Rachel has written for Dotdash Meredith's Ecommerce team since 2021. Previously, she was the Deputy Editor at HelloGiggles, the Entertainment Editor at Bustle, and the Wellbeing Editor at Mic. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vulture, Glamour, NBC News, and many more outlets. Additionally, she teaches writing through Gotham Writers Workshop and Redbud Writing Project. Highlights: * Previously the Deputy Editor at Dotdash Meredith's HelloGiggles * Founding writer for Bustle and founding editor for Mic * 10+ writing classes taught via Gotham Writers Workshop and Redbud Writing Project
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The bathroom is filled with areas that tend to get gross fast, and none more so than the toilet. In order to really give that area the cleaning that it needs, it's crucial to use a powerful toilet bowl cleaner. We researched dozens of toilet bowl cleaners of all types, choosing the best based on effectiveness, ingredients, and versatility. We also spoke to Jennifer Snyder, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of the cleaning and organization company Neat as a Pin, to get her insight into what to look for when shopping for these kinds of products.
"Let's face it, toilets are nasty—they are a breeding ground for bacteria and lots of things we don't want or need," says Snyder. Using a high-grade toilet bowl cleaner, though, can "minimize the amount of time spent up close to the bacteria" and "do the heavy lifting for you."
Our top pick for the best toilet bowl cleaner is the Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Toilet Bowl Cleaner, as it's a strong, effective formula that easily tackles soap scum, grease, limescale, and more.
For more recommendations, here are our picks for the best toilet bowl cleaners you can buy right now, from gel solutions to fast-acting tablets.
Who it's for: People who want an easy-to-use cleaning product that disinfects and gets rid of stains and odors.
Who it isn't for: People who want a cleaner that dissolves and doesn't require scrubbing.
For an all-around fantastic toilet bowl cleaner, look no further than this popular option from Lysol. It's made with a powerful hydrogen peroxide-based formula (with no added chlorine bleach) that releases thousands of micro bubbles to effectively penetrate and fully dissolve deep and long-lasting grease, soap scum, hard water, and more. It's been proven to kill 99.9 percent of bathroom bacteria and viruses, and leaves toilet bowls looking fresh and new.
In addition to erasing stains, this gel formula also gets rid of odor-causing bacteria that can make your bathroom smell bad, and replaces it with a lovely, refreshing ocean fresh scent instead. And because the bottle has an angled top, it's super simple to use, even for areas that are usually hard to access—just place it right above the toilet and allow the thick gel to coat the entire bowl and rim before scrubbing.
Who it's for: People who want an eco-friendly toilet bowl cleaner that can remove stains.
Who it isn't for: People who don't like their cleaning products to have strong scents.
Not all toilet bowl cleaners are made equally, and if your priority is finding a solution that's made with plant- and mineral-based ingredients, you'll like this option from Ecover. Not only is the eco-friendly formula totally free of harmful chemicals and bleach (and not tested on animals), but the recyclable bottle is made entirely from plant plastic, and it's safe for septic tanks. Really, it's a win-win all around.
Plus, it's majorly effective as a cleaning product. The powerful solution cleans, decalcifies, and freshens up the toilet bowl, getting rid of deep-seated stains with impressive speed and ease. Just pour some liquid in, scrub it all around with a brush, and then give the bowl a flush when it's all done. Not only will the bowl end up looking brand-new, but it'll smell nice, too, due to the product's pine fresh scent and fragrances from essential oils. The scent is a bit strong, so keep that in mind, but it'll dissipate in time and be worth it when you see how good your toilet bowl looks after one round of this formula.
Who it's for: People who want a long-lasting cleaner that requires minimal effort to use.
Who it isn't for: People who prefer their cleaning products to have subtle scents.
For a gel toilet bowl cleaner that requires minimal effort, consider this much-loved pick made by Scrubbing Bubbles. To use, just stamp one of the small gel discs right under the toilet bowl rim—once it's activated with water, it'll start disinfecting and freshening up the bowl immediately, and that cleanliness will last for up to 12 days. There's no need for you to scrub or scour anything, as the gel stamp will helpfully do all the work for you. Every time you flush, it'll spring into action, cleaning the area and getting rid of toilet rings, limescale, grime, germs, hard water, and much more. It also tackles nasty odors, leaving behind a strong rainshower scent, so your toilet bowl can smell fresh as a daisy after every use.
