Choosing the Best Toilet Bowl Cleaner
A common culprit of toilet-bowl stains is the mineral build-up that can be seen around the water line and under the rim. This is especially true when hard water, which is high in mineral content, is the type of water being supplied to the household. As the water evaporates, minerals such as whitish calcium or magnesium compounds and rust-colored iron compounds are left behind, coating the upper part of the bowl and eventually hardening into a scale. Even with soft water, molds can still form a dark coating in the bowl. With slicker types of ceramics, such deposits are lesser. But constant scratching by abrasive cleaners and aging can leave the surface more susceptible to mineral and mold buildup.
While automatic in-tank cleaners are easiest to use, these generally only masks the dirt. The more manual type of cleaners need some muscle effort on your part with the help of a brush or scrubbing pad. Let us compare the two types of toilet bowl cleaners:
Most in-bowl cleaners use acid to dissolve mineral scale and eradicate stains. Active ingredients may include phosphoric, hydrochloric, or oxalic acids; some granular cleaners contain bisulfate, which when dissolved works like acid. Brands with the highest acidity have the greatest potential for cleaning. Products with lower acid content may require more cleaner, more time, or more muscle to get the job done.
Non-acidic liquids may not be very effective at removing mineral stains. But they should work well on non-mineral stains that can be brushed away readily
Try using a dash of liquid all-purpose cleaner. Brushed on, it can clean a slightly soiled bowl quite satisfactorily for less than the cost of in-bowl cleaners.
Compared with liquids, powders are less convenient to apply around the bowl and under the rim.
The chemicals in toilet bowl cleaners are powerful and should be handled carefully. Never mix an in-bowl cleaner with other household chemicals. Doing so could release toxic fumes.
Some in-tank products rely on blue dye to tint the water and hide the dirt that accumulates between scrubbings. Although blue cleaners generally contain detergent and other ingredients to curb stains, some do not actually claim to clean a dirty bowl. With some in-tank cleaners, then, the question is not how well it works but how long it lasts. Don’t be too quick to change containers when the blue vanishes. Check to see if the dispensing valve has clogged or if the product is actually used up.
Some blue cleaners claim to deodorize. If you sniff packages on the store shelf, you may notice wintergreen, pine, or lemon scents. Indeed, the packages sometimes have a very strong scent. But one the cleaner dissolves in the tank, the scent may be practically imperceptible.
Some in-tank cleaners slowly dispense chlorine bleach to lighten stains and give off a scent that many people associate with cleanliness. These products may contain pebbles of calcium hydrochloride bleach.
The amount of bleach such cleaners release can vary considerably from flush to flush. Typically, it’s very little. However, they release enough chlorine to bleach stains, since the water may stand in the bowl for hours. But when the toilet isn’t flushed at least once a day, the bleach may become more concentrated and may damage parts inside the tank. Some plumbing-fixture manufacturers recommend against using in-tank cleaners containing hydrochloride bleach.
Since chlorine is not as visible as the blue dye, you might not know when to replace a bleach-based bowl cleaner. You can use a drop of food coloring in the bowl as a test. If the coloring lasts for more than a few minutes, it means that the bleach-based cleaner is spent.
The best way to clean the toilet bowl is to brush it frequently with a liquid all-purpose cleaner. In-bowl toilet cleaners are for more serious stains. Scrubbing with an acidic powder or liquid is the one sure way to attack the mineral matter that causes most toilet bowl stains, particularly around the rim.
In-tank cleaners, blue-colored or bleaches, are easy to use, but don’t expect miracles. If you start with a spotless toilet, they may only show the buildup of new stains and keep the bowl presentable between more thorough scrubbings. In-tank bleach cleaners should not be used in a toilet that isn’t flushed regularly. Enough chlorine may accumulate to damage parts inside the tank.
Finally, do not let any brand’s claims to disinfect sway you. At best, a disinfecting cleaner can only temporarily cut the population of some germs.