How to clean a toilet – the best ways to tackle a stained and grubby WC properly

This is how to clean a toilet properly using the best cleaning agents including vinegar and coke. Get rid of stains and clean the toilet tank in a flash with these failsafe methods

how to clean a toilet: traditional bathroom with patterned monochrome floor, light bluie walls and brick wall
(Image credit: Matt Clayton)

Knowing how to clean a toilet properly is essential for a cleansed and happy household. As this is one of the most used seats in the house, even the best toilet seat can be host to alarming amount of both visible and invisible bacteria which can lead to contamination and illness if not well disinfected.

Sure, cleaning the toilet is that job that no-one wants to do... However cleaning everything from the toilet tank to removing stains from the bowl – whether you’re house proud or not – it shouldn't be bottom (sorry) of your list. And, it is easily done with the help of both commercial toilet cleaners and natural cleaning agents like vinegar. Some households may even prefer to use coke...

Keep scrolling for our know-how and get the job done quickly. We've also included some top toilet cleaning tips from household experts which will help make this crucial job, an easy one.

White clean toilet bowl

(Image credit: Photo by Curology on Unsplash)

We spoke with ScS, and Dale Gillespie, Head of Acquisition, who says: “Hygiene has been at the forefront of people’s minds recently... many of us are thinking about giving our homes a thorough deep clean. It’s more important than ever to tackle dirt and germs'. Cleaning the toilet seat is 'Not an exciting job, but an essential one nonetheless.' 

The experts at Victoria Plumbing also commented on how to clean a toilet the right way. 'We typically clean our toilet by scrubbing the inside and exterior of the bowl - but do you often think about how to clean the cistern itself? TikTok star and ‘professional organiser’  @imagineitdone reveals the secret to a clean toilet tank in just a few simple steps. Firstly she removes the lid of the toilet tank, flushes the toilet to reduce the water level, then begins to scrub the interior of the tank with a bristled brush coated in bicarbonate soda. To finish off, she pops a chlorine tablet into the tank - ‘Perfectly antibacterial’. Interestingly, many people forget to clean their toilet cistern - resulting in a build-up of dirt and grime. This cleaning hack is a great way to ensure your toilet is clear of bacteria.'

How to clean a very stained toilet bowl

Gillespie says 'For the best results, disinfect the toilet bowl with a bleach-based toilet cleaner, starting underneath the rim. Put on some gloves and scrub the sides. For the exterior, use a disinfectant spray and cover all sections, including the lid, flush and tank. Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes and then use a clean sponge to wipe it all down.'

  1. Add your best toilet cleaner of choice to the bowl and let it soak while you do the rest of the cleaning.
  2. You can also use vinegar, if so, pour half a litre of white vinegar into the bowl, flushing it around a little so it has contact with the sides. Leave this for 2-3 hours.
  3. When you come back to finish the job, scrub the bowl with your clean toilet brush, using a pumice stone on any hard water stains.
  4. Flush the toilet and you're done.

How to clean a toilet tank

  1. If your tank is grungy and dirty, you need to drain all the water out before you begin. First shut off the water by closing the valve located on the bottom of the toilet near the back wall.
  2. Then disinfect the inside of the tank by spraying it with toilet cleaner or a bleach spray. Let the disinfectant sit for 20 mins.
  3. Remove dirt and grime from the corners, crevices and along the walls of the toilet tank using your toilet brush.
  4. For extremely dirty tanks spray a bleach spray all around inside, leave for 20 minutes and then run a gallon of plain cold water through the tank, flush until all of the bleach has been flushed through the toilet and the tank is empty.
  5. Drop a cleaning product tablet inside your tank to keep in clean.

green bathroom with freestanding bath and toilet

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

How to clean a toilet seat

It's important to clean the top and the bottom of your toilet seat regularly to stop germs from lurking. Use a multi-purpose cleaner with a damp cloth or cream cleaner on an old toothbrush. After spraying on your cleaner of choice, rinse and wipe clean with a wet cloth. It’s important no moisture is left on the toilet seat or the hinges so finish by drying both with a soft dry cloth.

