Let’s face it: cleaning the bathroom is one of the things that usually annoy us the most when it comes to household chores. But at the same time, it's also one of the tasks that comfort us the most… When we've finished, of course
However, the most unpleasant task when cleaning one of the most frequently used rooms in our home is usually cleaning the toilet, especially if you have stubborn stains that don't seem to come out no matter how hard you scrub. Hardly anyone wants to tackle that part of the bathroom. Everyone dreams of embarking on its sanitation as quickly as possible, and if you're like me, without the chemical soup that today’s cleaning products produce.
Although conventional cleaning products — which are usually made of a variety of toxic chemicals — can clean our toilets quite well, they can also be extremely harmful to both our health and the environment. So, how about today we talk about some alternative and natural ways to clean the WC?
In this post, I'll share a few natural ways to clean and disinfect your porcelain throne that I'm sure you'll love, plus I'll show you how to clean a very stained toilet bowl with vinegar — the ultimate secret weapon in any eco-friendly cleaning kit. So grab your favourite pair of gloves, your best sustainable plastic-free toilet brush, and let's get to work!
What causes toilet bowl stains?
Before I start listing my top natural stain-removing products, I need to clarify something: toilet bowl stains can be caused by many different factors, not just bacteria accumulated from our waste.
Some stains can be caused by an airborne bacteria called Serratia marcescens. Others may be caused by a build-up of mineral deposits originating from hard water — water that contains a high level of minerals, in particular, magnesium and calcium —, by dissolved and decayed organic matter called tannins, by an abundance of iron in the water, by elevated levels of copper in the water supply, or by plain mold.
The product you use to clean the stains in your toilet will depend on what type of stains they are, but let's not rush. We'll discuss that later in the post.
How often should I clean my toilet?
Some folks wear a pair of pants once and feel the need to soak them in soapy water, while others wear them 4+ times every week without even wiping them down. However, when it comes to toilets, hygiene is king. We know that cleaning isn't exactly the coolest chore in the world, but if you want to avoid nasty stains, the best way to do it is to clean them often.
It's not like you're supposed to scrub the toilet like Cinderella 24/7, but if you do it at least two times a week it's more than enough. Some people say that cleaning it once a week is enough, but if you have a large family or young kids, ideally you should do it more than once in order to not only avoid stains but also (and most importantly) stop the spread of germs.
There are also people who clean it on a daily basis, but that depends entirely on you and how quickly your toilet gets dirty. I mean, if you planned a Mexican food night and you and your family keep eating the leftovers for several days, the spice will do its thing, and you may need to clean the toilet every day… For your health's sake!
Why are there different coloured stains in my toilet?
As I mentioned above, the stains in our toilet appear due to different factors, and each colour belongs to a different factor. But… Which colour belongs to which factor? It's time to quickly decode the colours of your toilet:
Yellow stains: these are very common, and they’re usually dissolved and decayed organic matter called tannins
Pink stains: airborne bacteria named Serratia marcescens, which feeds on phosphates, dust particles, and moisture
Red, orange or yellowish stains: high concentrations of iron in the water
White stains: crusty mineral deposits that come from hard water
Green or dark brownish stains: usually mold or mildew buildups caused by humidity and the evaporation of hard water. It leaves behind mineral deposits that later on dry out and catch dirt and bacteria, creating layers of green stains
Blue stains: high levels of copper in your water thanks to acidic water, which leeches copper from your pipes
Black or brown stains: elevated levels of manganese in your water supply
As you can see, you can even have a whole rainbow in your toilet bowl, but don't worry — after you finish reading this post you will know exactly how to get rid of black, red, yellow and any stains in your toilet bowl!
How do I get my toilet bowl white again?
What most people use to bleach whiten their toilet, which is a highly corrosive chemical and hazardous to aquatic life. Plus, if it comes in contact with other cleaning products it can react and release dangerous gases such as chlorine, so it's better to avoid it as much as you can.
