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How to Clean a Toilet Tank: the Right Way

Is your toilet tank giving off a foul smell and showing brown gunk? It might be time to give it a good cleaning.

Have you noticed how dirty and disgusting the inside of your toilet tank is? If there’s a brown build-up or a foul smell, it’s time to clean it. Leaving it can result in issues with your toilet’s performance and even the spread of bacteria.

It’s best to deal with mildew, rust, and grime sooner rather than later. We’ll take you through the steps on how to clean a toilet tank using different products.

Key Takeaways

  • Clean your toilet tank twice a year to prevent grime, rust, and mildew.
  • Use white vinegar to clean the tank by filling it with vinegar, letting it sit overnight, and flushing a few times.
  • Alternative cleaning methods include baking soda, Borax, commercial cleaners, and Coca-Cola.
  • Avoid using bleach or toilet tank cleaner tablets as they can cause corrosion and damage to the tank.

How Often Should You Clean a Toilet Tank?

It is advisable to clean your tank twice per year to avoid grime, rust, and mildew. If you skip cleaning the toilet tank, you favor the apparition of minerals that can corrode and damage the interior parts of the tank. This also leads to bad bathroom smells.

How to Clean a Toilet Tank with Vinegar

Photos before and after washing the inside of the toilet flush t

Vinegar is an age-old solution for just about any cleaning.

What You’ll Need

  • White vinegar.
  • Scrub brush with plastic bristles.
  • Sponge.
  • All-purpose cleaner.
  • Rubber gloves.

1. Apply Vinegar to the Tank

With your rubber gloves on, remove the lid of the tank and place it on a towel in the shower or bathtub.

Without draining the tank, pour vinegar inside until you have about an inch of space left. Let the solution act overnight (for 12 hours) as this helps get rid of mineral deposits, mildew, and other such things.

2. Flush the Toilet

When the 12 hours are up, flush the toilet a few times to clear the vinegar from the tank.

3. Clean the Tank

Close the water valve for the toilet. Flush once more so that the tank is empty. Put your gloves back on and grab your scrub brush.

Use it to clean the interior of the tank to get rid of build-up and gunk. Clean the metal parts using a sponge to remove rust.

4. Use the Cleaner

If you notice more dirt inside the tank, apply an all-purpose cleaner. Read any labels and instructions to see how long you should let the solution sit.

Scrub the tank walls using a scrub brush to remove all sediment from the inside of the tank. Depending on the level of dirt inside the tank, you might have to do this several times.

5. Put the Lid Back

Turn on the water valve and allow the tank to fill. Flush it once more to see if the water inside the tank and the bowl are clean. Put the lid back in place or repeat the cleaning process as needed.

Cleaning the Tank Without Vinegar

Sorry, you’re not going to get that toilet clean without scrubbing. If you’re not big on the smell of vinegar or simply don’t have any on hand, try these alternatives.

With Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural abrasive. In its dry form, you can use it to scrub everything from mold and mildew or even grease on a driveway.

Drain the tank as mentioned above. Coat the inside with baking soda and use a damp cloth to scrub the surface. You’ll notice it coming clean almost immediately.

Repeat as needed until the tank is as clean as you want.

With Borax

Some claim that using Borax can help sanitize the toilet bowl by helping you get rid of rust. It is a natural and safe solution. To use it, just pour a cup inside the toilet tank.

With Commercial Cleaner

Some products are designed to help you clean the toilet without using a combination of ingredients that you have around the house. But if you’re trying to clean the tank, tablets are best avoided because they damage the tank in the long run.

An example of a good commercial tank cleaner that you can use is Instant Power. It can help you get rid of rust, calcium, and hard water from inside the tank. Simply follow the directions on the label.

With Coke

Some people suggest that using Coca-Cola in the toilet tank instead of vinegar can also help get rid of mineral deposits. Pour it into the drained tank, leave it overnight, then flush it away.

Helpful Tip

If you wish to try this, make sure you use normal Coke (not Diet Coke). Diet Coke has aspartame and other things that can actually corrode the tank.

How to Keep a Toilet Tank Clean

Some people suggest using toilet tank cleaner tablets to keep the tank clean for as long as possible.

However, these tablets have a bad reputation when used in a toilet tank as they can cause corrosion and other types of damage. So you would need to find products that don’t contain bleach and are non-toxic.

It’s best to just keep a regular habit of cleaning your tank and bowl. Use a standard toilet bowl cleaner weekly. Use the vinegar method above for the tank.


Can You Put Bleach in a Toilet Tank?

The internal parts of your toilet tank are prone to corrosion when exposed to bleach, so you should avoid adding bleach inside the tank.

Also, if you’re on a well and septic system instead of city water, bleach is a no-no. It kills all the good bacteria the system needs.

Can You Put Oxiclean in a Toilet Tank?

OxiClean is one of the few chemical cleaners that’s safe to use in the toilet tank.

What is the Gross Brown Stuff in My Toilet Tank?

If you notice any brown or green stains inside the toilet tank, then it’s a sign of lime build-up.

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Can You Put Things in a Toilet Tank to Make It Smell Better?

You can get rid of smells in the toilet tank by putting in some baking soda and vinegar. Others suggest using lemon juice for a better fragrance.

There are also special toilet tablets available that are designed to keep the water inside the toilet tank fresh. However, as we previously mentioned, frequent use of these can create an unwanted film. The best approach is to just clean it and keep it clean.

Is It OK to Leave Bleach in the Toilet Overnight?

You can leave bleach in the toilet bowl overnight, but you can’t use bleach inside the toilet tank. Overnight is ok, but don’t leave bleach in for longer than that because it is powerful enough to corrode it.

Bottom Line

We hope the above has helped those wanting to learn how to clean a toilet tank. While there are multiple methods, vinegar is that handy household item that proves its worth yet again, this time with cleaning the toilet tank.

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About the Author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Interior Designer. Using her years of hands-on experience, she now writes about design and DIY. She currently resides on the rocky East Coast of Canada with her family and slobbery bulldog.