Here’s exactly how to clean a toilet

Here’s exactly how to clean a toilet

For something we commonly refer to as a throne, the toilet doesn’t get much respect when it comes to cleaning. In fact, a 2018 study of 2000 Americans found that cleaning the toilet was the number one most hated chore, with almost 42 percent of participants listing it as the worst household chore.

But it’s certainly a necessary one. The 2011 NSF International Household Germ Study found that 27 percent of toilet seats and 14 percent of toilet handles had significantly high counts of mold, yeast, and germs.  

Unfortunately, we don’t have a magical way to turn this dreaded job into a party — although cranking up some high-energy music can’t hurt. Once you know how to clean a toilet properly and which cleaning supplies to invest in, you can get the job done with less mess, stink, and germs. Read on for our step-by-step instructions to rid your toilet of grime and stains. 

The tools you need to clean a toilet

Ready to learn how to clean a toilet bowl? Let’s start with your supplies list.

  • Rubber gloves
    A pair of thick rubber gloves will keep your hands free from both icky germs and harsh cleaning products. Make sure to choose a sturdy pair that can withstand some scrubbing, and consider a cuffed style to keep runoff from getting inside. Keep your gloves germ-free between scrubbing sessions by soaking them in bleach-infused water, then air-dry afterward.
  • Bristle scrubbing brush
    Use a brush designed for cleaning toilets by physically scrubbing your cleaning product into your bowl and getting underneath the rim and into the toilet bend. When left sitting in a watery holder, toilet brushes can grow mold, so you should also clean the brush itself (at least occasionally) when you’re done by spraying it well with a disinfecting spray and placing it between the toilet seat and bowl with the head hovering over the bowl, allowing it to air dry.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
    You can choose from powdered, liquid, or gel cleaners. It’s a good idea to opt for one made with oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide for the most disinfecting power.
  • Disinfecting wipes and/or all-purpose cleaning spray
    It’s not just the toilet bowl itself that needs cleaning, but the outside, too. Single-use, disposable disinfecting wipes or a spray used with paper towels will allow you to remove stains and kill germs with ease. If you choose to clean with reusable cloth rags, toss the cloths into the washing machine right away with hot water and bleach. Sponges should be avoided for this job because they can harbor bacteria.
Here’s exactly how to clean a toilet

How to clean a toilet

Once you have all the supplies you need at the ready, you can follow these simple steps to disinfect and clean an entire toilet, including the exterior and the handle. The order of these steps matters, so don’t skip ahead, no matter how antsy you are to start cleaning the inside of that bowl.

  • Step 1: Get everything ready
    Place all the supplies you need for the entire process within reach, and remove anything else (such as toilet paper, magazines, towels, etc.) from the area to reduce the risk of splashing it with germy water. Get your gloves on, and prepare to get to work!
  • Step 2: Prep the bowl
    Close the lid and flush the toilet, then open the lid and add your toilet bowl cleaner as close to the toilet rim as you can manage. Don’t scrub yet, though — we’ll come back to it in a moment.
  • Step 3: Clean the outside
    Grab your all-purpose cleaning spray or disinfecting wipes and begin cleaning the exterior of the toilet, starting from the top down. Get the tank, handle, and edges before moving on to the outside lid of the toilet, then the entire outside of the bowl beginning with the sides and front, ending at the base where the toilet meets the floor. Before you rush to wipe away the cleaning product, read the instructions. While certain cleaning products claim they can kill 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria, many are only that effective if they remain wet on a given surface for long enough
  • Step 4: Start cleaning the seat
    Begin by lifting the seat and spraying or wiping the seat, inside lid, and toilet rim with your cleaner, then wiping the lid, seat, and hinges. Some hinges pop open, which makes this tough spot easier to clean. Then wet a clean cloth with clean water and wipe the seat down to remove any chemicals (like bleach) that could be left behind — after all, you don’t want that on your behind!
  • Step 5: Get into the bowl
    Time for that toilet bowl to shine! Start by scrubbing beneath the rim where stains and gunk often linger before moving on to scrub the toilet bowl with your brush. Then, scrub the drain hole opening at the bottom before closing the lid and flushing.
  • Step 6: Clean up your cleaning products
    Wipe away water or cleaner drips around the toilet, throw away any disposable products, and disinfect your toilet brush and gloves. Then wash your hands, replace items you moved, and put away your supplies. Once the gloves are off, give yourself a well-deserved high five. You did it! 

How to clean toilet bowl stains

If you’re having a tough time getting the bowl to seriously sparkle, try turning off the water valve at the toilet’s base and flush once to drain the water from the bowl, before adding a generous amount of toilet bowl cleaner, which will keep the cleaner from diluting and make it more effective. Just don’t forget to turn the water back on when you’re done!

You can also consider using a homemade cleaner with some abrasive qualities — some experts suggest a mix of one part table salt, one part baking soda, and one part oxygen bleach. A 1:1 mix of baking soda and distilled white vinegar can also provide excellent DIY results. 

For reddish or brown rust and mineral stains, scrub with baking soda or Rust-Away. Some people swear by pouring a can of cola in the toilet to eliminate stubborn stains. Be sure to flush the toilet before getting started on the rust stains, though, to prevent any chemical reactions between your general-purpose cleaner and rust-cleaning products.


Polishing the porcelain in your powder room may never become a chore you cherish, but these straightforward steps should make the process pretty simple and effective.

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Here’s exactly how to clean a toilet