DIY Tricks to Remove Toilet Stains

Stained toilet? We can help. Our tips will help eradicate stubborn toilet stains

Get a clean, pristine toilet with these tricks

Toilet stains aren't always because of something "gross," but when you've invested in a new toilet you want to keep it looking pristine as long as you can. Even the cleanest toilet may have a buildup or stain left over from hard water or rusty pipes. Luckily, these stains can be easily dealt with by a DIY novice — without damaging your pipes with abrasive chemicals! All you need is elbow grease, your chosen product or two, and time — before too long, your porcelain throne will be as shiny and stain-free as the day you bought it.

Keeping your toilet clean will minimize the risk of creating stains in the first place, and it's important to mention that these DIY methods only work if you perform them regularly. We've arranged them in order of stain stubbornness: the first method is for lighter stains, the second for heavier, and so on. Some of these methods may require more than one treatment to achieve the desired affect, but you'll see improvements right away.

So slip on your rubber gloves, and let's get started!

For Light Stains: Vinegar and Baking Soda

This fizzy DIY method turns your toilet bowl into a middle-school science experiment. Most toilet bowl stains aren't a result of human waste, but rather are created by buildup from hard water residue. The trick to removing this buildup is acid, but you don't want to dump a bunch of hydrochloric acid where it can damage your pipes. To that end, regular white vinegar is acidic enough to break down stains, but gentle enough to protect your plumbing.


  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • toilet brush


  1. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into your toilet bowl and scrub vigorously with the toilet brush. Make sure the vinegar-water mixture touches every stubborn stain! (You may want to use an old turkey baster or kitchen tool to reach the tough spots under the seat.) Let sit for about a minute.
  2. Add 1 cup of baking soda and 1-2 more cups of vinegar. The solution will start to fizz right away! Let this sit for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. With your toilet brush, scrub the stains again and swirl the fizzy mixture around so it catches any stain above the water line. Let this solution sit for another 30-45 minutes, scrubbing every 15 minutes or so, until the stains are gone.
  4. Scrub the toilet bowl clean one more time, and flush.

For Medium Stains: Borax and Vinegar

Tougher stains require a tougher solution. Borax is a common household cleaner you can find in any hardware store. (Note — this powder is a chemical compound known as sodium borate, and not a brand name.) While Borax and vinegar won't have the same fizzy volcano reaction, the solution will be more effective on stubborn stains that baking soda can't remove.


  • Borax
  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • Toilet brush


  1. Shake 1/4 cup of Borax into the toilet bowl and swirl with toilet brush until completely mixed. Scrub toilet with brush, ensuring water mixture touches every stain.
  2. Add 1 cup of vinegar and swirl to mix, then let sit for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Scrub the toilet bowl vigorously with Borax-vinegar-water mixture, then flush to rinse.

For Heavy Stains: The Paste Method

If borax and baking soda couldn't cut it, you might need to take your DIY efforts up a notch. One of the toughest parts of cleaning a toilet is ensuring that your cleaning solution stays in contact with stains for as long as they need to properly activate. One way to make this happen is to create a paste with your materials and apply that to stains before you clean.


  • Borax
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Toilet brush
  • Spray bottle


  1. Drain your toilet bowl by flushing, then removing excess water with a sponge or that turkey baster.
  2. Make a paste out of the first three ingredients by combining 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/4 cup of vinegar. If your paste is too chunky, add small amounts of vinegar until it reaches the desired consistency. (It should stick to the toilet bowl without forming dry clumps.)
  3. Apply paste to toilet bowl, covering entire surface area, and applying more to stubborn stains. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. As the Borax dries and hardens, spray small amounts of vinegar onto paste to keep it from falling off.
  4. Scrub paste away with toilet brush, spraying regularly with vinegar if the Borax has stuck to the bowl. Flush toilet once, then scrub again until all paste is removed. Flush again to rinse.

For the most stubborn stains: Drywall Screens, Steel Wool, or Sandpaper

When all else fails, it's time to turn to good old-fashioned elbow grease! Abrasive materials like steel wool, sandpaper, and even drywall screens can scrub away the peskiest stains. However, proceed with caution -- these materials, especially steel wool, can scratch your porcelain finish. This method should only be employed if the previous methods have not worked.


  • Abrasive material (such as drywall screen, steel wool, or sandpaper)
  • Powdered cleaning solution (such as Borax or Barkeeper's Friend)
  • Toilet brush


  1. Flush your toilet once to wet down the bowl, then sprinkle liberally with powdered cleaning solution. Make sure the cleaning solution touches every stain, especially the ones above the water line. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Use drywall screen, steel wool, or sandpaper to carefully scrub at stains. Check your progress after the first couple swipes to ensure your chosen material is not scratching the porcelain. (If it is, switch to a less abrasive material.) Scrub vigorously until all stains are removed.
  3. Flush to rinse, then apply second (smaller) coat of powdered cleaning solution. Scrub as normal with a toilet brush to ensure bowl is clean. Flush to rinse.

Resources —  Cleanipedia, HowStuffWorks

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