How To: Clean a Toilet Tank

Fight germs and mineral buildup that almost always escape you on chore day with these simple steps.

If the last time you shined the bathroom, you couldn’t completely mask a foul odor or had to work hard to remove brown rust stains from the rim of the toilet bowl, your work may not be done. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a spot, because this one is often overlooked: the toilet tank. Its lid keeps dirt, bacterial contamination and mineral buildup out of sight until you need to lift it to reach the tank and stop manual toilet operation or evaluate parts for another repair. These poor conditions can also lead to corrosion of the metal parts of your toilet tank and cause stains on the bowl – the first indication of a problem for most homeowners.

By cleaning your toilet tank regularly – at least twice a year – you can extend the life of your toilet and all its parts, freshen up the smell of your bathroom and save yourself elbow grease the next time you clean the bowl. It’s a win-win situation! So what are you waiting for? Get a task done quickly and keep it fresh by following this guide on how to clean a toilet tank.



  • White vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • Disinfectant cleaner
  • Scrub brush with long handle
  • Sponge
  • Natural toilet tank cleaner

First, empty the tank. To do this, locate the water valve (the “faucet” valve on the wall behind or near the base of the toilet) and close it. Next, lift the tank lid so you can see the water level inside and flush the tank until it is completely empty. Depending on your flow rate, you may need to flush two or three times.
Assess the condition of your tank. If it’s just surface dirt, it’s a simple cleanup that a little brushing should alleviate. Proceed to step 3. If, on the other hand, you see discoloration from mineral deposits and residue accumulating at the bottom of the tank and working its way up the sides, opt for a more aggressive method: vinegar. This natural star is an excellent line of defense against mold, hard water deposits and more. You’ll need enough vinegar to fill the tank to the overflow valve, which can be up to three gallons depending on the size of your tank. (Fortunately, at about $3 a gallon, it’s not that expensive!) Pour in the vinegar and let it sit for 12 hours without flushing. When you’re ready to clean, drain the vinegar. Again, this may take two or three rinses.

Wearing rubber gloves, generously spray the inside of the tank – along the sides and bottom – with your favorite disinfectant cleaner. Do your best to direct the spray away from metal parts, in case corrosive additives react with the metal (bleach, for example, is very corrosive). ) Check the label for the manufacturer’s recommended dwell time. Generally, you will leave the disinfectant on for 10 to 15 minutes.
Get a scrub brush! Some instructions recommend using your toilet brush to clean the inside of the tank, but because of the cleaning work it does on a regular basis, we recommend that you use a new scrub brush. (This way you won’t accidentally introduce other contaminants from previous work into the tank.) ) It should be a long, narrow scrub brush with medium to firm bristles and a shape that allows you to scrub the corners and bottom of the tank. Once the waiting time is over, scrub thoroughly – in the corners, around the accessories, all over the bottom – to remove any grime and/or build-up. Apply additional cleaner if necessary.

STEP 5 (optional)
As you remove the lid, consider whether your toilet needs maintenance. If your toilet is not working optimally, it’s time to replace any parts that need replacing, such as the flapper, but if it’s working well, go to Step 6.
Clean all parts of the tank. Instead of spraying them directly and dousing the metal parts with a cleaner that may or may not be corrosive, dilute it first. Simply soak a sponge with clean, warm water and spray a little cleaner on the sponge itself. Next, wipe down the ball float, flapper and other parts of the toilet tank with the diluted disinfectant. Rinse and re-soak the sponge if necessary.
Turn on the faucet again and allow the tank to fill. Flush once or twice. Does the tank look clean enough? If not, empty the tank again as you did in Step 1, then repeat Steps 3 through 6. When you are satisfied that your tank is clean, turn the faucet back on, refill it, and off you go!

To make your life easier in the future, here are a few things you can do to keep the tank cleaner day after day.

Consider putting tank lozenges in the toilet. They help minimize mold, minerals and contaminants. Be sure not to buy tank lozenges that contain bleach, as bleach is known to corrode metal. Do your homework and read online reviews carefully before purchasing. To reduce chemical use in the home and the risk of damage, keep in mind that tablets marketed as “natural” or “chemical-free” may be best for the job.
If you don’t use tablets, empty your toilet tank and refill it more regularly with vinegar (as in step 2). Vinegar kills mold and mildew and dissolves accumulated mineral deposits before they become a problem. Simply leave the vinegar in the tank overnight and flush the next morning.
You may hear about monthly toilet tank cleaning, but we think twice a year will be sufficient for small households that share more than one toilet. But it’s the situation that dictates maintenance needs. If you have hard water, mineral deposits can build up more quickly. If the toilet is located in a high-traffic area, whether it’s a home with a large family or your workplace, the heavier use will also require more frequent cleaning. Lift the lid of the tank to inspect it every couple of weeks, and you’ll know what kind of cleaning cycle your toilet might need. Keep track of your inspections and cleanings on a calendar so you don’t lose track.