You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who looks forward to the day they have to clean their icky toilet bowl. Yet, the task is an essential element on your bathroom-cleaning checklist so you can avoid an unsightly, smelly, and unhygienic situation. Adding an easy-to-use and effective toilet cleaner to your lineup of cleaning products can help keep your toilet sparkling and odor-free.
From gels and sprays to disposable wands, automatic options, and septic-safe formulas, there are plenty of toilet cleaners to choose from. For the latter, Umberto Griccino, a commercial plumber, recommends looking out for “chlorine bleach or chemical sodium hypochlorite on product labels. Using these can cause septic tank backups, contaminate your drinking water, and cause foul odors.” Meanwhile, you should also consider the product’s scent and purpose. For example, if you have rust stains, look for a toilet cleaner that will tackle this particular task instead of a general, all-purpose toilet cleaner.
We researched various options on the market with these considerations in mind to help you find the best toilet cleaner for your needs. The Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach is our top pick, because it’s affordable and it disinfects surfaces while it cleans.
Here, the best toilet cleaners to keep your bathroom in top shape.
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This gel toilet bowl cleaner from Clorox is our top pick, because it’s affordable and super-effective. Since it contains bleach, it’s super-tough on everything—stains, odors, and bacteria. In fact, it can kill 99.9 percent of germs, according to the brand. So as long as you follow the package instructions about how long the solution has to sit, you can be sure you’re getting the most thorough and powerful clean possible. However, keep in mind that since it contains bleach, it’s not the most septic-friendly option. Notably, it does have a light scent, though. The scent doesn’t feel overpowering like many other products that contain bleach, making it great for those who are sensitive to smells.
The packaging is also designed with a special ergonomic nozzle that’ll help you reach every hard-to-reach nook and cranny—like the area at the top of the bowl. Just note: since the solution is a light color, you’ll need to pay particular attention to where you’re squirting the liquid, to ensure full and ample coverage.
Price at time of publish: $15
If you’re trying to stick to a budget, Clorox bleach is a great alternative to a traditional toilet cleaner since it’s a relatively inexpensive—and highly versatile—cleaning product. You can use it on your toilet, floors, bathroom counters, showers, and even for cleaning white laundry and deodorizing your washing machine. This particular version is highly concentrated, so you don’t have to use as much liquid, granting you more bang for your buck.
It can even disinfect surfaces—the brand’s product listing says it can kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and germs. To achieve this type of clean, simply mix 1/3 of a cup of bleach with one gallon of water, pre-clean the surface, and then apply the water-bleach mixture for six minutes before wiping it clean. You’ll notice that the product is also highly brightening to keep your porcelain throne sparkling white—even if it’s prone to rust or water rings.
Just be careful when you’re pouring this bleach, since it’s not a splash-less formula, and you’ll want to avoid getting it on your skin, clothes, and other surfaces it’s not meant for. It also has a particularly strong smell, so make sure you use it in a well-ventilated area so you won’t inhale it. In general, bleach is a very strong formula that must be handled and used with care. If you’re using it to clean, you’ll want to always make sure to dilute it and wear protective gloves and gear. Bleach can also damage surfaces if they’re nonporous or a certain color, and you should never mix bleach with other household cleaners as it can have a dangerous reaction with ammonia, acids, and other ingredients in cleaners.
Price at time of publish: $16
For quick refreshes in between deep cleanings, this toilet brush from Grove Co. is a great option since it’s much more eco-friendly than other traditional plastic versions of this utilitarian item. It’s made from recycled aluminum and plastic and features a replaceable brush head, so you can easily swap out that dirty brush without sending the whole thing to a landfill somewhere. Unfortunately, it does not come with a replacement brush head, so you will have to buy that separately after the brush begins to degrade. The brand recommends replacing it every four to six months, depending on your frequency of use.
Meanwhile, the whole thing comes with a convenient stand that’s filled with diatomaceous earth. Sounds fancy, right? It is—the rock absorbs excess water and resists mold and bacteria to help extend the usable life of the brush. Just like the brush, the rock is replaceable, and the brand recommends changing it out when you change brush heads.
Price at time of publish: $30
Requires some scrubbing
Doesn’t lather up
If you have a septic system, you know the last thing you want to do is flush something down your toilet that can cause costly damage—no matter how effective it may be. That’s why it’s imperative to stick to septic-safe household cleaning products, including toilet cleaners, like this one from Method. This toilet bowl cleaner is safe for use with septic systems, but you won’t sacrifice cleaning prowess to the benefit of your plumbing system. The formula has citric acid and proprietary “powergreen” technology and helps to disinfect and clean stains off of your toilet bowl.
