Buyer’s Guide: Toilet Bowl Cleaners
Get this bathroom chore done quickly and easily with the right formula for your household.
Yes, we’re going there. The humble toilet bowl must be cleaned and disinfected conscientiously. While there are great products available to tackle the job, the seemingly endless aisle of cleaners at your local supermarket can make picking the right formula quite a challenge—especially if you’re hoping to avoid strong chemicals.
Read on for the essential factors to consider when selecting the best toilet bowl cleaner and went into determining our list of recommended cleaners.
- BEST CARTRIDGE TECHNOLOGY: Fluidmaster 8100 Flush ‘n Sparkle Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaning System, Blue
- BEST CAPSULES: Lysol Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaning Click Gel, Citrus Scent
- BEST GEL: Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Emerald Cypress and Fir Scent
- BEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- BEST OXYGEN BLEACH: Lysol Bleach Free Toilet Bowl Cleaner, with Hydrogen Peroxide
What Makes a Great Toilet Bowl Cleaner?
Delivery Design: There are three main types of toilet bowl cleaners: gels, tablets/capsules, and cartridges.
- Gel formulas demand some elbow-grease, as well as a toilet brush, which also must be sanitized regularly. Today’s reformulated gels are less harsh but equally effective cleaning agents (see the section on formulas below for more details).
- Capsules offer a less labor-intensive cleaning agent: Simply drop in the tank to purify water or adhere to the rim of the toilet to clean and disinfect. Tank tablets, however, often contain caustic chemicals (like bleach) that may damage the rubber seals inside your toilet over time. They can also break apart and cause pipe blockages. A better option is a gel-based capsule that adheres to the inside lip of the bowl.
- Newer cartridge technology attaches directly to the flushing system and flow pipe. Installation is simple and has benefits including less risk of damage, a deeper clean, and environmentally friendly ingredients.
Formula Factors: Toilet cleaners can top the “worst offenders” list of anyone concerned about harsh and potentially toxic chemicals. While bleach, for instance—often used in commercial liquid and capsule toilet cleaners—can kill germs and remove stains from porcelain, there are gentler, equally effective cleaning agents, like lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide (oxygen bleach). The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which grades products A through F, also provides ingredients lists and any health or environmental concerns.
Effective Lifespan: A gel cleaner is effective and thorough, but must be used weekly to keep your toilet germ-free. Capsules minimize labor time, keeping the water fresh and sanitized for up to 12 weeks, but may not be as thorough at cleaning other areas, such as the seat. Installing a cartridge system can keep your toilet germ-free and smelling sweet for up to three months.
The Best Toilet Bowl Cleaners
We made our picks based on cleaning effectiveness, customer satisfaction, and environmental safety, choosing products that earn four-plus stars from Amazon customers. We’ve also ensured the lowest level of toxicity (thanks to EWG research) and a high level of sustainability.
1. BEST CARTRIDGE TECHNOLOGY: Fluidmaster 8100 Flush ‘n Sparkle Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaning System, Blue
Combining the latest technology with environmental friendliness, Fluidmaster’s toilet cleaning system is a winner on all fronts. Its easy-to-install cartridge injects cleaning solution directly into the overflow tube of the flush valve—a process that can prevent damage that bleach tablets can cause to toilet parts. Flush ‘n Sparkle cartridges last up to three months and, while the new product is not yet graded by EWG for environmental standards, it does come in a non-bleach version. One customer brags, “[My] toilet bowls are spotless and I haven’t touched them with a brush.” Buy now.
2. BEST CAPSULES: Lysol Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaning Click Gel, Citrus Scent
Simply affix the applicator inside the bowl and Lysol’s Click Gel dispenses continuous refreshing action for up to a month. Lysol claims this bleach-free product kills 99.9 percent of germs and viruses. EWG gives it a B grade for health and environmental factors, noting such concerns as artificial fragrance and the cleaning agent sodium laureth sulfate, which poses certain health and safety risks if overused. Customers praise this product’s ease of use and long-lasting effects. Buy now.
Eco-friendly and cruelty-free, the primary cleaning agents of Seventh Generation’s gel are glucosides (which act as surfactants and increase cleaning effectiveness) and lactic acid (which removes scum and dirty residue). The gel is also scented with essential oils and plant extracts, instead of artificial fragrances, so it’s no wonder the EWG gives it an A grade. While it must be used at least weekly to keep toilets clean, customers enjoy its scent, effectiveness, and according to one shopper, “peace of mind knowing that no harsh chemicals are being used to clean my home.” Buy now.
4. BEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Created by two dads, Better Life eschews synthetic fragrances, bleach, dyes, petroleum solvents, and phosphates. Even the containers are sustainably designed, using solar energy and biodegradable material. Unlike many brands, Better Life lists their ingredients, which include lactic acid as a dirt buster and tea tree oil for its disinfectant properties. Squirt it around the bowl and let it set for 10 to 15 minutes before using a brush. EWG scientists give this toilet cleaner an A grade for health and safety. Customers offer praise like it’s “best-smelling toilet cleaner” and it “even takes off that nasty calcium buildup.” Buy now.
5. BEST OXYGEN BLEACH CLEANER: Lysol Bleach Free Toilet Bowl Cleaner, with Hydrogen Peroxide
If you need a heavy-duty cleaner but want to avoid bleach, go for Lysol’s bleach-free gel. It contains hydrogen peroxide (aka oxygen bleach), a cleaning agent that receives a B grade from EWG. While Lysol’s formula does contain other ingredients that cause some health and environmental concerns (like artificial fragrance and chemical surfactants), customers appreciate its scent and “well-designed bottle for application.” Buy now.