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How do I Clean a Toilet Ring?

By Dorothy Bland
Updated May 16, 2024
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To get rid of your toilet stain ring, you will typically need to consider how set in the ring is. The type of stain you are dealing with, such as rust or mineral, will also affect how you choose to treat the problem. A main part of cleaning your toilet ring may come down to comparing the benefits of natural versus commercially available products. Taking basic safety precautions when cleaning and learning how to keep your toilet ring free of buildup are also important factors that can be considered.

If your toilet ring is light, cleaning with a basic natural solution might be sufficient for getting rid of the stain. Vinegar, for instance, is a mild natural acid that may be effective against rings caused by hard water or mineral deposits. White distilled vinegar is generally recommended and is usually sprayed or poured directly into the toilet and allowed to sit for several hours before scrubbing.

Should your stain persist, however, combining several natural products together might be a better alternative. One popular natural recipe for treating stubborn stains is a paste made from baking soda and lemon juice. The acidity of the lemon weakens mineral deposits while the baking soda gently scours the surface and lifts stains. A solution of baking soda and vinegar can also be used to break down a rust-based toilet ring.

Although natural solutions are often eco-friendly and generally free of toxic vapors, they may not be the best option for those who prefer the convenience of having a solution already prepared for them. These natural solutions may also lack the punch needed to fix a toilet ring that is considered to be quite severe or old. In these situations, you might want to compare the benefits of various commercial toilet bowl cleansers.

There is a large selection of commercial toilet bowl cleansers currently available, including acidic and chlorine-based solutions designed just to treat toilet bowl rings. Acidic cleansers might remove hard water rings but can include strong acids, such as hydrochloric acid, that may require dilution before use. Chlorine-based cleaners, on the other hand, include items like bleach that work to remove mildew rings and may whiten other stains. Not only will you need to compare between brands, however, you will also have to take your pick of powdered or liquid cleaners. Powders are apt to provide gentle abrasion, while liquids can cling above and below the water line for longer direct contact on the toilet ring.

Generally, the recommended approach for cleaning a toilet ring is to shut off the water valve first and then flush the toilet to completely empty the tank. At that time, you can add in the solution you want to use. For commercial products, the best approach is usually to follow the recommended instructions included on the product. If you have a tough stain, though, you might want to go with a natural product, such as vinegar, that is capable of sitting overnight. Should the ring persist, a wet pumice stone can be rubbed against the ring for abrasive cleaning.

Before you start cleaning, however, take basic precautions such as applying gloves and opening windows so you do not end up breathing in strong vapors. You can also take care not to allow the chemicals to touch your skin or eyes. If using bleach, you should be aware that if mixed with ammonia or vinegar, a toxic gas could form.

Maintenance is likely the key to preventing a toilet ring from building back up. Cleaning the toilet at least once a week with a commercial or natural cleanser is usually sufficient to keep rings from developing. For a quick preventive aid, antacid tablets can be dropped right in the bowl and allowed to fizz for a while. These effervescent tablets will generally remove light mineral buildup while leaving the toilet shiny and deodorized.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Oct 12, 2014

I tried using these gel things that stuck to the inside of the toilet bowl to keep the bowl clean, but they didn't last as long as advertised, or keep the toilet as clean.

There are regular toilet bowl cleaners with bleach in them, and I'd just as soon use those for a toilet ring. They're not really expensive and they work!

The ladies toilets in my office are getting really dingy, and I've a good mind to bring my own cleaner and see if I can't do a better job of cleaning them than the custodial staff. I don't think they pay much attention.

By Grivusangel — On Oct 11, 2014

Baking soda is always a good first option for removing a toilet ring. Of course, the best way (if possible) to remove one is to keep it from forming in the first place. Keeping the toilet clean and scrubbing it at least once or twice a week, will usually keep anything from building up on the inside and cause a toilet ring.

A good toilet brush should have really stiff bristles that can attack a toilet ring and get it cleaned up properly. Sometimes, the only option for getting rid of the ring is to put bleach in the toilet, or to scrub it with a bleach solution. I would rather try a mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar first, though. That's safer for everyone.

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