It's easier than you think to take your bathroom's most forgotten spot from grimy to gleaming.

By Blythe Copeland
April 29, 2021
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Cleaning your toilet is a necessity, and while cleaning the bowl itself is pretty straightforward, you might be overlooking another key part of this restroom essential: the toilet tank. Your regular cleaning routine liking includes an exterior wipe down, but maintaining the inside of the tank is just as important to the long-term maintenance of the fixture. "While the water in the tank is usually clean, the metal parts can corrode and rust, and the interior of the tank can get discolored," says Patty Stoffelen, a bath fixtures merchant for The Home Depot. "Cleaning your toilet tanks helps prevent the buildup of rust and mildew."

modern bathroom with blue tile
Credit: gan chaonan / Getty Images

Preparing to Clean the Toilet Tank

Though cleaning the toilet tank is a little more involved than cleaning the exterior, it doesn't need to happen as frequently; Stoffelen recommends adding this chore to your list just "once or twice a year for upkeep." Gather a few basic supplies: "We recommend using a scrub brush ($11.99 for set of four, amazon.com) paired with a hard-surface bathroom disinfectant formulated without bleach," says Stoffelen. "The biggest don't when it comes to toilet tanks is bleach—do not use bleach or products containing bleach inside the tank, as it can corrode the internal parts of your toilet. If you are aiming to remove tough stains from the tank, I also recommend white vinegar diluted with water."

How to Clean the Toilet Tank

The hands-on cleaning comprises two main elements: Soaking the tank to remove stains, and scrubbing the tank and parts to remove built-up dirt. You can do either of these first; Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid, starts with soaking the tank. "First, remove the lid and take a peek inside," she says. "If you see any mineral buildup or crud, pour four cups of vinegar into the tank. Allow this to soak for up to an hour."

Before scrubbing, empty the tank. "Start by turning off the water supply valve, which is located either behind the toilet on the wall or on the floor," says Stoffelen. "You'll then want to flush the toilet until the tank is drained. You can use a sponge to remove any remaining water in the bottom of the tank. For cleaning general dirt and grime, thoroughly spray the inside of the tank with a bleach-free disinfectant and allow the disinfectant to set for 15 minutes. Use a scrub brush to clean the tank and use paper towels to wipe off the tank's internal parts." Stoffelen adds enough vinegar diluted with water to fill the empty tank up to the overflow valve and allows it to sit for up to 12 hours; remember that if you flush during this time, you'll empty the tank of its stain-fighting solution, so you should encourage your family to use the spare bathroom while the tank is soaking.

After scrubbing and soaking, empty the tank by flushing the toilet, and then turn the water back on to allow the tank to refill. Flush a few more times to rinse the tank, and then rest easy knowing your bathroom is spotless from the inside out.

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