Cleaning the toilet is crucial to maintaining a sanitary bathroom. The best toilet cleaner can not only make this unpleasant chore easier, with less scrubbing, it may actually allow you to do it less often because it removes stains and kills germs that build up in the bowl, making it less hospitable to them.
There are, however, a lot of products available in a host of different forms, including sponges, tablets, liquids, and foam. Some cleaners may be better suited than others to your situation and preferences. Read on to gain an understanding of the types of toilet cleaners available and see why the following products are considered among the best you can buy to get that bowl stain-free and the whole commode squeaky clean.
- BEST OVERALL: Lysol Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Click Gel
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner Tablet 6 Pack
- BEST NATURAL: Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Clinging Bleach Gel
- BEST FOR STAINS: CLR PRO Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover
- BEST CLEANING SYSTEM: Clorox ToiletWand Disposable Toilet Cleaning System
- MOST VERSATILE: Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Toilet Cleaner
Before buying a toilet cleaner, consider the types of stains you most often encounter. Hard water, for instance, can deposit chalky white buildup on porcelain that requires a special cleaner. For homes with soft water, a standard liquid cleaner or eco-friendly solution should suffice. If you prefer to keep a “green home,” consider the ingredients in a cleaner to steer clear of chemicals.
Also keep convenience and ease of use in mind, especially if you’d rather not get up close and personal with the toilet. Squirt dispensers, disposable pads, and wand cleaners let you tackle the task at a respectable distance.
Natural vs. Chemical Ingredients
Toilet cleaners contain ingredients that disinfect and dissolve stains. These ingredients can be natural or synthetic, and there are pros and cons to each type of cleaner.
Natural cleaners typically employ citric acid, baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils to clean toilet stains. Citric acid and baking soda have scouring abilities and properties that help dissolve some stains. Vinegar and some essential oils are used to disinfect. If you are sensitive to harsh chemicals or simply want an environmentally friendly cleaning option, natural cleaners are the way to go.
However, natural cleaners aren’t as strong as their chemical counterparts and tend to require more elbow grease to remove stains. This process typically involves drenching the area with the product and letting it sit for a few minutes to dissolve the stains or mildew. Once the solution has had time to soak in, a toilet brush is required to rub away the stains.
Chemical cleaners use synthetic ingredients like hydrochloric acid and chlorine bleach. Hydrochloric acid possesses corrosive properties that help power off tough stains. Chlorine bleach is a whitening and disinfecting agent that helps prevent the spread of germs and viruses. Both ingredients can irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes, so if you choose to use them, do so in a well-ventilated area with gloves and eye protection.
Toilet cleaners are available in several forms:
- Tablets are concentrated cleaners that are dropped into the toilet tank water and rely on added chemicals (typically bleach) to reduce stains in the bowl. Every time you flush, bleach is released, preventing grime and tough stains from sticking to the bowl.
- Powders are an inexpensive and effective choice. They may be made from various ingredients but will typically have an acid to dissolve stains and a disinfecting agent to kill germs. Powders are scrubbed onto surfaces with a cloth, sponge, or brush to clean.
- Liquids, the most common form of toilet bowl cleaner, typically use a chemical solution available as concentrates and ready-to-use sprays. Concentrates must be diluted with water first, then added to a spray bottle. The cleaner is sprayed directly to the bowl and rim to dissolve stains, then removed with a toilet brush.
- Gel-based cleaners are a viscous formula available in bottle form or stampable disc. The bottle form allows you to squeeze the cleaner onto the toilet, while a gel disc is fixed inside the toilet bowl rim. Bottled gel cleaners function similarly to liquid and powder products, while gel discs function similarly to tablets.
- Toilet cleaning systems are convenient all-in-one products that contain cleaner, brush, and storage. The cleaner is integrated into the wand or brush, so there’s no separate powder or spray to use before scrubbing.
Multipurpose vs. Specialized
Many toilet cleaners deemed multipurpose should be able to handle most cleaning and disinfecting needs. However, people with hard water may need a specialized cleaner formulated to dissolve limescale, rust, and other minerals that stain porcelain surfaces.
Cleaners that remove hard water stains contain different acids designed to target specific minerals. These acids soften, penetrate, and dissolve mineral deposits so they can be scrubbed away with relative ease. These acids are harsh, however, and meant to stay on the surface for a limited amount of time to avoid damaging the finish.
Toilet cleaners typically have disinfectant and whitening properties, with some ingredients being more powerful than others. Chlorine bleach is a highly effective disinfectant and whitening agent but it can be harsh on the skin, lungs, and eyes and must be used in a well-ventilated area.
Natural and synthetic acids may also be present in toilet cleaners to dissolve stains. Many cleaning products use a combination of acids. The stronger the acid, the more effective the cleaner—but also the more corrosive. So reserve cleaners with potent acids for surfaces with built-up stains and grime.
Although a cosmetic attribute, scent can make a cleaner more pleasant with which to work. Fragrances such as floral, woody, and citrus are added to enhance the cleaner and also impart that scent to the cleaned toilet. Those who are asthmatic or allergic to these substances should opt for natural alternatives or fragrance-free options.
Ease of Use
Toilet cleaning is one of the least desirable housekeeping chores, so choose a product that’s easy to use to get the job done fast and efficiently. Liquid cleaners are the easiest to apply via a spray or squeeze bottle. Toilet cleaning systems with disposable scouring pads simplify the process too. Powders and gel discs take more time to apply.