If you want to get your toilet as white and shiny as the day you installed it in your home, the best thing you can do is grab the bottle of vinegar you have in your pantry, the box of baking powder you used to bake those multiple loaves of banana bread with when we were still in quarantine and load up on patience. If your toilet is far from white, you may need to scrub for several minutes to get perfect results, but you're sure to succeed with these ingredients — which I discuss in further detail below.
What can I use to remove stubborn stains effectively?
Toilet cleaner brands have been responsible for teaching us that in order to effectively clean a toilet, we must use highly corrosive products, which is not the case. With these products that you probably already have in your home, you can achieve a perfectly clean toilet without putting your health at risk or harming the environment with chemicals:
Baking soda: baking soda is an excellent ally for whitening and cleaning the toilet bowl like a pro. It's a natural deodorizer, it helps tremendously in sanitizing surfaces and removing tough stains, and most importantly, it's completely safe to use and can be paired with other natural ingredients such as vinegar and lemon.
Vinegar: This is a common eco-friendly house cleaner that, of course, cannot be missing in your natural cleaning arsenal — believe me, vinegar will become your best friend. This liquid is a powerful cleaner capable of removing stains, dirt and mineral deposits, whitening, fighting bad odours and above all, it has the ability to prevent the appearance of mold and mildew on surfaces. What more could you ask for?
Fresh lemon: citric acid is great to remove toilet stains, and guess what? Lemons are high in citric acid! They make very effective cleaners when mixed with other ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda.
Hydrogen peroxide: hydrogen peroxide is good for more than sterilizing cuts, it can also remove hard brown stains caused by manganese and even kill mold! Simply grab your 3% solution bottle and begin disinfecting. However, don’t mix it with vinegar, it will create peracetic acid, which is highly corrosive.
Tartar cream: if you have tartar cream in your kitchen, you are more than ready to tackle those brown stains. This powder is nothing more than potassium bitartrate, an acidic compound that can help you remove spots without contaminating waterways. Who would've thought that this must-have ingredient in baking is also a must-have in natural toilet cleaning kits?
If you don't have any of these ingredients, don't worry, you can buy them at any grocery store or pharmacy. Bonus points for convenience!
Eco-Friendly toilet bowl cleaning options:
One of the main active ingredients in many modern toilet cleaners is hydrochloric acid, a corrosive chemical that is extremely toxic to waterways and can harm plant, animal, and aquatic life. In addition, when inhaled, this substance can irritate the nose and throat, posing a considerable risk to children, pets, and the actual person who's cleaning. This also applies to other chemicals that can be found in toilet cleaning products, such as formaldehyde, ammonia, triclosan, and chlorine.
Plus, today's cleaning products not only contribute to toxic waste, but also to plastic pollution. Most of these products come in plastic bottles and non-reusable packaging that eventually end up in the trash, polluting landfills for hundreds of years. That's why I decided to switch to natural cleaning products, and luckily, it wasn't a hard choice to make. Because when it comes to cleaning the toilet bowl in an eco-friendly way, there are several options out there:
The first option is DIY products. With a simple mix of ingredients that you probably already have at home, like vinegar and baking soda, you can do wonders. Also, you can adjust the proportions as you wish and use the mixture to clean other parts of your bathroom such as your bathtub, shower, or sink.
The second option is the products you can buy. These are usually cleaning tablets — like the ones made by ETEE — which you use in a simple brush and flush, cleaning "bombs" — like some you can find on Etsy — which start working just by throwing them in the toilet, or liquid cleaning products — like the ones made by Aspen Clean —, which come packaged in recyclable bottles.
Hands down, my favourite option is DIY products. You don't have to deal with extra packaging of any kind, you know exactly what you're flushing down your toilet, and I repeat, you can tweak the recipes to your liking. That being said, this is my personal preference, but your bathroom, your call!
Not-so-fun fact: A study conducted by the University of Bergen in Norway found that cleaning products can be as harmful to the lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. The last thing I want to do is poison my lungs with such toxic fumes. Yuck!
