5 Ways To Clean A Toilet Tank (Step By Step)

by Dan | Last Updated: January 15, 2021

How Often Do You Clean Your Entire Toilet?

‘’Regularly, of course,’’ You say.

But I bet you are wrong. To most of us, cleaning the whole toilet means scrubbing the toilet bowl with the best toilet cleaner available, and then swiping the outer parts of the commode and the tank with a damp cloth.

But has it ever occurred to you that the inside part of the toilet tank also requires as much consideration as any other part? I guess not.

It won’t be a surprise to hear that you’ve never cleaned the tank. In fact, very rarely do we take the lid off to see what goes on inside there.

Why Should You Clean The Toilet Tank?

You see, as clean as the tap water appears to you, it is full of minerals including lime and calcium. These mineral deposits scale up along the walls of the tank and could eat through the coating and corrode the rubber valve and steel fixtures leading to leaks that can cause more damage.

Foul smell! It’s also a well-known fact that standing water causes mold. When mold, dirt, dust, and debris in the tank build up, they result in an icky substance that emanates a foul smell that could fill the bathroom.

This problem is most common in areas with hard water. It gets even worse for toilets that are rarely used. So, it’s important that you keep the tank clean. This not only prevents the growth of bacteria and other unsightly gunk, but it also means that you’ll be going a little bit longer before service calls.

How To Clean A Toilet Tank In 5 Easy Steps

As Doyle James, the president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing explains, cleaning your toilet tank shouldn’t be as hard as it seems at first. Here are the 5 steps that will help you get your toilet tank cleaner:

  1. Shut Off The Water Valve And Drain The Tank

    The first thing that you do is to switch the water off. The shut-off valve should be somewhere on the wall behind the tank. Next, take off the lid and flush the toilet to drain all the water in the tank. This offers you more room to work on the sides of the tank and the various parts.

  2. Determine The Ideal Cleaner

    Once you’ve emptied all the water in the tank, you should be able to access just how dirty the tank is. If you live in areas with soft water or you have a water softener installed, the chances are that the tank won’t have lots of grime.

    However, if the walls are yellow, red, brown, black, or green, and there’s a bad odor coming out, prepare yourself for some serious cleaning.

    For a tank that is relatively clean, your basic bathroom spray/disinfectant should suffice. All you need to do is spray on the walls and the major components and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Later, clean the tank with sponge or toilet brush and flush.

    On the other hand, a tank that has a buildup of rust and mold might require something stronger. It might also call for a good scrubbing.

    Say NO to Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaners

    Automatic toilet bowl cleaners seem somewhat convenient if you don’t want to slave on the grungy and dirty tank. Sure, they might save you from the hard work. Unfortunately, they are full of chemicals that degrade the parts of the toilet tank including the valve, gasket, and seal.

    As Bill Strang, Head of Operations for Toto toilets explains, bleach is not safe for your toilet tank as well. Bleach has chlorine that degrades the rubber parts and causes premature erosion which might lead to a running toilet. Mixing different toilet cleaners could also be catastrophic as this article on Forbes.com explains.

    Drop-in toilet cleaners could also cause clogging overtime which might affect your toilet’s flushing performance.

    So, what should you use?


    If you are want to find out how to clean your bowl and have a clean toilet with vinegar, here it is. All you need is:

    1. One cup of white vinegar
    2. 4 cups of water

    One cup of white vinegar mixed with 4 cups of water acts as a good tank cleaner that won’t corrode the fixtures of your tank. The thing with vinegar is that it does not contain harsh chemicals.

    Vinegar is a mild acid and will work on the lime and calcium deposit on the walls and major components inside the tank to loosen it. You should target the bottom and the walls of the tank.

    Let the vinegar sit for at least 1 hour before moving to the next step.

  3. Scrubbing The Wall

    Tank walls and fixtures that have heavy mineral buildup could benefit from a dedicated scrubbing. A toilet brush will be of great use here. For stains that are way too hard for the brush, a pumice stone might come in handy. If you don’t have one, you can get it at any home improvement store near you. Be careful though not to break or loosen any parts. Without forgetting, it’s important that you put on some heavy gloves.

  4. Flush

    Once you are content that the tank is clean, switch ON the water valve to allow water to get into the tank and flush. You might want to flush twice to ensure that all the walls and fixtures are well rinsed.

  5. Clean Your Tank Regularly

    Of course, cleaning the inside of the tank won’t be an everyday chore. However, cleaning it at least once every 3 months (if you have soft water) and once every month (in hard water areas) is a good idea.

    On the same note, Strang advises that cleaning the tank isn’t good enough. You should also mind about the quality of your tap water. For hard water areas (here is how you determine if you have hard water) investing in a water softener will make cleaning the tank easy in the future.

    For the best way to clean a toilet there are a few options, from toilet bowl cleaners to cleaning toilet with vinegar, it all depends on what works for you. We all know how annoying it can be trying to figure out how to clean a stained toilet or how to clean toilet bowl ring, getting that toilet clean isn’t a easy job, that’s for sure.

    In case you want to eliminate the need of cleaning the toilet tank altogether, installing a tankless toilet like the Toto CT418F-01 Aquia might be a great idea for you. Learn more about it in our best toilet buying guide.

Dan is the editor in chief and founder of this site, after running into troubles with his own old toilet a while ago. Discussing toilets is not your everyday topic, so let’s talk toilets today.