How to Clean a Stained Toilet

Roll up your sleeves and get ready to tackle those stains once and for all. We're sharing two easy, effective ways to clean the toilet.

April 21, 2021
A cramped floor plan and outdated finishes prompted the remodel of this small master bathroom. Relocating the toilet to the rear wall and adding a wall-mounted sink maximizes the space. The glass mosaic tile feature wall adds movement and draws attention to the high ceilings and skylight.


A cramped floor plan and outdated finishes prompted the remodel of this small master bathroom. Relocating the toilet to the rear wall and adding a wall-mounted sink maximizes the space. The glass mosaic tile feature wall adds movement and draws attention to the high ceilings and skylight.

We all know what’s going on in there. Toilets get dirty and require routine cleaning. No matter if you’re a "let it mellow" household or committed to a diligent bleaching routine, there’s one main reason it can be challenging to keep your toilet perfectly clean: hard water.

Bacteria buildup is probably the biggest reason you prioritize cleaning your loo, but if you scrub and disinfect and it still looks dirty, blame the stains caused by calcium, lime, magnesium and iron that circulate in your home’s water system. Not every house has hard water, but if you do, the minerals can build up quickly and be difficult to remove.

Below, we’re sharing two solutions for cleaning the toughest toilet stains: vinegar and baking soda, and pumice stones. It should be said that you can also give it the ol’ one-two punch when you really need to show your porcelain who’s boss. As an important reminder, while bleach and vinegar as separate tools are very powerful, never combine them; mixing bleach and vinegar produces a toxic gas.

Option 1: Use Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda produce that oh-so-familiar chemical reaction that powers through buildup and loosens tough stains. While it might seem like it’s chewing its way through grime, it’s not powerful enough to damage the porcelain finish of the toilet bowl.

  1. Pour two cups of white vinegar around the edges of the toilet bowl, allowing it to swirl around and settle in the bottom. It will naturally dilute a bit since there’s already water in the bowl.
  2. While the bowl’s wet, sprinkle a few tablespoons of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Concentrating it on stain rings is great, but focus on getting it all over. You should see the reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda; this reaction helps to mitigate buildup without damaging the porcelain.
  3. With a cloth or bristled toilet brush, massage the vinegar and baking soda together into stained areas to loosen and polish.
  4. Flush to rinse it clean.

Option 2: Use a Pumice Stone

Pumice stones act like sandpaper and can be rubbed right against the stains in your toilet. Unlike bristled toilet brushes which bend easily and can’t always provide enough "muscle" to remove stains, pumice is harder than the stain itself but softer than the porcelain, which allows it to work effectively without damaging the toilet. It's a natural, inexpensive and non-toxic solution that really works when you need to remove hard water stains.

  1. Wet your pumice stone.
  2. Use the stone to scrape away at the stains in the bowl. You won't need to use all of your muscle; scrub lightly and apply pressure as needed.
  3. The stone itself will grind down a bit during use, especially if you use a lot of force, but can be flushed without damaging your sewer or septic system.

It’s worth noting that you don’t have to use the same pumice you use for your pedicures (in fact, yes, definitely buy yourself a separate pumice stone for toilet duty). You’ll also find that there are many "made for toilets" pumice products that are attached to a wand for convenient use.

Stains be gone!

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