Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How To Clean a Toilet the Right Way

In the weeks since we said goodbye to our cleaning lady, I've been refining my toilet-cleaning technique. And I'm convinced that commercials for toilet-bowl cleaners are misleading us with all their talk of disinfecting the inside of your toilet, as though you could keep it free of bacteria for any length of time considering what goes on in there. They're distracting us from the real issue, people. What you really want is for the inside of the bowl to LOOK clean, and for every other part of the toilet to BE clean. You know, the handle, the seat, the lid, the interactive parts of the toilet.

Allow me to digress for a moment on the subject of toilet-bowl cleaners. I bet that the home cleanser industry has done serious focus-grouping on the whole potty situation. Judging from the products on the market, it seems that people must have expressed anxiety with getting the toilet cleaner to cover the inside of the bowl. Like, a sprinkle of powdered comet won't do. I'm guessing the focus groups wanted a pepto bismol effect--coats, soothes, relieves--like, folks out there want to be able to cover the whole inside of the toilet bowl with the cleaning product. That's why we're getting more and more viscous toilet cleaners, with oddly-shaped spouts that are supposed to deliver the product up under the toilet rim, where it will then run down the inside of the bowl, fighting germs all the way. Lysol even has a product called Cling. It's a gel that promises to "stick to the bowl for better cleaning." Like, you're still going to need to use a brush on that, hon. Lysol also offers a bottle of cleaner with a even longer spout, called, seriously, Deep Reach. Um, we're still talking about cleaning the toilet, right? And not going right to the source?

Okay, so here's what I do:
  1. Remove everything from around and on top of the toilet, that is, the wastebasket and the Ikea catalog. Keep the wastebasket nearby, with a plastic liner in it, to hold the paper towels you're going to use.
  2. Glove up and bring a roll of paper towels into the bathroom.

  3. Flush the toilet to wet the inside of the bowl, and sprinkle in some Comet. Close the lid.

  4. Then, using the spray cleaner of your choice--409 works--spray the entire toilet: top and sides of the tank, back of the seat, outside of the bowl, and those weird spaces where it's bolted to the floor. Let it sit for a minute.

  5. Open the lid and seat and scrub the inside of the bowl, using your brush to get up under the rim. When you're satisfied, flush again and rinse the brush off in the water. Put the brush in its little brush holder, which becomes the dirtiest and most untouchable object in the entire house, right? (That's why I store mine in the garage.)

  6. Get a handful of paper towels and start wiping the toilet. Start at the top, with the tank lid, and work your way down. Use plenty of paper towels--don't skimp. Wipe every inch of the outside of the toilet, and pay special attention to the back of the seat where the hinges are. This part can go fast, because you just treat the whole commode as one big, dirty object.

  7. Now it's time to open the lid again and spray the underside of the lid, the seat top and bottom, and the rim of the bowl. Wipe everything with your paper towels. Remember, by this time you should have flushed the Comet away--if you haven't, mixing the spray cleaner with the comet will make noxious fumes. I don't know if anyone ever died while cleaning her toilet, but how embarassing.

  8. A nice finish to this is to clean the floor. I damp-mop with a sponge mop that I use only for the bathroom. But more paper towels would work too.

De-glove, wash your hands, and fix a drink. Announce to your husband, or whoever is around, "I just cleaned the toilet." No reason to let your work go unheralded.

Now that I'm doing this myself, I am interested in whether anyone has found some "green" bathroom products that work. Are there any that really do as well as their toxic counterparts? I had been using this Seventh Generation glass cleaner on my breakfast table, and it just did not cut it, so I went back to Windex. I am sorry, Mother Earth! But with a two year-old, I need the power of ammonia. I am seeking suggestions, though.

So that's my potty-cleaning strategy on this Works for Me Wednesday. Scoodle over there for more useful stuff.


Jennie said...

I clean my mirrors with vinegar and water and the sinks with baking soda and vinegar. I was using baking soda and vinegar for the toilet too but it wasn't cutting it. I never thought of comet. I'm going to try it right now. Thanks!

Sara said...

Mom always used Comet.I think it's great, but I absolutely have to have bleach for the toilet, too. Bleach is natural right? Isn't it like a salt or something?
And do you have an exact order of wiping down the pot? Because, in order to use a minimum number of paper towels, I start at the top of the seat, working my way around by order of 'least peed on.' That way I'm going from cleanest to cruddiest, not recontaminating a less cruddy area.

Blue Castle said...

Vinegar diluted in water works for a spray cleaner. Baking soda works for a scrub - like Comet. Also, Method from Target has some nice smelling "green" cleaners. I use these for clients that I clean for. I love their Tub and Tile for the bathtub, and that's also what I use for the inside of the toilet. They also do have a toilet cleaner which works too.
Thanks for stopping by. :)

michellenotdawn said...