Doing so is easy—just squirt the product in the bowl, let it sit, and then scrub before flushing to remove the cleanser and any grime. It has a gentler formula that doesn’t lather in comparison to other options, so you may have to scrub a little bit harder when using it, but it should still wash away any grime in your toilet.
The 24-ounce bottle is pretty inexpensive and has a cleverly designed nozzle that allows you to reach any area of your toilet bowl, seat, and rim. The bottle is also made of recyclable plastic, making it more of an eco-friendly choice if green shopping is important to you. As for the smell, it has a soft and refreshing spearmint scent that isn’t too overpowering.
Price at time of publish: $29
If you’re looking to keep your toilet bowl clean in between cleanings, try these tablets from Vacplus. The more automated solution doesn’t take much—all you’ll need to do is drop a tablet into the tank of your toilet, wait 30 minutes, and then use the toilet as normal. Each tablet lasts for five to seven days (or 20 flushes daily), helping to eradicate bacteria and leaving your toilet bowl cleaned of grime buildup, disinfected, and free from unpleasant odors with its light lemon scent.
You’ll know it’s time to put in a new tablet when the original one has dissolved in the tank, and the blue fades. However, note that sometimes the last bit of the tablet may not dissolve fully, and you may have to physically scrub it off with a toilet brush or flush the toilet several times in a row to remove it. Each box comes with a pack of 20, so they should last you quite a while unless your toilet experiences heavy use due to having a larger household.
Price at time of publish: $17
You may be a little grossed out by the brush at the end of your toilet bowl wand—and for good reason. That cleaning device spends a lot of time swishing around all that gunk in the toilet bowl and then sits in a wet container that houses it. Instead of the traditional toilet brush, you may want to opt for a more disposable option, like this one from Clorox.
Here’s how it works: Attach a disposable pad to the wand, and then use it to clean out the bowl. Each pad has a hexagonal design that fits nicely even in the small, tight areas like the space on the underside of the bowl. The built-in cleaning formula foams up as you scrub, and removes rust, calcium, and lime stains. Like other Clorox products, the brand’s product listing says it can kill up to 99.9 percent of germs. Keep in mind, however, that these pads aren’t as durable as a traditional toilet brush, so if you have stains that need hard scrubbing, these may not be the best option.
Once you’ve finished cleaning, simply hit a button on the wand to release the pad into the trash. It has a fresh scent that eliminates odors but doesn’t linger. Each kit comes with a stand for the wand that also has a compartment for the 16 pads it comes with. When you run out of those, you can then buy more replacement heads separately without having to repurchase the entire system.
Price at time of publish: $21
If your toilet bowl is plagued with rust stains, don’t tire yourself out trying to scrub and scrub and scrub. Instead, give the throne a thorough clean to tackle any existing stains and make your life easier by dropping a tablet of Iron Out into the tank of your toilet. It’ll keep any new rust stains from forming in your toilet bowl between washes, springing into action every time you flush.
Each tablet lasts for around 45 days and can be used safely, even if you have a septic system. They also come in a pack of six, so they should last you quite a while—however, keep in mind that they might not last as long if you have a larger household with more frequent flushing. These tablets are also unscented, making them a great option for those who are sensitive to smells.
Price at time of publish: $8
Cleverly designed nozzle
Requires some scrubbing
If you have hard water, your toilet is prone to limescale buildup and stains like water rings, and you’ll need something tougher than your average toilet bowl cleaner to keep your throne in top condition, like this cleaner from Lemi Shine. Designed with a nozzle that can get into hard-to-reach spaces, this liquid cleaner has citric acid, and helps to wash away tough stains and eliminate gunk. We also love that the formula is biodegradable and EPA-certified, so you can rest assured that you’re not inviting any harsh chemicals into your home with this product. However, since the formula is gentler than other options, some scrubbing may be required when you clean. It also doesn’t have disinfecting powers, so make sure to choose another option if you’re looking to sanitize.
It leaves a refreshing lemon scent behind to keep odors at bay between weekly washes, but it’s not overwhelming. The 24-ounce bottle should last you quite a while, and you can often find them available in three-packs, upping the bang for your buck. Even better, each bottle is made in the U.S.