Our Top Picks
Choosing the right toilet cleaner will ultimately depend on the type of water in your home, the form you prefer, and how much time you can devote to cleaning. Fortunately, you should be able to find the best toilet bowl cleaner among the following top picks.
A great way to minimize time and effort spent scrubbing the toilet is to keep stains at bay. This Lysol product does just that, freshening the bowl with each flush. It hangs on the inside of the bowl and uses surfactants rather than bleach to deodorize, disinfect, and remove stains.
To install, simply press the Lysol Click Gel applicator against the inside of the toilet bowl until it clicks. The gel will adhere to the inside of the bowl. Toss the applicator in the trash, and leave the product in place to deliver continuous clean and freshness for up to two weeks with each flush. Each pack comes with six applicators, enough for three months.
The Clorox name is virtually synonymous with bleach, so it’s no surprise that the company’s affordable toilet tablets rely on bleach as an effective disinfectant and whitening agent. The automatic-action tablets are dropped into the toilet’s tank, slowly dispensing the product with each flush to continuously clean, prevent stains, and deodorize.
Each Chlorox toilet tablet lasts for 3 months, available in a 6-pack. The product claims to have a “fresh” scent, but with bleach as the primary ingredient, the smell may be overpowering to some.
Better Life Natural cleaners use plant-derived ingredients and are free of dyes, synthetic fragrances, sulfates, and petroleum solvents. The cleaners are also biodegradable, packaged in recyclable containers, and never tested on animals.
The water-based toilet cleaner relies on both citric and lactic acid to dissolve stains and whiten, while tea tree oil disinfects. The thick formula clings to the toilet bowl’s surface for fast, effective cleaning. Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner is a solid pick for those sensitive to harsh chemicals and who want an environmentally friendly option.
This gel-style cleaner uses the power of bleach to dissolve challenging stains as it kills germs. The bottle boasts a uniquely angled nozzle that targets hard-to-reach areas for excellent coverage, and the thick gel formula clings well to the bowl’s surface—just allow 10 minutes to dissolve the toughest stains before scrubbing.
Though the gel imparts an ocean mist scent, as a powerful bleach-based cleanser, it can irritate the eyes and lungs of those with sensitivities.
Hard water can create unsightly stains that are challenging to clean, but CLR is specially formulated to meet the challenge. It quickly removes a host of toilet offenders including calcium, lime, hard water deposits, soap scum, discoloration, and dirt. The main active ingredients are lactic acid and gluconic acid. However, with no phosphates, ammonia, or bleach, it does not disinfect, so use this product in tandem with a disinfectant for a thorough clean.
Though great for tackling toilets, CLR can also safely be used on such surfaces as plastic, ceramic tile, glass, stainless steel, faucet and shower fixtures, shower doors, fiberglass, and sinks. It’s part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Program for its effective cleaning power without harsh chemical ingredients.
One of the worst aspects of toilet cleaning is dealing with a wet, germ-ridden scrub brush. To the rescue comes the Clorox ToiletWand cleaning system, which eliminates the need to use and store a dirty toilet brush. The system includes a toilet wand, storage caddy, and disposable scrub pads infused with bleach-based cleaners. Each scrub pad refill clicks conveniently onto the wand without the need to touch them.
The hexagon-shaped sponge heads reach under the bowl rim and into the drain for a deep clean, removing rust, calcium, and lime stains as they disinfect with bleach. When done, dispose of the scrub pad in the trash with a click of the button on the wand. The system comes with 16 scrub pads and extra pads are sold separately.
Having several dedicated cleaners for each bathroom fixture can be expensive and hard to store. Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner is an all-in-one cleaner that can effectively tackle bathroom surfaces. It’s a bleach-free solution that relies on thymol, a component of thyme oil, to disinfect and citric acid and sodium citrate to dissolve stains.
The cleaner features a nozzle that mixes air in with the cleaner to form a viscous stream of foam to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces where bacteria or unpleasant odors are a concern. Though it can handle most stains and grime, pre-cleaning may be necessary for heavily soiled areas.
FAQs About Your New Toilet Cleaner
If you still want more information about buying and using the best toilet cleaner, consider the answers to these commonly asked questions.
Q. Are toilet bowl cleaners safe?
When cleaners are properly used, they are safe. However, before using any cleaner, make sure it’s suitable for the toilet’s surface and your plumbing system. Read labels to see if the product contains chemical ingredients to which you may be allergic or sensitive. When using a bleach-based cleaner, ventilate the area and wear appropriate protective cleaning gear or opt for a natural alternative.
Q. How do I keep my toilet clean naturally?
There are many effective toilet cleaners on the market made from natural ingredients. Cleaners such as Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner uses citric and lactic acid derived from plants and essential oils to remove stains.
Q. What is lime buildup?
Lime is a white, chalky, hard substance composed of calcium and carbonate ions found in hard water. It’s commonly found on and around toilet bowls, sinks, taps, bathroom tiles, and inside washing machines and kettles.
Q. How do I get rid of limescale and soap scum?
A cleaner designed to remove hard water stains such as CLR PRO Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover will effectively remove limescale and soap scum. Apply the cleaner directly to the stain with a brush, cloth, or sponge and let soak for two minutes. Rinse promptly with cold water.
Q. Can I use toilet cleaner for other applications?
Toilet cleaner should only be used for cleaning toilets and not as a general purpose bathroom cleaner. Most of them contain bleach or other disinfecting ingredients and acids that dissolve limescale and soap scum. These ingredients are harmless in your toilet but can damage the finish on other surfaces.