Of all the cleaning skills one can acquire before adulthood, how to get rid of toilet bowl rings is an important one. It sounds pretty obscure but trust me: it is the way into a potential partner’s heart.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a true story: the first evening I hung out with my husband, before we even began dating, he disappeared into the bathroom. He spent an hour cleaning it. Whether it was to impress me, I still cannot say. The fact remains that it did impress me and isn’t that what counts? In order for you to impress someone by learning how to get rid of toilet bowl rings, it's essential that you know what they are.
How to Get Rid of Toilet Bowl Rings:
What Is That Stuff Anyway?
Before we look at how to get rid of toilet bowl rings, learning what this stuff is can help us better understand how to get rid of it.
Microorganism growth - As the last stop for human waste before you flush it onwards, it comes as no surprise that toilet bowls are breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty germs. According to a paper published by the American Society for Microbiology, Applied Microbiology, in 1975, even frequent flushing does not remove these nasties.
The paper goes on to state that the aerosol droplets produced by flushing disperse microorganisms out into the air of your bathroom. Gross, right?
Once in the toilet, various bacteria and viruses can continue to grow in the bowl.
Bacteria - Sometimes called “pink mold” due to the color, Serratia marcescens is a bacteria that loves to grow in damp environments, like your toilet bowl. Other common places to find it include your sink and shower.
The good news is that it is common, and generally harmless if you are healthy. The bad news is that it is disgusting and can thrive in your toilet bowl and other bathroom areas if you do not clean them regularly.
However, Serratia marcescens is not the only bacteria you can find in your toilet bowl. A study published by the American Society for Microbiology Journals in 2015 found over 77,000 distinct microorganisms in a study of public restrooms. The low virus to bacteria ratio suggested that most bathroom microorganisms are bacteria.
Molds - Mold thrives in dark, damp places, making toilet bowls a perfect breeding ground. The mold may show up on your toilet as a black ring around the bowl or under the rim.
Mineral deposits - are another common component of toilet bowl rings. When water evaporates, it leaves behind any minerals that may have been dissolved in it, resulting in a scaly build up. Mineral deposits are especially common in areas that have hard water. Hard water is water that has a lot of minerals dissolved in it.
How to Get Rid of Toilet Bowl Rings Before They Start
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of pesky toilet bowl rings, that means preventing ring around the toilet with regular maintenance. Regular toilet bowl maintenance, in this case, is about keeping the bowl clean as well as minimizing the factors that cause toilet bowl rings.
Keep your toilet clean - Once you have completed a thorough deep cleaning of your toilet, maintain it by keeping to a regular schedule. By cleaning regularly, you will wash away the bacteria, mold, and minerals that contribute to ring around the toilet, before more intensive cleaning will be required.
Keep your toilet bowl cleaning supplies handy near your toilet and be sure you clean your toilet every week or so.
Introduce additives to your toilet - In addition to regular cleanings, additives may help you maintain your toilet bowl and prevent toilet rings.
Commercial toilet tablets - There are a variety of commercially made toilet tablets available. You place the tablets into the toilet tank where they slowly dissolve. That releases cleaner into the tank water to clean it with every flush and prevent build-up.
Though popular, plumbers like Schwarz Plumbing Company warn against these types of tablets as they can corrode the flush valve. These tablets can also get lodged in the flapper, causing your tank to constantly fill up, which wastes your water. Also, these tablets can be toxic to your household pets and are not always environmentally friendly.
Natural additives - If you would rather avoid chemicals, there are a variety of different naturally-based toilet tank additives that you can try. Bill Fenwick Plumbing suggests adding a cup of vinegar to your toilet tank every week or so can help naturally break down mineral deposits and keep it deodorized.
Other preventative measures - If you live in an area with hard water, consider installing a water softening system at your home. Though it is may be a bit of a costly investment at first, if your tap water is hard, you may be facing systemic plumbing issues due to mineral deposits. A water softening system can not only save your toilet from rings but also keep the rest of your plumbing moving as it should.
Also, consider lowering the temperature of your water heater. According to the plumbing company Bradbury Brothers, this simple step can help with mineral deposits in your toilet and other plumbing fixtures when you live in a hard water area.
How to Get Rid of Toilet Bowl Rings: Beyond the Bowl
While we are talking about how to get rid of toilet bowl rings, it is a good idea to consider cleaning just beyond the bowl.
Clean the exterior - Do you remember how I mentioned that toilet flushing aerosolizes bacteria and other things into the air? Think about where that goes. You’re welcome for that mental image! Want to clean now? I bet you do!
While you are busy disinfecting your toilet bowl, take the time to clean the exterior as well. Wipe down the surface with an all-purpose, disinfecting cleaner. For more details, The Spruce has a great detailed list of what to clean and in what order.