Price at time of publish: $20
Doesn’t leave a residue
Each stamp in this “set it and forget it” toilet bowl cleaning set from Scrubbing Bubbles will keep your toilet bowl clean for up to 12 days. The touchless design allows you to simply “stamp” a single disc onto the inside of your toilet bowl without touching the stamp or the inside of the bowl. Then, with each flush, the solution will help clean and deodorize the bowl, eventually dissolving altogether—that’s when you know it’s time for a new stamp. The fresh scent is soft and not overpowering, so it’s a great option for those who are sensitive to smells.
In addition to cleaning and deodorizing, the product helps keep toilet rings and limescale buildup away, so you can extend the time between your regular deep cleans. Just note: the stamps don’t disinfect, so you definitely don’t want to skip those cleanings altogether. Each package comes with six tabs, so they should last you roughly 10 weeks, but if you have a larger household with frequent flushing, they may last a little less. Overall, this is a great option for those who are looking for an automatic cleaning solution to keep their toilet fresh in between cleanings.
Price at time of publish: $17
Go with the Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach for a highly effective way to keep your toilet cleaned, disinfected, and deodorized. If you’re looking for a more versatile cleaning product that won’t break the bank, a single jug of Clorox Disinfecting Bleach will do the job—and others, like cleaning your kitchen sink—just as well, but you’ll need to take necessary precautions.
There are several types of toilet bowl cleaners, each of which requires a varying level of effort on your part. First, there are traditional cleaners—liquids or gels that you apply to the bowl and then scrub with a toilet brush, like the Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach that’s our top pick. There are also toilet bowl wands that come with disposable cleaning heads, like the Clorox Toilet Wand, eliminating the need for a brush, which is nice if you’re (understandably) grossed out by storing a used wand. Finally, there are pods or discs that work in your toilet’s tank every time you flush, for hands-off cleaning that’s still effective enough for standard messes (like weekly cleaning).
Though scent doesn’t influence efficacy, a pleasing aroma can make the dirty job a little more enjoyable. Toilet cleaners come in all types of fragrances, from more floral aromas to citrus notes. If you’re sensitive to synthetic fragrance, you may want to opt for an unscented cleaner.
The best toilet bowl cleaners are all effective for everyday cleaning, but if your toilet has hard water buildup or rust stains, you may need a specialty product that will target the root cause of the issue. Look for a cleaner that’s marketed toward your particular need. Just note: Stronger toilet bowl cleaners tend to also have harsher ingredients, like bleach, that help remove the tough stains and kill bacteria. These chemicals can be dangerous if you have pets, kids, or a septic system, as noted by Griccino. If that’s the case, opt for a gentler product that requires a little more elbow grease.
It’s always a good idea to clean your toilet any time it’s visibly dirty, but as a general rule of thumb, you should schedule bi-weekly or twice-per-week cleanings, since this plumbing fixture harbors the most bacteria and germs, says Kathy Cohoon, Director of Franchise Operations of Two Maids & A Mop.
Before you apply any traditional liquid or gel toilet cleaner, pay attention to how your toilet brush looks, says Griccino. If it’s anything but white, toss it and get another one. And if possible, choose something that can be thrown away or washed after each use, he recommends.
Once you have the right brush within arm’s reach, begin by applying the toilet cleaner to the bowl as close to the top as you can get it. Then allow it to soak for a few minutes. While it’s soaking, clean the outside of the toilet with a disinfectant. Next, use a scrub sponge to clean the outside of the toilet. Once the outside is clean, use a toilet brush to clean the bowl. If you have hard water stains, a pumice stone can help remove them, he adds.
If you have a septic tank, toilet bowl cleaners and bleach or chlorine-based cleaners should be avoided or seldom used, says Griccino. If you use them too often, they can cause your septic tank to back up. When shopping, look at your product label to see if they are included. As Griccino notes, these formulas and ingredients can cause backups and unpleasant odors, and even contaminate your drinking water.
This article was fully updated by Brigitt Earley to reflect the latest and greatest toilet cleaners on the market. Brigitt has been writing for The Spruce since 2018, but has over 12 years of experience writing for a wide range of publications, including Real Simple and Good Housekeeping. She’s written and edited hundreds of articles in the cleaning space and made her final selection of products based on her own experience, bestseller lists across multiple retailers, and interviews with Kathy Cohoon, director of franchise operations of Two Maids & A Mop, and Umberto Griccino, a commercial plumber.
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