When you're finished using one of the gel stamps, just remove it from the applicator and replace it with another. Luckily, with 24 gel stamps included in your purchase, and six stamps in each tube, it'll likely be many months before you need to re-up on this cleaner and buy another pack.
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Who it's for: People who want a quick-acting cleaning product that's simple to use.
Who it isn't for: People who need to get rid of heavy duty stains.
Another fantastic eco-friendly option, this cleaner from Seventh Generation comes in a recyclable steel container and contains no dyes, fragrances, or plastic in the formula or packaging. It consists of a dry-locked foaming powder that's activated by water and expands in the bowl in order to disinfect. It's simple and speedy to use, as all you have to do is shake some powder into the toilet, where it'll immediately start foaming, scrub it around both the bowl and rim to cover all areas, then flush—it'll leave the space looking sparkling fresh.
The formula is strong enough to take away not just grime and hard water, but rust, mineral deposits, and long-lasting stains. You might need to use it a few times to get past the toughest issues, but by and large, it's an effective and simple-to-use cleaning product that'll have your toilet bowl looking and feeling great. Plus, if you have a sensitive nose, you won't have to deal with a lingering smell, either, as this formula doesn't have a fragrance.
Who it's for: People whose primary concern is keeping their toilet bowl fresh.
Who it isn't for: People who want a cleaner for stains.
If you don't want to have to put any hard work into disinfecting your toilet bowl (and who can blame you?), look for an automatic cleaning product, like this option from Lysol. It comes with two hanging tablets that you just clip underneath the rim of the toilet where water can easily hit it. It works by instantly releasing a powerful, antimicrobial formula every time someone flushes the toilet, and the effectiveness lasts for up to eight weeks. You'll still need to deep clean every now and then, but far less often than you would with a regular toilet bowl cleaner, and after that two month period, you can switch out the tablet for the next one in the package.
The solution is designed to repel odor-causing bacteria and has a light fresh scent containing essential oils, leaving your toilet and bathroom smelling nice for weeks on end. It also doesn't turn the water blue or any other color, so your toilet won't always look like it's just been cleaned—even though it'll certainly feel and smell like it.
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Who it's for: People who want to clean their toilets with minimal effort.
Who it isn't for: People who don't want blue toilet water.
Small in size and easy to use, dissolvable tablets can make for great toilet bowl cleaners, and this pack from Vacplus is one of the best. These tablets come in a pack of 20, with each one strong enough to keep your toilet bowl looking clean and fresh for up to 15 days, so you can go a longer time between bathroom deep cleans. The formula cleans and deodorizes the bowl in only 10 minutes' time, and every time you flush the toilet afterwards, the tablet will keep cleaning, minimal effort on your end required.
To use, just drop one of the tablets into the toilet tank and walk away; it'll dissolve on its own and start working immediately (you'll know it's time to replace it with another when the water's blue tint starts to fade). While there are other tablet cleaners on the market that are longer-lasting and can get rid of stains, they typically contain bleach, which can be harmful to your septic system and toilet over time. That's why we recommend a non-bleach cleaner instead, even though it's technically not as effective as bleach tablets.
Who it's for: People who need to clean hard-to-reach areas in the toilet bowl.
Who it isn't for: People who want to use a product with less plastic.
To really deep clean your toilet bowl, it's often best to use a wand, as it can help you access particularly hard-to-reach areas like under the rim, in the flush hole, and around the drain. This hugely popular option from Clorox comes with a wand, storage caddy, and 16 hexagon-shaped disposable scrub pads to give you an all-in-one toilet bowl cleaning system. To use, you just attach one of the pads (which come pre-loaded with Clorox cleaner) to the wand and get to swishing and scrubbing, removing the pad when you're done and replacing it with one of the handy refills.