Here's a tip on how not to have to scrub much - my least favorite part of toilet cleaning!
Right before bed, flush the toilet. Sprinkle about 1/2 c. of borax powder in the bowl, getting as much as you can on the sides. Then pour 1 c. white vinegar in the bowl. Close the lid, go to bed. DON'T FLUSH!
In the AM, take your brush, dip it in the water/vinegar and scrub down the sides and water line.
Now, flush.
I have been amazed at how clean this gets my toilet, how cheap it is, and how easy!

Keely said...

This is entire post, and all the comments, made me gag. Seriously - I *cannot* clean a bathroom without retching. I don't know why. For 2 years I had to get hubby to do his half-assed job, until we finally decided to shell out for a cleaner. I am NOT losing her!

Nikki said...

I've heard that you can use rubbing alcohol to clean glass, but I haven't tried it yet. I heard that right after I bought a bottle of Windex, so I'm waiting to use that up.

kate said...

While working at Origins, I was introduced to Epic Environmental Products. I love the Citrus and Ginger all purpose cleaner. It smells wonderful and works great on just about everything. The line is hard to find in stores, but they have a website:

Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

Alcohol works on glass. Rubbing alcohol, I suppose, does the job. I've only tried vodka, myself, but it worked great.

Casey said...

I HATE cleaning bathrooms. We had a cleaning lady last week and she did such an awesome job that I'm begging to keep her all the time. Wish me luck..

Carrie said...

I actually recently read that you can clean glass with plain club soda. Anyone ever try that? If it works, I'm going to have to add some color to it to fool the cleaning lady.

Leila said...

This is a very amusing post! You've put into words something not often...put into words!

I always use comet and windex. Not always -- I try fancier (more expensive) things, and then I say, so what's wrong with comet and windex??

I think comet has bleach in it. So I personally think you can use a sponge -- a dedicated toilet sponge -- rather than all those paper towels.

That's my contribution to the environment. Hopefully it doesn't gross you out.

Veronica said...

My mom taught me to use Comet, and I am a dedicated Comet user for the toilet bowl. It has bleach AND scrubbing power. I personally like those lysol-coated wipey things for the rest of the toilet, because you can't really sprinkle Comet there and I don't like inhaling the spray stuff. (I always feel like I can feel the spray stuff moving through the air and into my lungs. But I don't know if that's for real or if I'm just imagining it.) I think that the wipey things end up saving the environment some paper (in terms of the paper towels in your method), though I don't know that the wipey things are particularly environmentally friendly. I'm going to check out Katie's recommendation on the cleaner stuff--thanks, Katie. Seems like if the cleanser is environmentally friendly, it would feel less icky on my lungs.

Becky said...

These are some great tips. I always forget to use stuff like vinegar, even though I've heard its millions of uses. I will try Michelle's overnight solution for sure.

And if we mix Amy's vodka with Carrie's club soda, we're really starting to make this job sound fun.

And a word on those lysol wipe thingies: I do use those for some things, and I use them on the toilet seat when I want to give it a quick swipe without going for the full monty. If company's coming, I wipe the seat with a lysol wipe, then lift up the seat and wipe the rim, thus following Sara's progression of least- to most-peed upon. But I don't think the wipes leave things feeling "clean" enough for my taste. Maybe because they are wet themselves? Just my issues.

Also, Leila, do you use a sponge all over the toilet and brush inside? I use the brush inside, of course, and the paper towels everywhere else. Not sure how I feel about the sponge. Hmmm.

Amy said...

This post made me get off the computer and go clean my bathroom. Very needed--thanks! We have a weird, strangely laid-out house, and there are FIVE toilets. That's a lotta potties, so I usually don't have time to do them all in one go. But I got a good start today!

Hootie said...

To heck with CLEANING the toilet... I'd settle for my children simply FLUSHING the toilet. And with three boys, ANY housecleaning starts with determining the least peed-on portion and working from there.

Camp Papa said...

Even if we could have envisioned the internet during the years you lived under our roof, neither I nor you mother ever imagined YOU leading a discussion on the art and science of cleaning a toilet. You have made us proud in so many ways...we're still processing this latest turn of events.


Topher said...

Great Post.

I think you'd like this product

Full disclosure: I'm the inventor!!!

Let me know what you think.

David said...

Ha! Your dad's a comic genius.

I think you -- and all your guests -- have covered the topic well, but my two cents, re the question about greening the toilet:

as far as i'm concerned, the only real way to green dealing with a dirty toilet at present is to take a shovel out to the woods, preferably a mile or more away from civilization, dig a hole, make your business, and bury it.

if you can't do that, throw lots and lots of bleach at the problem. it's a trade-off: bleach is bad for mother earth... but so is cholera. have at it!

the gazelle said...

I second the borax & vinegar for the inside of the toilet.

I use method Tub & Tile for all my bathroom stuff & vinegar instead of Windex.

And reusable, washable rags for everything but the toilet.

Aviva said...

Wow! Thanks for including a link to this post in a more recent one, because I'd never seen it and I've recently gotten motivated to keep things clean. :)

One question about the comet -- does it scratch the bowl? I got yelled at many years ago by a landlord for using comet to clean a bathtub, which he said was responsible for the scratches in the tub.

Thanks. :)