How often to clean your toilet - According to this NBC News article, a microbiologist and author of books The Germ Code and The Germ Files, Jason Tetro, recommends disinfecting your toilet bowl at least every week.
How to Get Rid of Toilet Bowl Rings:
Choosing Your Cleaning Solution
There are a variety of different toilet bowl cleaners you can choose from. Here is a rundown of what is available and what you can make on your own.
Commercial toilet bowl cleaners - A quick trip down the cleaning supplies aisle at your favorite big box store shows the variety of commercial toilet bowl cleaners available. Commonly used brands include Clorox and Scrubbing Bubbles.
The upside of these toilet bowl cleaners is that they are very affordable. Most toilet bowl cleaners also come in a bottle that allows you to get under the rim easily. The downside of many commercial toilet bowl cleaners is that they often contain strong chemicals. These chemicals may not be environmentally friendly and can potentially harm children or pets during the cleaning process or if left out.
Natural toilet bowl cleaners - There are a variety of natural toilet bowl cleaners available commercially. Look for cleansers that advertise themselves as “naturally derived.” Brands like Method and Seventh Generation are known for their naturally derived cleaners.
Make your own - There are a variety of cleaning solutions you can make yourself to try with your toilet bowl.
Salt, baking soda, oxygen bleach - Green cleaning expert Leslie Reichart creates her green cleaner by combining a cup each of table salt, baking soda, and powdered oxygen bleach. Use a cup of this mixture each time you clean your toilet bowl.
Vinegar - A favorite natural cleaner, distilled white vinegar in your toilet bowl can help you get it sparkling clean. Use about a cup of distilled white vinegar in your toilet bowl as a toilet bowl cleaning solution. If you are not a fan of vinegar, you can also use the same amount of lemon juice similarly.
Borax - Borax is a natural cleaning agent, often used as a laundry additive. For particularly heavy toilet rings, the DIY Natural website suggests combining 3/4 cup borax with a cup of vinegar as a toilet bowl cleaner. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to help lessen the strong vinegar odor.
Coca-cola - As odd as this sounds, the citric acid in the Coca-cola can help break down the gunk that builds up in your toilet. While this may not be a go-to solution for anyone, pouring a can of Coca-cola into your toilet bowl can help you clean it if you are out of toilet bowl cleaner.
How to Get Rid of Toilet Bowl Rings: What You Need
Before you get started, assemble your cleaning supplies. Keeping them close by and handy will allow you to finish this wretched chore as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Cleaning solution - Choose the solution that best fits your cleaning style and lifestyle needs.
Gloves - Get a good pair of rubber gloves that you use only for cleaning the bathroom. Even when using natural cleaners, you do not want any of the toilet water splashing on you.
Toilet bowl brush - You will need a long-handled toilet bowl brush to clean the bowl effectively.
Abrasives - For particularly stubborn toilet rings, you may need an abrasive of some sort to break down the mineral build up. Sandpaper is a popular option to scrub away stubborn toilet rings. A Pretty Happy Home had good results with drywall sandpaper.
Another option for scrubbing away toilet ring is a pumice stone. If you use pumice stones in your usual bathing routine, be sure to get a separate one especially for toilet cleaning.
How to Get Rid of Toilet Bowl Rings: Step by Step
Now that you have all of the tools at your disposal, it’s time to get to cleaning that toilet!
Apply your toilet bowl cleaning solution - Apply the toilet bowl cleaning solution of your choice to the toilet bowl. If using a liquid-type cleanser, do your best to get it under the rim, if possible.
Scrub the inside of the toilet bowl - Using your toilet brush, scrub your toilet bowl well, being sure to get the sides and under the rim as well as the drain.
Let it sit - After you have given the toilet bowl an initial scrub down with your toilet brush, stop and let the solution sit in the bowl for about 10 minutes. That will allow your cleaner to break down any scum or bacteria remaining. While it is sitting, this is an excellent time to clean the exterior of your toilet as well with a disinfectant spray and paper towels.
Flush and repeat, if necessary - After the toilet bowl solution has sat for about 10 minutes, flush. If your bowl still has a ring of mineral buildup, scrub gently with sandpaper or a pumice stone. Make sure to keep the porcelain wet to avoid damaging it.
Once you have removed the buildup, repeat the steps by coating with cleanser again. Scrub it down like before and let it sit before scrubbing it down and flushing a final time.
Keeping It Clean
Now that you have learned how to get rid of toilet bowl rings, and have done the deep clean, the hard part is over! Remember, the best way to keep your commode ring-free is to clean it regularly. A weekly scrub down will take just a minute or two and keep you from having to go over how to get rid of toilet bowl rings again.
Also, who knows? Knowing how to get rid of toilet bowl rings just may earn you a special place in someone’s heart. After all, no one likes cleaning toilets but most people like someone who will do it for them!