The wand can be used in any type of toilet, and the formula is effective enough to remove 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses, including deep-seated stains, calcium, and rust. And unlike many regular toilet brushes, the wand comes with the caddy, so you can store it (along with the refill heads) without unnecessarily spreading germs around the bathroom. Plus, the pads have a lovely fresh scent, so your bathroom will smell great once you're done giving the toilet a clean.
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Who it's for: People who want an industrial-grade, multipurpose cleaning product.
Who it isn't for: People who want a cleaner that requires minimal effort.
Sometimes, a regular toilet bowl cleaner isn't enough to get out the deepest and most hard-set stains, which is where this industrial-strength product comes in. Made by CLR, this fast-acting multipurpose cleaner is formulated specifically for removing the toughest toilet bowl stains, including buildup from rust, calcium, lime, and hard water. It's EPA-certified, too, as the plant-based formula includes no bleach, ammonia, or other harsh chemicals, and doesn't require you to wear protective gear when using it.
This solution works powerfully and quickly, dissolving and removing grime and discoloration in just a few minutes' time. It comes in a huge one-gallon bottle that you won't need to replace until after many uses, and is applied simply by pouring the liquid into the bowl and then scrubbing it in. One of the many other perks of this cleaner is that it's safe to use on various other industrial surfaces such as sinks, showerheads, and tile (as long as they're made of plastic, stainless steel, aluminum, concrete, or fiberglass), so you can easily get your whole home feeling fresh and clean, not just the toilet.
For a simple and strong cleaning product that will get rid of bacteria and viruses, we recommend the powerful Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Toilet Bowl Cleaner. This cleaner is tough on stains and odors without relying on bleach, and it's very easy to use. Plus, it's one of the most budget-friendly options available.
There are several common types of toilet bowl cleaners, including gels, liquids, tablets, and powders. Most liquid, gel, and powder cleaners need to be scrubbed into the bowl in order to take effect, while tablets dissolve on their own and start working as soon as you flush the bowl. That's certainly convenient and may be the best choice for people who don't want to put much time and effort into cleaning, but using a liquid or gel solution with a toilet brush is still the most effective way of reaching tricky areas and angles around the bowl and rim.
Like most cleaning products, toilet bowl cleaners are often made from formulas that include harsh chemicals (like sodium hydroxide (lye) and hydrochloric acid) or bleach. These ingredients can be very effective in totally disinfecting the area, but should be handled with care. Bleach is not typically recommended for long-term toilet cleaning use, since it can damage septic tanks and toilet parts. If you prefer a more environmentally-friendly option, look for formulas that are plant- and/or mineral-based instead—common "gentler" ingredients include citric acid, essential oils, and even baking soda.
While many toilet bowl cleaners are designed solely to work on toilets, there are some varieties (like general stain removers) that can be used to tackle other areas in the bathroom such as sinks or tubs. Be sure to read the fine print on your product to determine whether it's safe to use elsewhere in your home.
"The best practice is to clean and disinfect toilets at least once each week, with additional daily cleans if a family member is sick," advises Synder. However, if you use a toilet bowl cleaner specifically formulated to keep the area disinfected for weeks at a time, you can wait longer between cleanings.
"Toilet bowl cleaner could be used on other surfaces, but I would use caution," says Snyder. "Since it is formulated to do the heavy lifting for you, it is too strong for fixtures, grout, and some tub/sink surfaces." Look closely at your cleaning product's ingredients and directions to determine whether it's safe to use on areas like showers or sinks, too.
Yes, says Snyder. In general, you should expect your toilet bowl cleaner to last about two years. "Even though an expiration date may not be printed on the bottle, all products degrade over time, making them less effective," she explains. "With toilet bowl cleaner in particular, less effective means less clean and less clean means more bacteria." That said, she adds, "if you are using your cleaner weekly, you should use it up before it expires and have nothing to worry about."
Soil Disinfection This article was written by Rachel Simon, a writer for Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, The New York Times, and many other publications. She frequently covers home products and did significant research on spice racks for this story, including speaking to Jennifer Snyder, Owner and Certified Professional Organizer of Neat as a Pin.