How to Remove Toilet Bowl Stains

Removing toilet stains doesn't have to be hard. Learn everything you need to know to make the task simple.

Does your toilet have gray, brown, or rust-colored stains inside the bowl and under the rim? If so, you may feel embarrassed and frustrated, especially when guests visit and your freshly scrubbed toilet still appears filthy. This is actually a very common issue in many U.S. households. 

Luckily there are a few easy things you can do to remove the staining.  

Before you learn how to get rid of this bathroom eyesore, you are probably wondering what is causing the unsightly stains to begin with.

What Is Causing The Stains

Stains inside the toilet bowl and reservoir are typically caused by hard water. 

Hard water occurs when your home’s water carries a high mineral concentration. Minerals such as calcium, limestone, magnesium, and iron may build up in the water lines and are then deposited into your shower, sinks, and toilets through regular use. 

While hard water is generally considered safe, it is well known to cause pesky staining in these areas throughout your home. In addition to leaving behind tough to remove stains, hard water can clog showerheads and faucets and leave spots on your clean dishes or shower doors. 

Installing a water softener can solve your issue from the inside out by removing the hard minerals before they enter your home appliances, but they are costly. They typically run around a few thousand dollars to have one installed. 

If you simply want to remove the staining that has formed, though, there are a few easy steps you can take today. Luckily, you shouldn’t need to use any harsh chemicals, but you will need some elbow grease!

A dirty and unhygienic white toilet bowl with dried bowel stains.

What You Will Need

  • White distilled vinegar
  • Borax or baking soda
  • Toilet scrub brush
  • Cleaning gloves
  • Scouring sponge or pumice stone

How to Remove Hard Water Stains

1. Vinegar & Borax or Baking Soda

White vinegar is a household powerhouse that’s inexpensive, non-toxic, and useful for countless cleaning tasks. Vinegar is an acid that gives it enough punch to dissolve hard water stains. 

Depending on what you have on hand, baking soda and Borax are effective toilet bowl cleaners as they neutralize odors and help cut through tough stains and bacteria.  

Pour 2-3 cups of vinegar in the toilet bowl and allow to sit for approximately 30 minutes. After the vinegar has had a chance to soak in the bowl, add 1 cup of baking soda or ½ cup of Borax. 

Use your toilet wand to spread the solution over the stained bowl, including under the rim. Be sure to scrub well. Flush to drain and rinse. 

A tip to prevent these water marks from appearing so soon after a deep cleaning is to do a vinegar soak in your toilet bowl once a week, even if you don’t see the stains yet. Pour in the two cups of vinegar and let soak for at least thirty minutes or overnight ideally. Then, just a quick scrub brush around the water line in the morning. This routine may make a difference in how often you need to get down and dirty with your full cleaning arsenal. 

A person with a glove scrubbing the insides of a dirty pink toilet bowl.

2. Scouring Sponge or Pumice Stone

If the stains persist after using the vinegar and powder solution, you may need a more abrasive tool to scrub with. You can use a pumice stone (sold in the cleaning aisle), or you can try a scouring pad.  

Wearing the gloves, scrub the stains aggressively with the scouring tool. You may want to apply a cleaner of your choice to scrub with. If using a pumice bar, be sure to get it wet before use to avoid scratching the porcelain bowl. 

We recommend that you continue scrubbing for a bit even after the stains disappear because there is typically an almost invisible line of build-up that causes the stains to appear more quickly. The goal is to remove this film line in addition to the visible staining. 

Now you have learned some of the best ways to remove the stains. Of course, there is bleach and many other products available that are marketed solely for this purpose, but most are strong chemicals, can be pricey, and don’t seem to work any better than the tips you have been offered here. 

Sarah Wolfenstein
Sarah Wolfenstein is a mother of three and is skilled at DIY projects, design, and cleaning and organization. She never accepts a mediocre job - she is always challenging herself to make things appear better than even professionals with many years of training. Sarah has always strived for perfection in all her projects. She is also very active on Pinterest , where she posts tutorials, ideas, and home decorating tips that are simple enough to even be done at home by anyone with a moderate amount of experience doing basic DIYs.
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