DIY Cleaning & Organizing

How to Make a DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Cleaning your toilet doesn't have to involve inhaling bleach and other harsh chemicals. Whipping up a natural toilet bowl cleaner is cheap, takes just a few minutes, and is a lot less harmful to your health.
Tony Carrick Avatar
Woman mixes DIY toilet cleaner ingredients, including baking soda and essential oil, in glass bowl.

Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

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Everyone loves a clean home, but our obsession with sanitation may come at a cost to our health. Some people, especially those with allergies, can develop sensitivities to the harsh chemicals in store-bought toilet cleaning products, which are often comprised of such such potent chemicals as sodium lauryl ether sulfate, sodium hydroxide, and sodium hypochlorite (bleach). These chemicals present hazards ranging from mild (irritation of the eyes, nose, and mouth) to extreme (permanent damage to the skin, lungs, and eyes).

The best toilet cleaning products don’t have to come from the store. To avoid the potentially harmful ingredients and irritating scents, many homeowners have started to make their own cleaning products, right down to their toilet bowl cleaners.

Although DIY-ing your toilet bowl cleaner won’t put a surprising amount of money back in your pocket with every batch, it will provide a safe and natural solution for stains at a reasonable price.

Don’t be intimidated by the extra work it takes to make your own toilet bowl cleaner. This is a simple, affordable recipe anyone can whip up quickly using common household staples like baking soda and vinegar.

How to Make DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Woman mixing homemade toilet bowl cleaner in a bowl.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Here’s a simple recipe that makes good use of items you probably already have at home. Mix up a batch to cut down on the number of task-specific cleansers you regularly buy, and limit your family’s exposure to harsh chemicals.

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STEP 1: Combine all ingredients except vinegar in a glass bowl.

Woman mixes baking soda and essential oils while making DIY toilet bowl cleaner.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

In a glass bowl, add 2 cups of baking soda and 100 drops (roughly 1 teaspoon) of a disinfecting essential oil, such as tea tree oil, lavender, orange, pine, or a blend of oils, any of which are available for purchase online or in health food stores. Make sure your mixing bowl is glass, not any old stainless steel or plastic container. Essential oils react with metal and can deteriorate plastic.

STEP 2: Mix ingredients thoroughly.

Woman using a wooden spoon to mix essential oils and baking soda.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Use a wooden spoon to mix the oil and baking soda together, breaking up clumps as you go. Hold off on the vinegar, though. Vinegar reacts chemically with baking soda, and the two ingredients should be mixed only in the toilet bowl while cleaning.

STEP 3: Store the mixture in an airtight glass jar.

Woman storing DIY toilet bowl cleaner in a glass jar.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

You should have enough powder for about 30 uses. To keep the homemade toilet bowl cleaner fresh as you work your way through the supply, transfer it to an airtight glass jar for long-term storage outside of the bathroom. Otherwise, excess moisture from steamy showers and long baths may cause clumping and uneven distribution of ingredients.

How to Use Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Woman scooping a baking soda-based DIY toilet bowl cleaner into the toilet.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Using the proper method to apply homemade toilet bowl cleaner is key to getting the best results. Ahead, learn how to use this homemade concoction to transform a grimy toilet bowl into a gleaming porcelain throne.

STEP 1: Add your homemade toilet cleaner to the toilet bowl.

Woman scooping a baking soda-based DIY toilet bowl cleaner into the toilet.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Drop 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of the toilet bowl. Also sprinkle some on the walls of the bowl and use your toilet brush to spread the powder around.

STEP 2: Pour 1/2 cup of 20 percent vinegar into the bowl.

Woman pours vinegar into toilet bowl.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Next, pour 1/2 cup of 20 percent vinegar into the bowl. (Note: This product isn’t your standard white vinegar found at the supermarket; it’s generally used only for killing weeds or cleaning, and it can be bought online. If you can’t find it, typical 5 percent distilled vinegar from the grocery store will work, but you’ll need to increase the quantity to 2 cups for each cleaning.)

The contents of the bowl should start to fizz when the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. If no fizzing occurs, the toilet water may be diluting the mix, or your baking soda may be too old. Try adding another tablespoon of powder and spreading it around.

STEP 3: Use a toilet brush to scrub the bowl.

Woman cleans toilet with toilet brush.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Once the homemade toilet bowl cleaner fizzes, use the brush to scrub away any stains or spots in the bowl.

