How to Clean the Toilet and Keep It Sparkling and Germ-Free

It's a gross but important chore.

Nothing says, "This is a clean house" like seeing a sparkling clean toilet in the bathroom. While cleaning the toilet probably isn't anyone's favorite chore, it must be done regularly to remove potentially infectious bacteria and prevent plumbing problems. Allowing build-up to accumulate in the toilet tank and bowl can cause clogs and reduce water flow from the jets under the rim of the bowl.

While it may seem gross, cleaning the toilet can be quick and easy if you slip on some rubber gloves and use the right tools and products. Store the supplies in the bathroom for even easier access. Keep reading to learn how to clean the toilet and remove stains.

How Often to Clean the Toilet

A toilet should be cleaned at least weekly, and more often when someone is sick. Even toilets that are not used frequently should be cleaned often to prevent stains from hard water standing in the bowl. Frequent cleaning makes the task much easier, quicker, and less unpleasant than waiting until the toilet is gross and visibly dirty.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools


  • Microfiber cloth
  • Long-handled bristle brush

Toilet Stains

  • Pumice stone
  • Toilet brush

Toilet Tank

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Scrub brush or wet pumice stone



  • Rubber gloves
  • Commercial toilet bowl cleaner with bleach
  • Bathroom cleaning spray
  • Disinfecting wipes or spray

Toilet Stains

  • Rubber gloves
  • Distilled white vinegar

Toilet Tank

  • Rubber gloves
  • Foaming bathroom cleaner
  • Distilled white vinegar


How to Clean the Toilet Bowl

  1. Clear the Space

    Remove everything from the top of the toilet tank and anything on the floor around the base of the toilet.

  2. Flush and Prep

    Flush the toilet with the lid closed. Put on rubber gloves and gather your cleaning supplies.

  3. Add the Cleaner to the Toilet Bowl

    Apply a commercial toilet bowl cleaner that contains bleach to disinfect the bowl starting under the rim and coating the entire bowl. Close the lid. Allow the cleaner time—at least five minutes—to begin lifting stains before starting to scrub.

  4. Clean the Outside of the Toilet

    While the cleaner is working inside the toilet bowl, go ahead and clean the outside of the toilet. Use a bathroom cleaner and a microfiber cloth to remove dust and grime. Start at the top and wipe off the tank lid, the sides of the tank, the flushing handle or button, and the outside of the bowl. Don't forget the area between the seat and the tank. Finish by cleaning the toilet seat lid and both sides of the seat.

    To get a really good clean, remove the seat and clean it separately.

  5. Scrub the Toilet Bowl

    Use a long-handled bristled brush to clean the bowl starting at the top under the rim. Scrubbing this area will not only remove soil but will help keep the water jets free from mineral deposits that can cause clogs. Scrub the entire surface of the bowl including the bend or trap. Flush to rinse.

  6. Disinfect the Toilet

    Now that everything is clean, it's time to disinfect all of the outside surfaces of the toilet. You can use disinfecting wipes or a disinfecting spray. The keys to successful disinfection is using enough product and allowing it sufficient time to work. Read the labels. Most disinfectants recommend that the surface remain wet for at least five to 10 minutes. Pay careful attention to the handle and seat areas.

How to Clean Toilet Stains

Minerals in hard water, rusty plumbing components, and infrequent cleaning can leave tough-to-remove stains in the toilet bowl that require a bit more scrubbing time beyond your regular toilet cleaning.

  1. Empty the Toilet Bowl

    Flush the toilet and, while the water is out of the bowl, turn off the water flow valve so the tank and bowl don't refill with water. You want the water to be as low as possible in the bowl.

  2. Remove Hard Water Rings

    Put on long rubber gloves and use a pumice stone (you can buy them with a long handle for easier scrubbing) to remove the rings that form in the bowl from the minerals in hard water. The stone must be wet—never use it dry or it will damage the surface of the bowl. Rub the stone on the deposits, turn the water back on, and flush away the debris.

  3. Remove Rust Streaks

    Flush and turn off the water again to empty the bowl of as much water as possible. Add two cups of undiluted distilled white vinegar and scrub the stains with a toilet brush. If the bowl is heavily stained, use more vinegar and allow it to sit for at least two hours (overnight is better) before scrubbing. Once the streaks are removed, turn the water back on and flush.

How to Clean the Toilet Tank

A clean toilet tank will help keep the toilet bowl clean. Luckily, it only needs to be cleaned twice a year unless you use well water, then it should be cleaned quarterly.

  1. Empty the Tank and Remove the Lid

    Flush the toilet to empty the tank of water and then turn off the water at the flow valve at the base of the toilet. Remove the lid and set it aside. If there is still water in the tank, flush the toilet again to empty the tank.

  2. Inspect and Clean

    If the tank has no rust or mineral deposits, use a foaming bathroom cleaner to remove mold or grime that has accumulated on the inside. Spray the cleaner on all of the components, give it time to work (about five minutes), and then wipe it away with a microfiber cloth. Turn the water back on to refill the tank. Flush the toilet a couple of times to remove the cleaner and any loose soil.

  3. Remove Rust and Mineral Deposits

    If there is sediment in the bottom of the tank, you'll need more than a quick clean. Empty the tank and add enough undiluted distilled white vinegar to fill the tank to the regular water level. Allow the vinegar to work for at least two hours or overnight. Use a scrub brush (not the toilet brush) or a wet pumice stone to scrub away the deposits. Flush away the vinegar and refill the tank with water.

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