How to clean a toilet and make it look like new

A toilet next to a waste bin and a toilet roll holder ready to demonstrate how to clean a toilet
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Knowing how to clean a toilet the right way can mean the difference between impressing guests and scaring them away. We all understand the basics of cleaning a toilet when it comes to a brisk scrub of the toilet brush, or even how to unclog a blocked toilet. But even with regular brushing, the cleanest of toilets will inevitably show limescale and can start to look gross pretty quickly. 

The good news is that you don’t have to live with these stains. Deep cleaning a toilet is pretty straightforward once you know what you’re doing and all it takes are a few household products and a bit of elbow grease. So don your yellow gloves because here’s how to clean a toilet properly. 

Also, be sure not to make any of these 7 bathroom cleaning mistakes while doing so!

How to clean a toilet 

What you’ll need

Rubber gloves

Toilet bowl cleaner

Microfiber cloth or sponge

Disinfectant bathroom cleaner

Toilet brush

White distilled vinegar (optional)

Scrubber brush (optional)

1. Most toilet bowl cleaners contain bleach, so you want to make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated by opening a window or door.

2. For safety, wear rubber gloves as well.   

3. The first step is to apply toilet bowl cleaner under the rim and in the bowl itself. This will need to soak for a while, so always do this first before moving onto the rest of the toilet. 

Toilet bowl cleaner being applied under the rim of a toilet bowl

(Image credit: Future)

4. Now, take a look at the floor where you intend to kneel. This will need cleaning just as much as the toilet because of splashback. Clean the floor using a microfiber cloth and some disinfectant bathroom cleaner such as Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner ($11.93, Amazon). 

Rinse with a damp microfiber cloth if necessary. If you have a mat surrounding the toilet, remove this and wash it according to the care label. It’s a good idea to check any close walls for signs of splashback as well in case someone doesn’t shut the lid before they flush.

5. Next, spray your disinfectant bathroom cleaner all over the outside of your toilet, both on top of the lid, around the sides and all over the tank. Then leave it to sit for 2-3 minutes, or as long as recommended by the manufacturer.

A microfiber cloth being used to clean the side of a toilet while wearing rubber gloves

(Image credit: Future)

6. Once time is up, scrub the outside of the toilet clean using a sponge or microfiber cloth. Remember to pay as much attention to the underside of the toilet as the lid. 

7. Now open the lid and spray this side, as well as the top-side of the toilet seat and leave as before. Remember to reach into the crevices with the spray as well, such as the hinges of the seat.      

8. Scrub again using your sponge or microfiber cloth.

A toilet seat being cleaned with a microfiber cloth while wearing rubber gloves

(Image credit: Future)

9. Now raise the toilet seat and repeat this method for the underside of the seat and the bare rim of the toilet. Make sure you rub the sides of the seat and lid as you scrub. 

10. Rinse the outside of the toilet with a damp microfiber cloth if necessary and leave to dry.

11. By now, the toilet bowl cleaner should have had a good 10 minutes to sit. Take your toilet brush and scrub around the wall of the bowl, being sure to reach up to the rim where you can’t see. Then move down towards the water and scrub the drain last. Tap off the excess water before removing your toilet brush. 

A toilet bowl being scrubbed with a toilet brush

(Image credit: Future)

12. Close the lid and flush your toilet and you’re done. Be sure to rinse and dry the toilet brush before putting it away again.    

How to clean the toilet tank 

Don’t forget to give your toilet tank some TLC as well. This won’t need deep cleaning as regularly as the toilet itself, but you should still check it every so often for signs of discolor or corrosion. 

1. Remove the lid of your toilet tank and take a look inside. If everything looks as it should, you just need to clean the outside as mentioned above. 

2. If you spot rust or reddish stains, then it could use a deep clean. Turn off the water supply valve which should be directly behind the toilet, then flush the toilet to empty out the tank. 

3. If you’re facing everyday grime, you can use the bathroom disinfectant spray and a scrubbing brush to give it a once over. 

A toilet tank filled with rust and corrosion

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

4. If the stains are more persistent, you should fill the tank with white distilled vinegar up to the overflow valve. Never use bleach here because it can corrode the internal components. 

5. Leave overnight or for up to 10 hours. 

6. Flush until the tank is empty once again, then give it a final scrub. Turn the water back on and let the tank refill. Flush again to rinse it out. 

How to clean a stained toilet 

If stains still remain in your toilet after all of this, there are a few more methods you can try. You can buy a limescale-focused toilet cleaner or one designed for urine stains, depending on your need. 

Alternatively, if you've got a limescale problem and you want to use a home remedy, white distilled vinegar is also very effective. Apply it as you would toilet bowl cleaner, then leave it to sit for a few hours. Scrub once time is up to shift the limescale. For extra power you can also sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar, followed by more vinegar to dissolve the stains. 

Lemon juice is another good natural cleaner you can use. Simply spray it around the edges of the bowl, scrub to remove stains, then leave for 10 minutes before flushing. You can also try using a pumice stone if your toilet brush isn’t making a dent, such as the Powerstone Pumice Stone Toilet Bowl Cleaner ($11.99, Amazon).

How often should I clean my toilet? 

Once a week is a good rule of thumb for cleaning your toilet, but you may need to do it more often if someone is sick or if your bathroom sees a lot of traffic. Remember to pay special attention to the handle and keep disinfectant wipes handy for that. 

Looking for more bathroom cleaning tips? Check out our guide on how to clean a glass shower door, as well as how to unclog a shower drain, and how to unclog a blocked toilet. We also have 15 water saving tips to lower your bill

Your bathroom isn't the only room in your house; here's how to clean every room of your home.      

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.