Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Sunday, 8 June 2008

On average, most people visit the toilet 6-8 times per day. With all that action comes the need for cleaning. It may be one of the worst jobs on your chore list, but there are a lot of products to help out. We get down to business and find out which products work best.


The Basics

  • Products available at the grocery store range from highly chemical, acidic solutions, to many more neutral homemade concoctions.

  • The key to keeping a clean toilet is maintenance. Weekly or bi-weekly cleaning should keep your bowl in good shape.

  • The chemicals that make up many cleaning agents can be harmful to you and also to the environment, so be aware of what you’re using.

    • Many commercial toilet bowl cleaners contain strong acids that can burn the eyes and skin tissue if used improperly.

    • Not only can vapours from cleaners affect your health, but it may affect the environment.

  • Consider using a natural product, or a milder cleaner. You can also look into some inexpensive home remedies that use ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice.

    • One-quarter cup of baking soda and equal amounts liquid detergent and warm water often does a good job on all but the most stubborn stains.

    • For very stubborn stains, add a little household bleach to your homebrew and let it sit for an hour before scrubbing.

  • Clean your toilet bowl regularly to avoid the need for abrasive or acidic products, which are hard on the environment. If you’re tackling a tough cleaning job, know your chemicals, and always use gloves:

    • Hydrochloric acid has extremely corrosive and will burn your skin.

    • Oxalic Acid irritates the eyes and respiratory tract, and is corrosive to skin and mucous membranes.

    • Sodium bisulphate forms sulphuric acid in water, which also burns the skin.

  • Toilet cleaning tablets are also an appealing product, easy to use with no elbow grease involved. However, if you have young children or pets that like to explore, or a dog that prefers the toilet bowl to his water dish, think twice about switching to these tablets.

Other Considerations

  • Safe use and storage of cleaning materials is vital to the health of you and your family. Here is a list of safety tips to keep in mind:

    • Do not mix acid based cleaner with bleach. This creates chlorine gas that can be fatal.

    • Never mix a toilet bowl cleaner with any other household cleaning product.

    • Work in a room with plenty of ventilation.

    • Wear rubber cleaning gloves and even goggles.

    • Look for warning labels on the container and follow direction regarding heat and storage.

    • Keep out of reach of children and pets.


We set out to see which toilet bowl cleaner got out stains and cleaned away grime the best. We tested:

Liquid cleaners

  • Sani Flush (active ingredient: hydrochloric acid): $0.50 /100 ml
  • Western Family (generic; active ingredient: phosphoric acid): $0.43 / 100 ml
  • Earth Friendly Products (active ingredients: citric acid and grain alcohol): $0.74 / 100 ml
  • Mr. Clean (all-purpose cleaner): $0.46 / 100 ml

Cleaning Pucks/Inserts

  • Toilet Duck (cleans but doesn’t disinfect): $2.34 per puck
  • Western Family (generic, cleans but doesn’t disinfect): $3.53 per puck
  • 2000 Flushes (cleans and disinfects, contains bleach): $1.74 per puck
  • Vanish Fantastik: $2.08 per puck

Soak Test (Liquid Cleaners)

We soaked porcelain tiles stained with iron and calcium (our stand-ins for dirty toilet bowls) in each test product to see which came out the cleanest. After 10 minutes we took the tiles out of the cleaners to see which was the cleanest.

  • The products designed specifically for cleaning toilets all left behind a residue that looked like it needed to be scrubbed off.

  • Sani Flush gave a good shine after rinsing off the residue.

  • Western Family (generic) left residue behind, but after some scrubbing it was clean with an average shine.

  • The Earth-Friendly product was not as strong as the acidic products, but worked well with some muscle power behind it.

  • The gleaming white winner was the all-purpose cleaner Mr. Clean, which gave the cleanest, squeakiest shine.

Flush Test (Cleaning Pucks/Inserts)

We tested our three cleaning pucks over the course of 3 months with the help of some busy families. The results:

  • Toilet Duck: 180 flushes at 1.3 cents per flush

  • Western Family: 196 flushes at 1.8 cents per flush

  • 2000 Flushes: 426 flushes at 1.2 cents per flush

  • Vanish Fantastik: 521 flushes at 0.4 cents per flush


While we like the convenience of the puck/insert cleaners (install and forget), we think that regular bowl cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner (Mr. Clean in our case) will work great all around. And don’t be afraid to try the natural concoctions with baking soda, which are even more economical, and better on the environment.

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