Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best toilet bowl cleaners

Whether you clean the toilet yourself or you add the task to your kids’ chore list, it’s one of those household jobs that must be done regularly. It’s important to clean the toilet to sanitize it, remove stains and odors, and keep it looking new, but it isn’t a job anyone enjoys doing. The right toilet bowl cleaner can make the job easier and more efficient if not always more pleasant.

Cleaning the toilet can require you to work on your hands and knees, close to the smells and stains that a toilet tends to collect. Toilet bowl cleaners contain chemicals that help remove stains and odors, but some of these chemicals can be harmful if touched or inhaled. There are safer alternatives that use eco-friendly formulas or dispense automatically so you don’t have to come in contact with them.

Cleaners for toilet bowls are available in a few different types including gels and liquids. Figuring out your toilet-cleaning needs is the first step to finding the product that’s right for your sparkling clean bathroom.

toilet bowl cleaners
Don’t add the cleaner to the bowl from a standing height because this could cause dangerous splashing. Add the cleaning liquid close to the bowl.

Types of toilet bowl cleaners

When looking for a toilet bowl cleaner, start by deciding what type of cleaner you want to use: liquid, gel, or automatic.

Liquid

These familiar toilet bowl cleaners contain chemicals that both deodorize and sanitize. It’s usually a thick liquid that clings to the interior of the bowl so you can use a toilet brush to scrub it. The bottles usually have an angled neck that simplifies squirting the liquid beneath the lip of the bowl.

Gel

Toilet bowl cleaner gel is another popular option. It also comes in a bottle with an angled neck. Gel’s primary advantage over liquid is its even thicker consistency, which enables it to cling to the bowl longer. Letting the gel sit for a few minutes before scrubbing it away helps remove stubborn stains.

Automatic

This type of toilet bowl cleaner sits inside a plastic container that hangs inside the bowl and dispenses cleaner each time the toilet is flushed. You don’t need to use a brush with this cleaner. When the container is empty, you simply replace it.

Automatic toilet bowl cleaners are less effective at cleaning the bowl and better for keeping the bowl fresh between thorough scrubbings with another type of cleaner.

toilet bowl cleaners
Expert Tip
When you are done using your toilet bowl cleaner, close the bottle and stand it upright when storing.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Features

Once you decide on the type of toilet bowl cleaner, you can then focus on things like ingredients, scent, and cleaning power.

Ingredients

Some toilet bowl cleaners contain harsh chemicals. These formulas can clean the toilet effectively, but the ingredients are not friendly to the environment.

If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option, consider a plant-based toilet bowl cleaner. These formulas may not handle tough stains as well as harsh chemicals, so you might have to clean the bowl more often to reduce the formation of stains.

Scent

Toilet bowl cleaners are designed to deodorize the bowl as they clean it. Some cleaners smell like bleach or other chemicals, but others have a scent, such as lavender, lemon, or sandalwood for a more pleasing odor.

Stain removal

If you have hard water or a lot of iron in your water supply, your toilet bowl can develop scale or rust stains over time, which can be very difficult to remove with a typical toilet bowl cleaner. Look for a cleaner that specifically targets these types of stains. You can use that product on the stains and your favorite toilet bowl cleaner product separately.

Expert Tip
When cleaning with any toilet bowl cleaner that contains bleach, be careful to avoid dripping it on places such as your bathroom mats, porcelain toilet bowl seats, or even on your sleeve. It can bleach fabric and take the paint off your toilet bowl seat.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Pricing

Costing less than $20, most toilet bowl cleaners are relatively inexpensive.

Inexpensive

You can expect to pay $1.50 to $3 for a 16- to 24-ounce bottle of toilet bowl cleaner.

Mid-range

For a product that contains extra-strength cleaners or environmentally safe ingredients, you’ll pay $3 to $6 per bottle. Some automatic toilet bowl cleaners that hang inside the bowl are also in this range.

Expensive

You can find some automatic toilet bowl cleaners in the $6 to $20 range. These usually contain several refills.

toilet bowl cleaners
FOR YOUR SAFETY
Protect yourself against the acid, bleach, and other harsh chemicals in toilet bowl cleaners by wearing rubber gloves and goggles.
STAFF
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Tips

  • Keep the cleaner on longer to remove stubborn stains. For tough stains, you might have to leave the cleaning solution in the bowl for up to ten minutes before scrubbing. It’s possible you’ll need to use the cleaner more than once to remove a particularly tough stain.
  • Clean the bowl’s exterior. While waiting for the cleaner to dissolve stains inside the bowl, you can use the time to scrub the exterior of the toilet with disinfecting spray or wipes.
  • Clean the toilet bowl regularly. In a busy household, cleaning the toilet weekly is important. Frequent cleaning reduces the buildup of bacteria, stains, and odors.
  • Use a septic-friendly cleaner. The vast majority of toilet bowl cleaner liquids and gels are fine to use with a septic system. However, some of the tablets that go in the fill tank can cause issues. If you have a septic tank, look for a cleaner or tablet that specifically indicates that it’s safe to use with a septic system.
Expert Tip
Before putting away your toilet bowl cleaner, you can place a paper towel folded into a square underneath the bottle. This helps prevent damage to your cabinet or shelf if the bottle happens to leak.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert
toilet bowl cleaners
If your home has a septic tank, be particularly careful to choose a toilet bowl cleaner that won’t harm the septic system.

FAQ

Q. Do I have to use a toilet bowl brush with the cleaning solution?

A. For the most effective cleaning, you should use a toilet brush. Add the cleaning solution and then scrub the bowl with the brush. The toilet brush is designed to effectively clean beneath the lip of the bowl. The solution alone can’t clean this area.

expert Tip
To store your toilet bowl cleaner, place it in a safe, dry place that is out of the reach of children.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Q. Should I empty the water out of the bowl before cleaning it?

A. Removing the water first can be helpful for thoroughly cleaning all areas of the bowl. The best way to do this is to pour about half a gallon of water into the bowl. This extra water causes the toilet to flush automatically. By not pressing the handle, the water from the fill tank won’t refill the bowl.

Q. Can I use the toilet bowl cleaner to clean the rest of the toilet?

A. You can, but it can get a little messy. Consider putting a bit of the cleaning solution on a paper towel and wiping the other parts of the toilet. You don’t want to spill the cleaner on the floor because, depending on the ingredients, it could damage or discolor the flooring. Also, disinfecting wipes and sprays work well for cleaning the outside of the toilet.

 

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