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How To Clean the Toilet Tank

A clean house is not clean until the bathroom is spotlessly clean. But when is it truly clean? Is it enough to maintain shiny tiles, gleaming porcelain surfaces, and a squeaky-clean toilet, or is there something beyond all that we usually neglect? 

You’re right, there is. It’s the dreaded toilet tank. This guide aims to reveal the secrets to maintaining it clean and safe, with minimal effort. 

How To Clean the Toilet Tank

There are different methods you can use to clean the toilet tank. Each one is effective, so the choice will come down to your personal preferences. These methods are:

  • Cleaning the tank with vinegar.
  • Using baking soda to clean the tank.
  • Using borax to clean the tank.

Follow the steps below to get started on your toilet tank cleaning journey:

  1. Shut Off the Water Supply. Find the water shut-off valve, usually located near the base of the toilet. Turn it clockwise to shut off the water supply to the tank. This is a crucial step, as it will prevent water from refilling the tank while you clean it.
  2. Empty the Bowl. Flush the toilet to empty the bowl. 
  3. Empty the Tank. Lift the toilet tank lid and set it aside. With the tank exposed, you’ll have easy access to the inner parts that need to be cleaned. If there’s any water left in the tank, flush the toilet again. 
  4. Depending on your preferences, choose your toilet tank cleaning solution:
  • Vinegar. The easiest way to clean the tank with vinegar is to fill the tank with white vinegar and let it sit until it breaks down the mineral deposits and stains. After that, use a brush or sponge to scrub away any remaining grime. 
  • Baking Soda. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda into the toilet tank and add a small amount of water to create a paste. Scrub the interior using a brush or a sponge until the stains and mineral deposits are gone.
  • Borax. Dissolve borax (also known as sodium borate or sodium tetraborate) in water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pour the solution into the tank and let it sit for a while to work its magic. Then, scrub the interior with a brush or sponge to remove the stains and deposits. Make sure to wear gloves while handling borax. 
  1. Rinse and Reassemble. After you finish cleaning the tank, turn the water supply back on by rotating the shut-off valve counterclockwise. Flush the toilet to rinse the tank thoroughly. Check for any residues or cleaner remnants and flush until the water runs clear.
  2. Put the Lid Back. After you finish cleaning the tank, carefully place the lid back, ensuring it’s securely in place.

By following these steps and choosing your preferred cleaning method, you can maintain a clean and sanitary toilet tank, ensuring your bathroom remains spotlessly clean inside and out. You’ll also be preventing any nasty smells coming from the tank, and your toilet should be easier to clean too, as there won’t be anything staining it from the tank every time you flush. 

Cleaning a dirty toilet tank

How To Clean the Toilet Tank with Vinegar

After you have turned off the water supply to the tank and emptied both it and the bowl, fill the tank with white vinegar up to the overflow tube. You will probably need about 3-7 gallons of white vinegar. Ensure that you cover any rust, mould or algae that might be living in the tank.

Let the vinegar sit in there for about 12-13 hours. You can put the lid back on to prevent the smell seeping out. You might want to do this overnight, when you won’t need to use the bathroom (at least we hope so). 

Then drain the vinegar from the tank by flushing repeatedly (you’ll first need to turn the water back on). Use a scrubbing brush to remove any leftover debris in the tank and turn the water back on. Flush a few times to rinse the tank thoroughly.

If there are any stains left, you can use some baking soda paste to get rid of them. You can also repeat the process with vinegar if you prefer. 

This is my preferred method of cleaning. I use the cheapest bottle of white vinegar (or even apple cider vinegar on occasion) I can find, and just fill the tank up. I let it sit overnight, sometimes even a full 14-15 hours, and it gets rid of all the stains. Not a huge fan of the smell, but it doesn’t last too long. 

How To Clean the Toilet Tank with Vinegar and Baking Soda

You can use a vinegar and baking soda solution if you don’t have a spare bathroom or if you don’t want to wait 12 hours for the vinegar to work its magic.

