It is not the most elegant question I get but certainly one of the most common. “I’ve tried everything I can think of, but that stubborn, ugly toilet bowl ring won’t go away!” readers say. “It goes away but just keeps coming back!”
Toilet bowls develop discolorations for many reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the housekeeping. Basically, the dreaded toilet bowel ring is the result of hard-water conditions, water sitting in the toilet and the toilet seeing a lot of use.
While there are lots of commercial products that promise to remove hard-water stains in the toilet, ordinary pantry items can be just as effective with no harsh chemicals needed.
Under most conditions, weekly cleaning prevents heavy stain buildup and reduces the appearance of any existing stains so the bowl can look pristine and white again.
And when none of that works? Don’t worry. I have the mother of all solutions for that, too, in a bit. But let’s start with the easiest.
Warnings. Make sure you protect your hands with rubber gloves.
Never mix bleach with anything other than water, because doing so can cause dangerous chemical reactions.
Baking soda and vinegar. These two common nontoxic and harmless edible items, when used together strategically, are powerful at cleaning things, including hard-water stains in the toilet.
Pour 1 cup of ordinary white vinegar into the toilet bowl. Using a toilet brush, swish it around. Let it sit for a minute or so.
Sprinkle a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl followed by 2 more cups of vinegar. Get ready, as this is going to create a fizzing action. Leave it be for about 10 minutes.
Using the toilet brush, swish some more because you want to make sure this solution reaches stains above the water line and under the rim. Still, do not flush.
Let the solution sit for 30 minutes, swishing it occasionally until the stains are gone. Scrub any remaining stains with the toilet brush or scrubby sponge. Flush the toilet to rinse.
Borax and vinegar. Borax is a stronger yet common multipurpose household cleaning product that can be used to clean hard-water stains in the toilet.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Borax into the toilet bowl, and swish it around with a toilet brush. Add 1 cup of vinegar. Swish around again. And let the mixture sit in the bowl for about 20 minutes.
Finish by scrubbing the bowl with a toilet brush to remove the stains. Flush to rinse.
Bleach. Carefully pour 1 cup of liquid chlorine bleach into the toilet bowl. Let it sit for 30 minutes if you are trying to get rid of mold or bacteria. Do not use cleaners containing bleach because, believe it or not, they can make this kind of stain permanent.
Scrub the inside of the toilet thoroughly with a toilet brush. Make sure you get the space up under the rim.
Flush the toilet to rinse away the bleach.
Pumice. Some stains and toilet rings are so stubborn they’re beyond baking soda, Borax, vinegar or bleach. Sadly, they’ve become permanent. But I have a solution for even those stains, so dry your tears!
The remedy that follows is only to be used occasionally, and very carefully. Overuse or using the wrong product can damage the surface of the vitreous china, which that toilet bowl is made of.
I recommend the Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover. As pumice stones go, this one is soft and, when used infrequently, will not harm the surface of the toilet bowl. The Pumie comes with a handle that makes it easy to use.
Clean regularly. You do not need to use strong and costly chemicals to prevent hard-water toilet stains. Borax, vinegar and baking soda do a great job of cleaning and disinfecting. When used regularly, they will prevent hard-water stains from building up.
To help keep your toilet clean and free of hard-water buildup, use 1/4 cup Borax with every cleaning.
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.