Toilet cleaners

cleaning toilet

Some cleaners make the job easier.

Cleaning the toilet requires a product that leaves your bowl sparkling and removes any stubborn stains. We've compared gel and liquid cleaners, as well as just water.

From our test

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How we test

When we perform this test the most common question is: what stain do you use to assess a toilet cleaner? Thankfully, it’s not as disgusting as you might imagine. We stain white tiles with a NASA formulation of simulated faeces. Yes, there is such a thing.

We then apply the cleaner to the tile and use a mechanical scrubbing arm to clean it. We measure the reflectance of the tile before we apply our NASA poo and after we’ve cleaned it. Each cleaning product is given three cracks at cleaning the tile, with the results averaged to get our overall score.

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What's in toilet cleaners?

Toilet cleaners often have long and confusing chemical ingredients listed on their labels. Here’s our breakdown of what they are and do:

  • Sodium hypochlorite: This is just basic bleach and is the most common chemical in toilet cleaners. It whitens, cleans and deodorises the toilet and is identifiable by a strong chlorine smell. Bleach is caustic and can be dangerous if ingested or inhaled, so make sure your bathroom is well ventilated when cleaning.

  • Surfactants: The eco brands we tested don’t use bleach. Instead they rely on plant-based surfactants, such as glucosides, to lower the water tension between the stain and the water, allowing the mark to be removed.

  • Sodium hydroxide (known as lye or caustic soda): Another common ingredient that’s highly caustic. Sodium hydroxide works by dissolving the proteins in greasy stains.

  • Solvents: These are also good at removing oily stains. Many toilet cleaners use naturally occurring solvents such as benzyl alcohol and limonene.

  • Acids: Work in different ways depending on the acid. Formic and citric acids help break down particles in the stains, while lactic acid is good at descaling the toilet. Some of these acids are also used as additives in food.

Safety first

When using toilet cleaners it’s important to stay safe. If someone ingests a cleaning product:

  • immediately rinse and wipe out their mouth
  • retrieve the bottle for identification purposes
  • phone your doctor or the National Poisons Centre (0800 POISON).

Always keep household cleaners out of reach of children.

Bottle neck

The distinctive gooseneck shape of the Duck bottle was patented in the 1980’s, and now a simple angled neck is common for most toilet cleaners. So what’s up with the shape? It makes it easier to apply the cleaner underneath the rim without spilling or getting any on your hands.

Top tip: Don’t just squirt cleaner under the rim of the bowl, add some to the water in the bowl to help remove stains that have settled.

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