After draining the toilet tank and bowl, add to it two tablespoons of dishwashing detergent, a cup of white vinegar, and half a cup of baking soda. Note that the vinegar and baking soda will cause a violent chemical reaction: there will be a lot of fizzing and bubbling. 

Apply the solution to the interior of the tank using a brush or a sponge and scrub the stained areas. Let the solution sit in the tank for about an hour, then scrub any persistent stains again and turn on the water supply to rinse the tank. Flush the toilet until the water comes out clean. 

How To Clean the Toilet Tank with Vinegar and Borax

Shut off the water supply and empty the tank and bowl. Mix 1 cup of borax with 4 cups of vinegar and pour the solution into the tank.

Use a brush or sponge to scrub the inside of the tank and then let the solution sit for an hour or two. After that, scrub any residual stains and turn on the water supply. Flush the water a few times to rinse out the tank.

The vinegar and borax combo effectively removes hard stains and mineral deposits from the toilet tank and reduces the time you have to spend waiting for it to work. Vinegar disinfects and effectively dissolves limescale, and borax is a powerful stain remover, disinfectant and deodorizer that works well on tougher stains. Using a combination of the two speeds up the cleaning process and removes tough stains.

How To Clean the Toilet Tank with a Disinfectant

To clean the toilet tank with a disinfectant, spray the inside of the tank walls with it after emptying the tank. When selecting a disinfectant cleaner to use for cleaning and disinfecting your toilet tank, it’s important to choose a product that is effective against a wide range of germs and bacteria commonly found in bathrooms, such as a bleach-based disinfectant.

Important: Don’t mix bleach with vinegar or any substances that contain acid. Mixing them releases a toxic gas called chlorine, which is extremely toxic and poses a serious health hazard when inhaled. 

Allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing it away with a brush or a sponge. Wear gloves! Make sure to remove any mould or mildew, and scrub away any reddish rings around the water line, which can be caused by different types of bacteria.

Don’t clean the tank with full-strength chlorine bleach or fill it up to the brim with chlorine bleach because it can damage the working components and dissolve some flapper valves. This could lead to a constantly running toilet. Always dilute the bleach, or use a sparing amount for scrubbing only. 

How To Clean the Toilet Tank with a Commercial Cleaning Product

When cleaning the toilet tank with a commercial cleaning product, it is of utmost importance to read the instructions on the product to understand its specific usage and any safety precautions. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations closely and make sure to wear protective gloves.

Apply the commercial toilet tank cleaner in an empty toilet tank according to the product’s instructions. Typically, this involves spraying or pouring the cleaner onto the interior surfaces of the tank.

Allow the cleaner to sit and work its magic for the recommended amount of time, which typically ranges from a few minutes to an hour or so. Consult the product’s label for guidance.

After the recommended contact time has passed, use a brush or sponge to scrub the interior of the tank thoroughly. Next, flush the toilet multiple times to rinse away the cleaner and any loosened dirt or stains. This will ensure that no cleaning residue remains in the tank.

Don’t leave the cleaning agent in the toilet tank longer than recommended, as it can damage its parts. 

How Often Should You Clean the Toilet Tank?

You should clean your toilet tank at least twice a year. If the water in your area is hard, clean the tank quarterly to make sure the valves remain in a good working order.

If you live in a humid environment where mould is likely to develop, it is advisable to clean the tank as often as every month.

Not cleaning your toilet tank can result in brown toilet water, and it’s just not the most sanitary. While it’s not the most pleasant of tasks, the longer you put it off, the worse it will get. 

Wrapping Up 

When was the last time you cleaned your toilet tank? If you’re just realising it’s been years, don’t worry – I’ve not been too diligent with it either. Just grab your preferred cleaning agent and clean out your toilet tank when you next clean the bathroom. 


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