How to remove the nasty, stubborn stains from inside your toilet bowl
Many of the ingredients listed above can work on their own, but for achieving the best results in removing the nasty, stubborn stains inside your toilet bowl, you'll probably need a mixture. I'll focus mainly on the most common rings, spots, and stains, which are yellow, brown, and black, and for such stains, I usually use mixtures of vinegar and baking soda and (believe it or not) tartar cream with hydrogen peroxide.
The best thing about these mixtures? They are very easy to make and won't irritate your eyes or throat! You no longer have an excuse to put off cleaning your WC.
Removing Brown/Black Rings, Spots & Stains From Your Toilet Bowl
Wanna know how to get rid of brown/black stains in your toilet bowl? Simple:
- Turn off the toilet water and flush it if the black/brown spots are at or below the water level
2. Mix one cup of tartar cream with ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide to form a thick paste, then use a toilet brush — if it’s a plastic-free one, better! — to rub the black spots with the paste
3. Let the mixture sit around for 15-20 minutes, then scrub on the spots, and then flush the toilet to rinse off the paste
4. If there are some stains remaining, repeat the process and allow the paste to stand on the stains for longer
However, if the colour of the stains is a dark brown colour, it may be mold. In that case, just follow the recipe below!
Removing Yellow Rings, Spots & Stains from Your Toilet Bowl
If yellow spots are your main concern in regards to your toilet, the baking soda & vinegar duo are your best weapon:
- Fill a bowl with 1 cup of baking soda and SLOWLY pour in 1/4 cup of white vinegar. It’s key that you pour the vinegar slowly as the mixture will foam up quickly
2. Apply the paste to the yellow stains/rings/spots in your toilet using a toilet brush
3. Allow the paste to sit on your toilet for at least 30 minutes, then flush the toilet to rinse away the mixture
Now that you know how to remove yellow stains from your toilet rim and bowl let’s talk about how you can maintain your stain-free toilet bowl.
Pro-tips: If you need a bit more scrubbing action, feel free to add some salt to the mixture. And if the yellow rings in your toilet are on the orange-ish side, add some lemon to the mix — it helps to remove iron stains!
Maintaining Your Stain Free Toilet Bowl
To help keep your toilet clean and free of stains, just try regular cleanings! That’s the best way to maintain your WC not only sparkling white but also smelling decent.
However, if you want an effective hack to keep your toilet free of stains, sprinkle some baking soda on it after everyone has gone to sleep on the days you don't actively clean the bowl, and leave it overnight with the lid closed. When you wake up, just flush the toilet and voilà, stain, and bacteria protection #ON!
If you have a toilet that you just don't use often but want to keep clean, closing the lid and regular flushing — preferably with collected water, try not to waste that precious resource — also prevents pink stains from setting.
But if you have an old toilet that you don’t use at all, consider turning the water off and letting it dry out. We’ve all seen those weird-looking spots and rings in unused toilets — it’s better to avoid them than to clean them over and over again.
You Don’t Have To Deal With Toilet Bowl Stains Or Harsh Chemical To Remove Them!
Cleaning the WC requires patience, but cleaning it with natural products can even make life easier. And the best thing about it is that you don't need to spend a lot of cash because most of them can be found at home or at a very affordable price!
However, if you're still not sure whether or not you should take the step of using natural products to clean your toilet stains, just have a look at all the different cleaning products you own right now. Look at the back of their packaging — which I'm sure it's made of plastic —, read the ingredients, Google how toxic they are, and think twice.
Now that you know that natural and eco-friendly cleaning products can remove toilet bowl stains just as well as store-bought ones, there's no need to reach for the bleach in order to get your porcelain throne sparkling white. Remember: a clean toilet is a happy toilet, but a naturally clean toilet is an even happier toilet.
If you have any other eco-friendly ways to remove those nasty toilet bowl stains, then leave a comment below. I'd love to read them! I’m always on the lookout to add new eco-cleaning strategies to my list.
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