A Complete Guide on How to Clean a Toilet Tank


The toilet tanks in your home can become one of the most neglected areas of the home if you don’t put them on your checklist of things to do. It’s one of those places that is hidden away out of sight and we often don’t think about cleaning them until we notice an offensive odor or open the lid and see something growing that we know shouldn’t be there. At first glance, a toilet tank can seem like a daunting cleaning task. When we let them go too long they build up mineral deposits and tanks full of water that is teeming with germs. We’ve put together a complete guide on how to clean a toilet tank to make the job faster and easier with useful tips. We also give you information about how to prevent buildups by building toilet tank cleaning into your regular schedule of chores.

Why is my toilet tank so nasty?

Before we go into our guide for cleaning a toilet tank, it’s useful to look at how the tank got that way, to begin with. Toilet tanks can sit for hours or days without being used. The water that sits inside the tank becomes stale and serves as a harbor for germs to grow if there is no method for sanitization. If you use hard water in your home, the trace amounts of minerals in the hard water begin to collect and form various colors of stains. It’s not uncommon for iron in the water to cause rusting inside the porcelain and hardware found in toilet tanks. It might be hard to believe that you can ever make the tank sparkling clean as the first day it was installed, but in most cases, it is possible if you catch the problem before the toilet becomes damaged or too dilapidated.

Why you should clean your toilet tank regularly

A toilet tank is a haven for germs to grow and thrive. Even if you clean it occasionally, rust and mineral deposits can still collect under the rim of the toilet and other places. Failure to keep your toilet tank clean can cause it to wear out faster. You can extend the life of a toilet by years through proper maintenance and cleaning. You can also keep your toilet looking brand new with regular upkeep, according to Bob Vila. You can prevent the metal hardware from corroding and avoid the ugly rust stains that can happen from lack of maintenance. When not cleaned regularly, your toilet tank can produce a foul-smelling odor. It will also look unappealing and dirty. The worst part is that dangerous bacteria can form in the tank with the potential to make you sick. Instead of waiting until there is a reason to lift the lid and reach into the toilet tank, perform a twice-yearly inspection and give it a good cleaning. Some people clean their toilet tanks four times per year if the water is hard and minerals collect quickly.

When is it time to clean a toilet tank?

It’s recommended that you clean your toilet tank a minimum of every six months. The reason for this is that a thorough cleaning can loosen any mineral deposits before they have a chance to build up. It can help to prevent rust stains from forming. It also kills harmful bacteria that you cannot see with your eyes. You may need to increase the number of times per year you clean your toilet tank if you notice that there is a bad smell coming from your toilet and it isn’t coming from the toilet bowl. Toilets that don’t get used often need more frequent cleaning. When the water sits for several days at a time and is not replenished through flushing, it can become stagnant and stale. This is when bacteria form more rapidly.

How do you clean your toilet tank?

Before you begin cleaning your toilet tank there are a few considerations to make. Safety is the primary concern. You will come in contact with a lot of germs. It’s a good idea to wear sturdy rubber gloves to prevent contact with your skin. If you choose to use commercial cleaners there is a risk of sustaining chemical burns so it’s a good idea to protect your hands and avoid inhaling chemical fumes or splashing them onto your skin or getting it in your eyes or mucus membranes. There are a few different methods you can use, but the most effective we’ve found uses white vinegar and disinfectant.

Equipment for Cleaning a toilet tank with white vinegar

According to The Spruce, you’ll need a few basic items to effectively clean your toilet tank. This includes:

  • -Rubber gloves
  • -Sponges
  • -A long-handled scrub brush
  • -Disinfectant cleaner
  • -Distilled white vinegar
  • -Natural toilet tank cleaner (you will need enough to fill the toilet tank).

Step 1: Preparing to clean your toilet tank

Gather all of the equipment and supplies you’ll need and keep them handy. Empty the toilet tank. You will find a tap valve behind the base of your toilet. It will either be located on the wall or the floor. Turn the valve so it shuts the water off completely. Next, remove the lid of the toilet tank and set it aside. Lift the lever that flushes the toilet and allow all the water to drain from the tank. Repeat the flushing process, pulling the lever until all of the water is drained from the tank and the toilet bowl.

Step 2: Make an assessment

Take a good look at the condition of your toilet tank and the toilet bowl. Make a mental note of how dirty the tank is. If it’s a new toilet the process might not be as lengthy, but if it’s been a while since the tank has been cleaned there is likely to be more work required. Get a general idea of how big the task will be so you are prepared to tackle it. Some jobs require more elbow grease and it’s good to know what you’re dealing with before you start. Tougher jobs may require a stronger solution with more scrubbing and the use of a larger amount of vinegar. while light jobs will be a breeze with the supplies you have on hand.

