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How to clean a toilet: tops tips for a sparkling loo

From how to clean toilet stains to grime-busting deep cleaning tips, our guide will transform your toilet from dirty to dazzling.

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Cloth, toilet brush and toothbrush in front of a toilet

Cleaning the toilet may be one of the least appealing jobs around the home, but one thing’s for sure: keep putting it off and what’s actually an easy task will only become harder.

We’ve come armed with everything you need to know on how to clean a toilet and get that porcelain seriously clean and sparkling.

You will need

Before you start cleaning your toilet, make sure you’ve got everything you need:

  • A toilet brush: It’s best to use a brush with plastic bristles for toilet cleaning – wire brushes can damage the enamel surface of your toilet. Always start with a clean toilet brush and toilet brush holder.
  • Disinfectant spray: This is for the seat and outside of the toilet
  • Liquid toilet cleaner, plus bleach: You’ll need these for cleaning inside the toilet bowl.
  • Rubber gloves: We recommend keeping a pair of rubber gloves solely for toilet cleaning use, to avoid any cross-contamination. 
  • Paper towels or microfibre cloths: Either work well, but make sure you have more than one dry cloth available.
  • Rim block: Not essential, but it will help with omitting some odours and stains.

Your guide to cleaning a toilet

1. How to clean a toilet bowl

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Bleach being applied to a toilet bowl

If you want to know how to clean a toilet bowl the best way, you’ll need to clean as much surface area as possible, so start by draining as much water from the bowl as you can. You can do this by siphoning, with a plunger, or by turning the water valve off and flushing your toilet.

  • Put your gloves on and apply your chosen bleach or cleaning liquid around the rim, letting it run down the sides.
  • Using the toilet brush, start scrubbing under the rim to remove any surface stains and spread the cleaner around.
  • Continue using the brush to scrub down and around the toilet bowl.
  • Go over the bowl with the brush once again and flush the toilet to rinse away the cleaner, making sure that you continue to scrub as the water drains away.

Top tip: Need to clean your toilet bowl without scrubbing? Leave your cleaning product to work for a bit while cleaning other areas of the bathroom. This is especially good for removing stubborn toilet stains.

2. How to clean a toilet seat

Cleaning a toilet seat with a toothbrush

Your toilet seat can harbour harmful bacteria, so it’s really important to give it a regular and thorough clean.

  • Spray some bathroom cleaner around the seat and lid, especially concentrating on any bolts and screws and at the back near the pipe or cistern. 
  • Use an old toothbrush to scrub those hard-to-reach areas like the hinges, and loosen any dirt.
  • Wipe away any grime with a paper towel and dry off the cleaning solution.

Top tip: To quickly clean your toilet seat, it’s useful to have antibacterial flushable wipes handy.

3. How to clean the outside of the toilet

Gloved hand wiping down the lid of a toilet

Stains and bacteria can accumulate at the base of the toilet where it meets Keeping the outside of your toilet clean is just as important as cleaning your toilet bowl, as it can get just as dirty.

  • Spray your bathroom cleaner over the tank, lid, base, sides and handle. For ease, you can also use flushable antibacterial wipes.
  • Starting from the top, wipe down the entire area with some kitchen roll or a cloth, removing all the cleaning solution.
  • If the cloth gets saturated half way through, use a clean, dry one to continue.

4. How to clean the base of the toilet

Cloth cleaning the base of a toilet

Stains and bacteria can accumulate at the base of the toilet where it meets the floor, as well as behind it, causing bad odours to linger.

  • Spray all around the base of the toilet with the bathroom cleaner.
  • Using an old toothbrush, scrub the area thoroughly to remove any dirt or odours.
  • Using paper towels or a cloth, wipe away any grime and dry off thoroughly.

5. The final touch

A toilet block about to be placed inside a toilet bowl

This step isn’t essential, but we think it’s definitely a plus to have a pleasingly fragrant loo at the end.

How to quick clean your toilet

Sometimes the luxury of time isn’t on our side, but the loo needs to be cleaned, and fast! Here's how to clean a dirty toilet the speedy way.

