You can clean toilet stains with a toilet brush, baking soda, and white vinegar. Household cleaning ingredients like Borax or a wet pumice stone can also scrub away tough mineral stains.

If a light cleaning can’t break through stubborn toilet bowl stains, you’re probably dealing with mineral stains. Hard water has a higher level of dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron — which can coat the surface of your toilet bowl with grody stains.

But you can clean toilet stains with clever (and common) household potions like vinegar and baking soda. After a good scrub, regular maintenance should slow that menacing stain buildup and leave you with a sparkling throne.

How do you clean toilet bowl stains?

No one wants to get elbows deep in a grungy porcelain palace, but eyes on the prize, friend! Follow these steps to prep and scrub your toilet bowl for an ultimate clean:

  1. Gather your tools. Wear rubber gloves if you’re squicked out. Have your regular toilet brush handy, but you may also want a scrubbing brush with stiffer bristles for the most stubborn stains.
  2. Empty water from the toilet bowl. You’ll have to turn off the valve where the toilet connects to your water pipes. This is usually a knob near the bottom rear (heh heh) of the toilet. Turning the valve keeps water from refilling the tank. Now flush. You should have a mostly empty bowl.
  3. Add your cleaning ingredients and scrub. Vinegar, baking soda, and a scrub brush are BFFs when it comes to cleaning toilet stains. But there are a bunch of bathroom cleaning methods you can use to tackle tough mineral stains.
  4. Turn the water valve back on. After you flush away the gunk and cleaning solution, your toilet’s tank will likely be out water. Make sure to turn the valve back on to resume your regular bathroom activities.
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Illustration by Wenzdai Figueroa

Want more deets on the actual cleaning part? Here are our top toilet stain cleaning methods from “gentle but tough” for light rings to “nuclear options” if you can’t see the bottom of your commode.

Distilled white vinegar is super acidic with a pH of about 2.5. This helps it dissolve mineral scale by charging particles so they are attracted to water and wash away easily.

  1. Add 2–3 cups of vinegar to the bowl, being sure to pour it directly on stains. You can also put a few layers of vinegar-soaked toilet paper on the stain.
  2. Let that brew for 2–3 hours while you spring clean elsewhere.
  3. Then give it a scrub and flush.

Safety note

NEVER combine bleach and vinegar. If you usually clean with bleach, don’t even think about adding it to the mix. A bleach and vinegar combo actually creates a toxic gas.

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To punch up the power of vinegar, add another housekeeping star — baking soda.

  1. Pour 2 cups of vinegar directly onto stains. Gently move it around with your scrub brush and let it sit for about an hour.
  2. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda onto the stain, and then pour another cup of vinegar over the baking soda.
  3. Watch the acid vs. base fizz up and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Scrub the mixture into stains with a toilet brush. The mild abrasiveness of the baking soda following vinegar’s acid breakdown should scrub away stains. If stains persist, let the solution sit for another 15–30 minutes and then scrub again.
  5. Flush the toilet to rinse away the solution.

Pro tip

Give your bowl a daily sprinkle of baking soda to help keep scale and stains from building back up.

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Hydrogen peroxide is a legit disinfectant that can clean up stains and kill nasties like viruses, bacteria, mold, and fungi. Like vinegar, pairing it with baking soda gives you even more scrubbing power.

  1. Pour 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide onto stains.
  2. Then sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on top.
  3. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Scrub with a toilet brush and flush.

Borax is another common household cleaner that interacts with the minerals in hard water to prevent them from being deposited on surfaces. Paired with vinegar you can clean up those toilet rings similar to the baking soda combo.

  1. Sprinkle stains with 1/4 cup borax powder.
  2. Pour 1 cup of vinegar over the powder. Let sit for 15–20 minutes.
  3. Scrub and flush to say bye-bye to that toilet ring.

If you’re dealing with extreme toilet stains, you can make a paste from Borax and vinegar and apply it directly to those stubborn rings.

  1. Mix a 1/2 cup Borax and a few tablespoons of vinegar to create a paste.
  2. Apply your paste directly to stains. Let it sit for 20 minutes to break down the stickiest gunk.
  3. The scrub will dry hard pretty quickly. Give it a good scrub with a toilet brush.

For some stains, a toilet brush just doesn’t have the muscle for the job. After applying the cleaner of your choice or using good ‘ol water, you can also try scrubbing with something more abrasive like:

  • a wet pumice stone tool
  • fine sandpaper
  • 0000-grade steel wool

Note: These methods can permanently scratch your toilet’s porcelain finish, so only try this if nothing else works. Keeping your abrasive tool and the toilet wet should help you avoid scratches.

Sounds more like a party trick than a serious cleaning hack, but if you want to flush your precious soda pop in the name of stain-fighting, Coke can get the job done. Coca-cCola is mildly acidic (with a pH of 2.6 to 2.7) due to its phosphoric acid content. In theory, it cleans the same way vinegar does.

  1. Pour 1–2 cups of Coca-Cola around your stained toilet bowl.
  2. Let it sit overnight.
  3. Scrub and flush.

How do you clean a badly stained toilet?

Toilet so nasty you want to toss it? Just bring out the big guns: Apply a paste of borax and vinegar, let sit for an hour and then scrub with 0000-grade steel wool to scrub away stubborn stains.

Why is my toilet seat stained yellow?

When you flush, water can splash onto the toilet seat and leave behind mineral deposits. Minerals like magnesium, calcium, and iron can all leave behind a yellow stain. Stray pee drops can also build up into a yellow stain.

Why is my toilet bowl stained green or brown?

Limescale buildup via calcium and magnesium deposits is most likely to blame for green or brown stains. The crusty stuff attracts particles of whatever you flush into layers of gunk.

Does WD40 Clean toilet bowls?

You may think WD-40 is just for lubricating squeaky doors or removing stuck nuts and bolts, but the makers of WD-40 say it can also break down toilet stains. For best results, spray it on rust stains, wait a few minutes, and then scrub away. Just note that your bathroom will smell like an auto shop.

What is the best cleaner for toilet stains?

Not into DIY? You can tackle toilet stains with store-bought cleaning products like CLR PRO Calcium Lime and Rust Remover.

Reviewers note this longstanding mineral stain fighter is tough on toilet stains and beyond. Plus, it’s also septic safe and part of the EPA’s Safer Choice Program, which means it has safer ingredients compared to traditional chemicals used in cleaning products.

It may take time and several cleanings to fully get rid of toilet stains. But once you get your porcelain throne stain-free, regular maintenance cleaning should keep things looking fresh.

Add these tips to your cleaning schedule to prevent more buildup between cleanings:

  • Clean your toilet regularly. Spritz your commode with your fave cleaning product or a mixture of vinegar and water.
  • Prevent buildup in the bowl. Sprinkle the bowl every few days with Borax or baking soda to soften hard water and beat buildup.
  • Wipe up drips and sprays. As soon as you have any rogue water or pee splashes, clean it up right away so it doesn’t stain.
  • Tackle hard water in the tank. If it’s safe for your toilet parts, use a tablet product in the tank to fight stains every time you flush.