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How to Clean Toilet Stains

There are many products and methods you can use to remove toilet stains.
There are many products and methods you can use to remove toilet stains.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

It's safe to assume that scrubbing the toilet doesn't appear on anyone's list of favorite household chores, but cleaning the commode doesn't have to stink -- pun intended. Keeping the bowl stain-free is simple: Set a small amount of time aside every few days to clean, and suddenly the task won't feel so overwhelming. In fact, you can use a product you already have in your kitchen to help get you started.

Vinegar, one of the most versatile products in your kitchen pantry, offers an economical and effective way to get rid of stubborn toilet stains. Stains are often caused by alkaline deposits, and they can be removed by emptying three cups of vinegar into the pot and scrubbing the bowl with a toilet brush.

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Vinegar can also prevent future stains from appearing. Fight rings by pouring up to two cups of white vinegar in the toilet once a month. If stains persist, turn off the water valve and drain the toilet. To do this, turn the shutoff valve clockwise. Once it stops, flush and use a plunger to remove any remaining water from the bowl. Place cloths or extra-strength paper towels soaked in white vinegar around the edges of the toilet bowl, and let them sit for several hours until the stains begin to dissolve. Scrub any remnants away with a nylon toilet brush. Turn the water supply back on and flush once the bowl is clean.

Trisodium phosphate, a heavy-duty cleaning powder that can be found at your local home improvement store, is another great product that can be used to remove tough toilet stains. Measure one gallon of warm water with one tablespoon of trisodium phosphate and mix well. Soak a cloth in the solution and rub stains until they're gone.

When cleaning with borax powder, first flush the toilet after shutting off the water supply to the tank. When the toilet is empty, sprinkle the powder directly onto stains and scrub the bowl using a toilet brush. Let borax sit for a half hour after scrubbing, and when stains are removed, turn the water supply on and flush.

To clean a toilet with bleach, measure a half cup of dry bleach powder and allow it to sit in the bowl for up to two hours. Flush once you see that stains are removed.

As a last resort, use a pumice stone and a toothbrush to get rid of extreme toilet stains. Keeping one end of the pumice damp, rub the stone across toilet rings, but be sure to do so cautiously. Pumice can easily scratch a toilet bowl, leaving it damaged beyond repair. Once pumice begins to build up on the sides of the toilet bowl, use a toothbrush to gently rub all deposits away.

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The ugly brown stains that leave streaks inside a toilet are rust -- iron particles that combine with air. Rust often forms in the holes under the lid where water is flushed, leaving the bowl looking dirty and unkempt. Hard water, made up of natural minerals like magnesium, calcium and iron, takes part of the credit for these unsightly stains. According to the DIY experts of "The Family Handyman Magazine," hard water can be found in 90 percent of homes, no matter what filters or systems a home has to remove harsh particles. While we can't avoid hard water, we can remove the rust that forms as a result of it in our toilets.

To get rid of rust stains, visit your local hardware store and purchase a cleaner containing hydrochloric acid, like Santeen De-Limer and Toilet Bowl Cleaner or The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Products may be labeled as containing HCL, hydrogen chloride or muriatic acid -- all of which will effectively remove rust from your toilet. Never use any cleaner containing bleach, as it will allow rust stains to set and make them nearly impossible to remove.

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Do you keep a bleach cleaner or tablet in the toilet tank? Before you uncap the hydrochloric acid, remove any bleach products, and flush the toilet several times to ensure all bleach residue is gone. When bleach and acid products combine, they produce deadly vapors. Protect your hands, eyes and mouth by wearing protective rubber gloves, goggles and a mask, and turn on the bathroom fan or open a window to allow air to circulate as you clean, just to be safe.

After the water supply is off and the bowl is dry, pour the hydrochloric acid on a toilet brush with stiff nylon bristles, and spread the cleaner throughout the bowl and over all jet openings. Scrub until stains are removed, reapplying hydrochloric acid to the brush as often as needed until the bowl is clean. Don't scrub too quickly -- any splashes or droplets of cleaning fluid that fly outside the toilet bowl can damage skin, tile, carpet and vinyl. Never set cleaning bottles on exposed surfaces, and place a bucket of clean water and a cloth nearby to clean any accidental spills. Once the bowl is clean, turn the water supply back on and rinse immediately with two flushes.

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Nobody likes cleaning toilets, but if you do it consistently, it'll be a much easier job.
Nobody likes cleaning toilets, but if you do it consistently, it'll be a much easier job.
Chip Simmons/Taxi/Getty Images

Much time and energy can be saved when cleaning the toilet by first selecting the right product for the task. Acids are best for cleaning stubborn stains -- they neutralize alkaline soils, also known as water stains, and remove soap deposits, rust and lime scale. Certain acids are mild, like vinegar, and others are more intense, like hydrochloric acid. When shopping for a heavy-duty toilet cleaner, choose an acid-based product that will break stains into small particles, making the chore quick and easy to complete.

To clean your toilet in record time, make the chore as hassle-free as possible. You can do this by storing toilet cleaners and products, like rubber gloves, brushes and rags, in a basket under the bathroom sink. Be mindful to keep any cleaners containing harsh chemicals out of the reach of pets and small children.

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Consistency is important when maintaining a toilet that's stain-free. Brush toilets once a day when they're used often. The more frequently you clean, the less build-up will occur, drastically cutting down the time it takes to perform the chore. Bleach tablets are sometimes used to keep commodes fresh between cleanings. Use tablets only in toilets that receive heavy traffic, and don't mistake these products as an excuse to neglect your bathroom cleaning duties!

It's also important to remember that good ventilation isn't just for your safety when cleaning with chemicals. Opening a window or using the bathroom fan can keep the space smelling fresh, and lighting a candle or match will neutralize the air. Closing the lid before every flush will prevent any particles or water from splashing outside, keeping waste -- and foul smells -- confined to the toilet bowl. Lastly, don't forget to maintain the outside of your toilet to keep the porcelain shiny and clean. Mop around the base, and dust the sides and back where lint and dust collect. The final result will be a porcelain throne that's fit for a king!

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Sources

  • Do It Yourself. "Bathroom Cleaning Tips." (May 2, 2012) http://www.doityourself.com/stry/bathrooms
  • The Family Handyman. "How to Remove Water Stains." (May 2, 2012) http://www.familyhandyman.com/DIY-Projects/Indoor-Projects/Bathrooms/DIY-Tips-For-Bathrooms/how-to-remove-water-stains/Step-By-Step#step2

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