  1. Put on your rubber gloves, lift up the toilet seat, and squirt your toilet cleaner around the rim and the sides.
  2. Next, scrub the toilet with the toilet brush making sure the cleaning solution reaches every nook and cranny of the toilet, including the u-bend. If you have time, leave the toilet cleaner to get to work for about 30 minutes. If not, on to the next step!
  3. Using antibacterial wipes (flushable, if you have them), wipe down both sides of the seat and lid.
  4. Then, wipe down the outside of the toilet, starting at the top and finishing at the base.
  5. Bin the used wipes or flush down the toilet and mission accomplished.

How to deep clean your toilet

A neglected toilet needs a bit more TLC than a regular clean. Here, we show you how to clean a dirty toilet and get it looking good as new.

  1. Wash down the outside of your toilet with a sponge and hot water to help dislodge any dirt, wiping it and drying with a cloth or kitchen roll.
  2. Spray some toilet cleaner over the entire toilet: the lid, seat, outside and base. Leave it to work.
  3. Use a liquid toilet cleaner and dispense under the rim of the bowl, leaving it to work for at least twenty minutes, or overnight if it’s safe to do so – this is the best way to deep clean a toilet bowl.
  4. Scrub the bowl thoroughly using the toilet brush to dislodge any stains. Flush and rinse the brush. If stains are still present, repeat this step again.
  5. With a cloth or kitchen roll, wipe off the disinfectant spray from around the seat, base, lid and back of the toilet until the entire toilet is squeaky-clean and dry.

How to get rid of toilet stains

So now you know how to clean a toilet, but do you know how to clean a very stained toilet bowl? Read on for our top stain-busting tips that will tackle the most common of toilet stains.

Hard water

Pour one cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl, swish the solution around with the toilet brush and leave to sit for a minute. Add one cup of baking soda and another of vinegar. Leave the solution to fizz for about five minutes, then scrub the toilet so the solution reaches all the stains. Finally, flush the toilet and you’re done!

Yellow stains

These are the most common stains – caused by the accumulation of pigment in urine residue – yet the most difficult to remove. Luckily, the strong cleaning powers of bleach can blast away those unpleasant yellow stains.

Pour bleach around the toilet bowl, and leave it to work for a couple of hours. Once you see that the stains have disappeared, flush away the bleach. Leave the bleach on overnight if the staining is particularly heavy.

Limescale

This mineral deposit forms stubborn stains that can be tricky to remove, and often requires a specialist product. If you don’t have any, you can use vinegar just as effectively. Read our top tips to learn more about how to remove limescale from your toilet.

Removing brown toilet stains

Those unsightly brown stains in your toilet bowl are caused by mineral compounds in hard water, notably iron oxide or rust. As acid-based cleaners dissolve rust, a really good and natural cleaner is vinegar. To treat stains at the bottom of the bowl, pour in two litres of vinegar and leave for a good few hours before flushing. If the stains are near the rim, mix some vinegar and borax (or salt if you don’t have any) into a paste and apply to the marks with an old toothbrush. Leave it on to work for at least a few hours or overnight if you can, before flushing away. Top tip: Use a water-soaked pumice stone to gently remove any stubborn stains in your toilet bowl.

Answers to your top toilet cleaning questions

How do you clean a dirty toilet brush?

The best way to clean toilet brushes and other tools you may have used, is to rinse them, and any holders, in a hot water and bleach solution for one hour. This should be done at least once a week to avoid any bacteria build up, and before you use the brush to scrub the bowl.

How do I keep my toilet bowl clean?

As with most household chores, cleaning the toilet is easiest if you maintain it as part of a routine. A deep clean can be done once every two weeks and a regular clean weekly.

Make sure you have clean apparatus (toilet brush and cloths) and give the bowl a quick scrub on a regular basis or wipe down the seat every couple of days with antibacterial wipes. Using a rim block will help keep your toilet clean, fresh, and hygienic in between more thorough cleans.

Can I clean my toilet using natural ingredients?

Absolutely! If you prefer to limit the number of chemicals you use around your home, then there are several natural alternatives available. Baking soda and vinegar are great natural cleaning agents that are perfect for wearing away tough stains from the toilet bowl. Combine them into a paste and apply to any stains with a toothbrush, or add one cup of each to the toilet bowl and let work for five minutes. Alternatively mix one cup of white vinegar with half a teaspoon of tea tree essential oil and use as a cleaning spray.

Originally published