How to Properly Clean a Toilet

person cleaning a toilet

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Cleaning a toilet can be a very unappealing chore. While it's not complicated, it is possible to get it wrong. There actually is a right way to clean a toilet—a method that prevents the spread of bacteria and viruses that may be thriving there. Proper cleaning technique not only gives superior results, but it also saves time and energy.


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how to clean a toilet
 Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

How to Properly Clean a Toilet

Remove everything from around the toilet. Cleaning a toilet is a messy job, and there's always the chance of splashing cleaner or toilet water outside of the actual toilet. Prevent extra cleanup by removing all excess items from around the toilet and on the tank lid. Don't forget to remove anything on top of the tank to prevent dropping items into the bowl during cleaning.

  1. Flush and Add Cleaning Solution

    Flush the toilet with the lid down to prevent splashing or spraying. Add your choice of powdered, liquid, or gel cleanser to the toilet bowl. Try to apply the cleaner as close to the toilet rim as possible to prevent cleanser from being diluted.

  2. Clean the Exterior of the Toilet

    While the cleansing solution soaks into the toilet grime in the bowl, clean the outside of the toilet. Start at the top to prevent dripping on already clean surfaces. Spray the tank, handle, and tank edges with cleaner and wipe down. Next, do the outside lid of the toilet. Finally, wipe down the entire outside of the bowl. Start with the sides and front before cleaning the bottom edges of the toilet where it meets the floor. Now is also a good time to quickly mop the floor around the toilet, which may also be dirty.

  3. Clean the Toilet Seat

    The toilet seat should never be neglected. It is the part of the toilet that comes into actual contact with people, and it needs to be cleaned thoroughly. Raise the seat. Spray the seat, inside lid and the rim of the toilet with cleaner. Wipe down the lid, seat, and hinges at the back of the toilet seat. Some toilets have hinges that will pop open to allow better access for cleaning. Wipe the entire seat with a cloth moistened with clean water to remove any traces of bleach or chemicals from the sitting surface.

  4. Clean the Inside of the Toilet Bowl

    Begin cleaning the bowl from the top down. Always begin scrubbing under the rim first. Look under the rim to get all the stains and grime scrubbed away. Next, scrub the bowl. Finally, scrub the drain hole opening at the bottom of the toilet bowl. Flush the toilet with the lid down.

    If the toilet bowl has brown or reddish rust or mineral stains, scrub the porcelain with baking soda or a commercial product, such as Lime-Away or Rust-Away. Some people advise pouring a can of cola into the bowl, scrubbing and rinsing, then mixing in vinegar to the toilet bowl water to dissolve any remaining stains. Make sure you have flushed the toilet first before working on rust stains, as the rust-cleaning products may react with the chemicals in the general-purpose cleanser. Make sure to flush the bowl with the lid down after this scrubbing, as well.

  5. To finish up, clean up any drips of cleanser or water that may have occurred, put away tools and trash, and replace any items you removed on or around the toilet.


  • Wear eye protection when cleaning a toilet. Most cleaning products have bleach and other chemicals that can irritate or damage your eyes, and eye protection will protect you from splattering toilet water and cleaner. You may also want to use protective rubber or latex gloves to prevent contact with your hands. Whenever flushing the toilet, keep the seat lid down to prevent splattering and splashing.
  • Do not use sponges when you scrub a toilet if possible Damp sponges provide a perfect environment for breeding bacteria. Some experts advise sterilizing sponges by placing them into a microwave oven for 30 seconds or so while damp. The heat generally kills all pathogens. Paper towels are great options because they can be thrown away. If you use reusable cloths, wash them immediately in their own load in hot water with bleach.
  • Avoid toilet bowl cleaner tablets or disks—the kind that either are dropped into the tank or that hang inside the rim of the bowl. These products can contain chemicals that damage porcelain. And if you have pets, there is a danger that they may drink the chemical-laden water.