe household cleaning products is so essential. You’ll want to seek out products that are free from petroleum-based solvents.
This toilet bowl cleaner, like all Method products, is safe for use with septic systems. This toilet bowl uses natural ingredients such as citric acid to eliminate germs and clean stains off of your toilet bowl. Just squirt the product in the bowl, let it sit, and then scrub before flushing to remove the cleanser and any grime.
Best Natural: Better Life Toilet Bowl Cleaner
If you’re looking to avoid petroleum-based ingredients, this toilet bowl cleaner from Better Life is a good option. It’s still effective at removing stains and grime, and also will deodorize your bowl. But instead of using chemicals like bleach, Better Life relies on plant-derived ingredients, such as tea tree oil and lactic acid.
Like most toilet bowl cleaners with gel formulations, Better Life is thick so it’ll stick to the sides and cleans as it slowly slides down. This product is formulated to be gentler on the environment than traditional cleaners and appropriate for use if you have a septic system at home.
Best Tablets: Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner Tablets with Bleach
If you're looking for an easy solution to cleaning your bowl without having to use a brush, try these tablets from Clorox for a more automated solution: All you’ll need to do is drop a tablet into the tank of your toilet.
Each tablet lasts for up to six weeks, helping to eradicate bacteria, and leaving your toilet bowl cleaned, disinfected, and free from unpleasant odors. You’ll know it’s time to put in a new tablet when the original one has dissolved in the tank. These tablets are effective at preventing stains as well as ridding your toilet bowl from grime build-up.
Best Wand: Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush Toilet Bowl Cleaning System Starter Kit
You may be a little grossed out by the brush at the end of your toilet bowl wand. After all, this cleaning device spends a lot of time swishing around all that gunk in the toilet bowl. If that’s the case, opt for this disposable option from Scrubbing Bubbles.
Here’s how it works: Attach a disposable pad to the wand, wet it, then use it to clean out the bowl. Once you’ve completed that task, simply hit a button on the wand to release the pad into the bowl, and flush it away.
Best for Rust: Iron OUT Automatic Bowl, Repel Rust and Hard Water Stains with Every Flush Household Toilet Cleaner
If you find yourself plagued with rust stains on the toilet, consider dropping a tablet of Iron Out into the tank of your toilet. This product can be used safely even if you have a septic system.
And, once you’ve dropped that tablet in, it’ll repel rust from forming in your toilet bowl, springing into action every time you flush. Each tablet lasts for around 45 days.
What to Look for in a Toilet Cleaner
There are several styles of toilet bowl cleaners, each of which requires a varying level of effort on your part. First, there are traditional cleaners—liquids or gels that you apply to the bowl then scrub with a toilet brush. There are also toilet bowl wands that come with disposable cleaning heads, eliminating the need for a brush. Finally, there are pods or discs that work in your toilet's tank every time you flush for hands-off cleaning power.
As with any cleaning product, some toilet bowl cleaners have harsh ingredients like bleach. This is beneficial if you’re trying to remove tough stains and kill bacteria, but these chemicals can be dangerous if you have pets, kids, or a septic system. If you prefer not to bring these types of chemicals into your home, consider an all-natural toilet bowl cleaner instead.
If your toilet has hard water build-up or rust stains, you may need a specialty product that will target the root cause of the issue. Look for a cleaner that’s marketed toward your particular need.
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Madeleine Burry has written for the Spruce since 2019, covering crafting, home, and pets. You’ll find her writing elsewhere online at Livestrong.com, Health.com, Apartment Therapy, and other outlets.