How to clean toilet seat stains

To clean any yellow or brown stains on the seat, you can use a mix of bicarbonate of soda and water. Mix three tablespoons of bicarb with six tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl. When it forms a paste smear this mixture onto the stained areas and leave for 15 to 20 minutes. Scrub with a toothbrush or sourer and rinse well with warm water.

White toilet in downstairs bathroom

(Image credit: Photo by Emily Silverstein on Unsplash)

How to clean a toilet that is stained

  1. Lift up the toilet seat and squirt your toilet cleaner around the rim and the sides. A strong bleach based cleaner is great to tackle germs, but if your toilet is covered in limescale stains you’ll need a cleaner with limescale-fighting properties such as Domestos Zero Toilet Limescale Remover.
  2. Next scrub your toilet with the toilet brush making sure the cleaning solution reaches every nook and cranny, including the u-bend.
  3. Leave your toilet cleaner of choice to work for approximately 20–30 minutes. 
  4. After the allocated time give the toilet one more scrub with the toilet brush to loosen any particularly stubborn stains.
  5. Flush the toilet and voilà!

How you treat stains often depends on the severity of the problem. Bleach is strong and ideal if you have brown stains at the bottom of the toilet bowl, but you can also clean with vinegar if you'd prefer a natural solution as its acidic nature helps soften and lift any buildup from the bottom of your toilet bowl.

Remember to always read the cleaning product instructions before you start cleaning your toilet, taking appropriate safety measures such as wearing rubber gloves.

Sally and Owen have extended their 1950s semi in Swansea in colourful style

(Image credit: Georgia Burns)

How to clean a toilet using vinegar

Fill a clean spray bottle with white vinegar. Spray on targeted areas and leave to work for 10 minutes, or overnight if you wish. Finally, scrub your toilet with your toilet brush – the mess will come off easily after being soaked in vinegar.

Using vinegar to clean a toilet is brilliant, whether you’re doing a weekly clean or tackling weeks of dirt, grime and even limescale build up around the bowl and rim – vinegar can clean your toilet easily. The acidity in vinegar kills germs, bacteria and mould on contact. Make sure you use white distilled vinegar as the brown color in apple cider vinegar could stain your toilet.

This method will also work if you want to remove limescale from the u-bend. However, to reach the more tricky areas you might have to put on some rubber gloves and use a small brush that will fit down the u-bend to help scrub.

How to clean a toilet using coke

  1. Firstly, pour the can of coke around the rim of the toilet’s bowl so it flows over the various stains around the inside.
  2. Let the coke sit for at least an hour. For extra tough stains, you can let the Coke sit overnight in the toilet.
  3. Scrub clean using your toilet brush as normal, really getting into the corners. 
  4.  Any build-up of limescale should be dissolved by the phosphoric acid in the coke. Now just flush and stand back to admire (and wonder what it does to your teeth)!

How to keep your toilet clean

  • Use an in-cistern cleaner block: Drop this into your tank to release disinfectant with every flush.
  • Use your toilet brush: Scrub away grub whenever needed and leave some bathroom cleaner with added disinfectant in the bottom of your toilet brush holder
  • Use a toilet mat: This will help prevent any spills collecting at the base – wash this mat in the washing machine on high every couple of days.
  • Clean the toilet seat handle: People rarely wash their hands before flushing the toilet so the handle is an area that collects a lot of bacteria (some say even more than the seat). So, clean the handle with an all-purpose bathroom cleaner or an anti-bac wipe regularly and let air dry completely.

Pink toilet

(Image credit: Unsplash/Curology)

Expert tips on how to clean a toilet

Jessica Alba's top tip for stained toilets

Complete babe, great actress and now Founder of sustainable wellness brand, 'The Honest Company', Jessica Alba's says when tackling a rough looking, stained toilet (in a hurry), "When I'm pressed for time, I leave our Toilet Cleaner sitting overnight—to keep fighting hard water stains long after I've stopped cleaning for the day."

Lynsey Queen of Clean's toilet cleaning tip

Lynsey Crombie uses the coke method to get rid of limecale in a toilet. "If you have limescale stains and rust in the toilet bowl too simple cover an old cloth in coke and then rub this over the toilet bowl using your hand or alternatively use your toilet brush and again leave for an hour or so to do its work. The acid in the coke will break down the stains". Magic.

Your toilet cleaning essentials

That wasn't so bad was it?