Step 3: Pour the white vinegar into the toilet tank.

Replace the top on the back of the toilet tank. You will need to let the vinegar sit in the toilet tank for a full 12 hours. Do not use the toilet or flush it until after the 12 hours waiting time has passed. It’s essential to give the vinegar this amount of time to allow it to dislodge any stubborn mineral deposits and other debris that may be clinging to the sides of the toilet tank.

Step 4: Flush the toilet

The next step in the cleaning process is to remove the vinegar from the toilet tank. Flush the toilet to remove the vinegar, holding down the handle. You may need to repeat this process several times until all of the vinegar is flushed down the drain. When done, inspect the toilet tank to see what, if any types of debris, stains, or mineral deposits are left.

Step 5: Disinfect the tank

Wear your rubber gloves for this step. It will keep the disinfectant cleaner from getting on your skin and causing chemical burns. Before you start, try your best to keep the disinfectant spray cleaner from coming into contact with the metal parts of the hardware of your toilet. some disinfectants contain corrosive, especially if you’re using bleach or a product that contains bleach. Most disinfectants must sit for at least 15 minutes.

Step 6: Scrub the toilet tank

After the 15 minute wait time has passed, use the long-handled crib brush to begin scrubbing your toilet tank. Scrub all parts of the surface of the tank. Be sure to scrub inside of all recessed areas, around the fixtures, over the entire bottom of the tank, and into the corners. Scrub the inside of the tank until all of the stains and debris are listed. You can apply more cleaner as needed. You can also let the cleaner sit on any stubborn stains for longer if necessary.

Step 7: Inspect the hardware

After cleaning the tank, you should inspect your toilet for any signs of wear or damage. Now is the best time to make sure that there are no worn components that need to be replaced. If you see any damaged parts, such as the flapper, replace them now before you refill the toilet tank. If everything is in good repair, it’s time to move to the next step.

Step 8: Clean internal components

Now it’s time to clean the working components inside your toilet tank. Before filling the tank with water, spray cleaner onto a sponge, and wipe down every part of the inner components of the toilet tank. Rinse each part, inspect, and complete this step until all parts are clean.

Step 9: Refil the tank

The ninth step is the last. Turn the water valve back on. Allow the toilet tank to fill. When it is full, so the water is well past the float valve, flush the toilet. Repeat this process a few times until the water appears clean. If the tank is not clean enough for your liking, you can continue to repeat steps one through three until it satisfies you with the outcome.

While you’re at it

While you’re cleaning the toilet tank, it’s not much extra effort to include the toilet bowl. While the bowl is empty of water, you have the ideal opportunity to look under the rim and inspect it for any mineral buildups or hidden debris and other deposits that collect there. The bacteria that hide under the toilet bowl rim can cause terrible odors to form every time you lift the toilet lid.

How to clean the toilet bowl

If you’ve observed regular bowl cleaning regimens, the toilet bowl should be a straightforward job. If not, it could get a little more involved. You can use the same process to clean the bowl as to clean the toilet tank. Follow the same steps outlined. Do it at the same time that you’re cleaning the tank. The vinegar, water, and disinfectant, along with elbow grease, can help to remove stubborn stains and mineral deposits to leave your toilet bowl sparkling clean smelling. To get the vinegar solution under the rim of the toilet, use a spray bottle. Soak the area liberally, then close the lid and give it time to do its work. If you run into stubborn mineral deposits or rust stains, you can also use a commercial toilet bowl cleaner. You can also use a light pumice stone to help loosen calcification or rust stains from iron or magnesium in the water. Make sure that you follow up with a disinfectant cleaner if you’re using the vinegar method. If you’re using a commercial toilet bowl cleaning product, you will not need to add the disinfectant to the process. This is because most commercial toilet bowl cleaning products have built-in disinfectants.

Final thoughts

Cleaning your toilet tank is as important as cleaning your toilet bowl. It will help to keep your bathroom smelling fresher and cleaner. It can also extend the longevity of your toilet. If you remind yourself to conduct a regimen of cleaning your toilet tank along with the toilet bowl at least twice a year, it will be an easier job to complete. It won’t take as much effort. The toughest toilet tank cleaning jobs happen when you neglect your toilet tank for years. They’re far easier to keep clean when you adhere to a regular cleaning schedule.

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