These DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaners Are Nontoxic & Really Work
The benefits of homemade toilet bowl cleaners.
First of all, DIY cleaners contain fewer harsh chemicals than packaged ones.
It's common for conventional toilet bowl cleaners not to disclose a complete list of chemicals because the companies want to keep their formulas "proprietary," or a trade secret.
If there is a list of ingredients on the label, it's usually vague, such as "water, thickener, cleaning agents," leading us to think: Which thickener(s)? And which cleaning agents?
Since most of these cleaners contain warnings such as "Danger: Corrosive. Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Causes irreversible eye damage and skin burns. Wear protective eyewear, gloves, and protective clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Do not breathe vapor or fumes. Use in well-ventilated areas," it's reasonable to think that their ingredients can be dangerous when mishandled.
Some common toilet bowl cleaner ingredients have indeed been found to be corrosive to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes when mishandled. They can also be irritating to the respiratory system in large doses. Here's a list of a few common ones:
- Sodium hypochlorite1 (the active ingredient in liquid bleach): linked to developmental and reproductive issues; vision damage; nervous system and digestive effects.
- Sodium hydroxide: linked to respiratory effects and damage to vision.
- Quaternary Ammonium Compounds such as alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride2: can trigger skin and eye irritation3 in addition to asthma symptoms in those with asthma, and the appearance of asthma in those with no prior diagnosis. It also decreases fertility in mice4.
- Hydrochloric acid5: corrosive to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes; acute inhalation exposure may cause coughing, inflammation, and ulceration of the respiratory tract, chest pain, and fluid accumulation in the lungs.
- Fragrance: considered to be a proprietary blend, its individual ingredients are not required to be listed on the label. It can be made up of as few as 10 to over 100 chemicals. Many of the chemicals that can hide under the term fragrance include allergens, respiratory irritants, carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and chemicals that are toxic to the nervous system.
Making your own DIY cleaner will mean you don't have to gear up with gloves, eyewear, and protective clothing just to clean your toilet. It will also save you money in the long run and cut down on packaging waste.
Here are my two favorite recipes—both of which use simple, accessible ingredients and are a breeze to put together. Most importantly, they really work!
A 1-ingredient DIY toilet bowl cleaner (for overnight use)
- 16 oz. white vinegar
- Pour about half of a 32-oz. bottle of white vinegar into the toilet bowl before bed.
- Leave it overnight, and then scrub it in the morning.
A 2-ingredient toilet bowl cleaner (for rapid use)
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup baking soda
- Pour 2 cups of white distilled vinegar into the toilet bowl, followed by approximately 1 cup of baking soda. This will create a fizz. (Never combine these two ingredients ahead of time, as it will create a huge mess! Store separately. For convenience, I like to keep a large 64-oz. bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda under each bathroom sink.)
- Scrub and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes before flushing. If needed, you can repeat.
How to customize your cleaner:
Never combine bleach and vinegar. Combining these ingredients creates dangerous fumes that can be harmful or even fatal. Ultimately, don't mix a bleach-based cleaner with a vinegar-based DIY cleaner. For example, don't use a vinegar-based DIY toilet bowl cleaner with a bleach-based bathroom cleaner to clean the rest of the toilet.
The bottom line.
Many of the best (and safest) cleaners can be made in our own homes, with the right ingredients. To clean your toilet, all it takes is some white vinegar and baking soda.
Tonya Harris is an award-winning environmental toxin expert, the founder of Slightly Greener, and the creator of the Slightly Greener Method™.
She is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, has a Master's degree in holistic nutrition from Hawthorn University, and holds multiple certificates in the environmental health field. She is the author of the forthcoming book: The Slightly Greener Method: Detoxifying Your Home Is Easier, Faster, and Less Expensive than You Think, which will release summer 2021.
As a childhood leukemia survivor and mother of three (including one with multiple learning disabilities), Tonya helps parents learn how toxins in the home can affect their family’s health.