STEP 4: Let sit for 15 minutes, then flush.

Woman flushes toilet after cleaning it.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Let the remaining mixture sit for about 15 minutes, and then flush the toilet to enjoy a spotless bowl, free of gunk and harsh chemicals!

Tips for Using Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Flushing a freshly cleaned toilet.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Now that you’ve created your nontoxic toilet bowl cleaner, use the tips below to maximize its cleaning power.

  • Disinfect the brush. So you’ve got that bowl sparkling clean, but what about the brush you used to clean it? Stop spreading bacteria around with a filthy brush. After use, soak it in vinegar overnight to kill any bacteria lurking in its bristles. If it’s old and worn, trade it out for a new brush.
  • Don’t forget the tank. The toilet tank is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. If you don’t clean it, that nastiness will spread to the bowl. Disinfect it by pouring a cup of your homemade cleaner in the tank, letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then flushing several times.
  • Use a pumice stone: If you have stubborn hard water stains that won’t come off with a standard cleaning, you can use a pumice stone to scrub them clean.

All-Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner Safety Precautions 

diy toilet bowl cleaner

While the ingredients found in all-natural toilet bowl cleaners may be less caustic than commercial cleaners, they still present health hazards that you should be wary of. While distilled vinegar may only be mildly acidic, 20 percent cleaning vinegar is much more potent. A 20 percent solution of vinegar can cause severe burns to your cornea if it comes in contact with your eyes and will also cause dermatitis to those who are sensitive to it. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to wear safety goggles and gloves when using this high concentration of vinegar.

You should also be careful when handling essential oils. Despite their soothing aromas, essential oils can cause poisoning if ingested, triggering such symptoms as vomiting, shallow breathing, and even seizures.

The third ingredient in DIY toilet bowl cleaner, baking soda, is harmless unless you ingest a lot of it. And, although mixing vinegar with baking soda creates a dramatic reaction, it is relatively benign, producing primarily carbon dioxide, salt, and water.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner vs. Toilet Stain Remover

Toilet bowl cleaner uses many of the same chemicals as toilet bowl stain remover to return your bowl to pristine white porcelain condition. This means that you can use your homemade toilet bowl cleaner as a DIY hard water stain remover, but you need to give it time to work. To remove tough stains, add the baking soda and vinegar mix to your toilet and then allow the solution to sit in the bowl for up to 30 minutes. During that time, the chemical reaction between the sodium bicarbonate and vinegar will work to eat away at those stubborn hard water stains.

After letting it soak, give the bowl a good scrub with your toilet brush, flush the toilet, and check to see if the offending stains have disappeared. If they haven’t, you can take it up a notch by pouring a half a cup of hydrogen peroxide onto the stains and then sprinkling 1 cup of baking soda on top. Let this sit for 15 minutes, and then scrub and flush. (Do not mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar, as it will create peracetic acid, a dangerous acid that can burn the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.)

Final Thoughts

DIY toilet bowl cleaner is safer for you to use and friendlier to nature when it eventually finds its way back into the environment than most toilet bowl cleaning products. That said, homemade cleaners can still be hazardous to your health if you don’t take commonsense precautions to protect your eyes and skin when mixing or using them. Wear gloves and safety glasses or goggles when mixing your batch of toilet bowl cleaner, and be sure to store any extra cleaner in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, out of the reach of children.


If you’re looking for industrial-strength methods for getting your commode back to sparkling white, then read on for more toilet bowl cleaning suggestions.

Q: How do I turn my old toilet bowl white again?

Even the best homemade toilet bowl cleaner or stain remover may not get the job done. If that’s the case, mix 2 parts borax with 1 part lemon juice and spread the paste onto any stains in the bowl. Allow to soak in for 2 hours before rinsing clean.

Q: Can you remove toilet bowl stains without scrubbing?

While scrubbing is usually the best way to remove toilet bowl stains, you can also try using toilet paper and vinegar. Soak the toilet paper in vinegar and stick it to the stains in the toilet. Allow it to sit for 4 hours, and then remove the toilet paper and dispose of it.

Q: What is the strongest ingredient in this homemade toilet bowl cleaner?

The strongest ingredient in homemade toilet bowl cleaner is vinegar, which has natural cleaning power thanks to its mildly acidic pH level. Essential oils, which are acidic and alkaline, are also powerful disinfectants.