Do you want to clean green?
When I had my cleaning business and strangers asked me what I did for a living, I liked to joke that I spent my day I scrubbing toilets. (Which, of course, I did.) For some people, this is the most dreaded cleaning job, but strangely enough, toilets are (generally) one of my favorite things to clean. Porcelain looks so nice when it sparkles.
What's the problem?
With toilets, the biggest cleaning challenges are: drips on the rim, down the outside of the bowl, and all over the floor from careless male users; spatters on the inside of the bowl; build-up below the water line from "letting it mellow" (which can occasionally lead to very severe gunk + lime scale); mold growth on the tank.
Dump a bunch of toxic, corrosive chemicals into the bowl. Let sit, scrub and flush.
The greener way:
The toilet brush is your friend. Buy a good one - that will reach under the rim, and deep inside the "exit passage". Replace brushes as soon as they start to wear out - exposed brush wires can permanently scratch the inside of the bowl. And make sure the brush you choose has a large, stable base in which to rest when it’s not in use. That puppy will be germy, and will drip water all over your bathroom floor otherwise.
To cut down on extreme toilet maintenance, encourage all toilet users to scrub the bowl whenever they create a "mess". They know who they are, and what they’ve done. This kind of thing is SO much easier to clean up when it’s fresh, rather than after it’s been allowed to dry – at which point it will require all sorts of curse-inducing elbow-grease.
Once every week or two, give the inside of the bowl a thorough scrub. There are eco-friendly toilet bowl cleaners on the market, but I never bother with them. If you want some suds, squirt in some eco-friendly dishwashing detergent.
And don’t fret about finding a replacement for the traditional chlorine bleach toilet cleaners. I mean really – how long do you think that toilet is going to remain “germ free”? If you want to disinfect the brush between uses on the other hand, spray it well with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (see detailed instructions in the posted item on disinfecting with vinegar and peroxide).
You can even keep the brush soaking in hydrogen peroxide when it’s not in use. It’s much preferable to soaking the brush in chlorine bleach, which is highly corrosive and could be a hazard to pets and small children. Note that continually soaking a brush will often cause rust damage to the brush, though – and you will have to replace the peroxide frequently, since it naturally loses its potency upon exposure to air and light.
To clean the rim, seat*, bowl sides and tank, liberally spray them with vinegar (or use the vinegar/peroxide disinfection technique), let sit for a few minutes, and wipe dry with a clean, dry rag. DO NOT CROSS-CONTAMINATE SURFACES by using the rag for anything else afterwards. It goes straight to the laundry room, okay? And wash your hands immediately after cleaning any toilet.
*If you have a painted wooden seat and lid, be aware that vinegar can etch the finish. Don’t let the vinegar sit after spraying, but wipe it up immediately with a dry rag.
Flush after every use. If you're worried about water consumption, replace your old toilet with a newer, low-flow or dual-flush one. "Letting it mellow" - even just overnight - causes the worst build-up of unspeakable gunk below the water level.
I’ve read that slipping a 1000mg tablet of vitamin C (or a package of citrus drink crystals) into the bowl and letting it sit for several hours will help prevent lime scale build-up. It’s the ascorbic acid that does it. Don’t pee into the acidic water, though – a toxic vapour may result.
Some toilets will develop rust stains starting underneath the rim at the water holes, and spreading down the inside of the bowl. Alternatively, you can put off cleaning a toilet so long that a thick, gross-looking lime scale develops, usually creeping up from the outflow hole. Both can be treated by a (toxic and corrosive) commercial-grade calcium, lime and rust remover. I have yet to find an eco-friendly alternative to these extreme problems.
Another challenge in some bathrooms is a pervasive urine smell around the toilet. I don’t like to point fingers, but the blame for this always rests with men in the household who stand to pee. Urine that “misses the mark” can seep underneath the toilet, and urine spray in the air can spread to the walls and underneath the toilet tank. I’ve noticed this is a special problem in wallpapered bathrooms where the paper absorbs the urine, and the smell is almost impossible to remove.
With a damp cloth, thoroughly wipe down all surfaces surrounding the toilet, including the underside of the tank. Spray vinegar and hydrogen peroxide into the crack where the toilet meets the floor. Teach your men to sit when they pee.
I have a special aversion to tschochkes on top of toilet tanks – and homeowners who never dust this area as a result. What’s with those little dolls that hide toilet rolls under their skirts? Please. The only thing that should be on top of your toilet is a box of Kleenex (if that). Dusting problem solved…