Here’s How to Clean Your Toilet Tank

The toilet tank is one of the most overlooked spots in the bathroom. This is how to clean your toilet tank.

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When was the last time you cleaned your toilet, including the tank? Never? Welcome to the club.

The toilet tank is one of the most overlooked spots in the bathroom for cleaning. For the most part, the water in the tank stays clean — the lid help keeps out bacterial and mineral buildup, along with dirt. So why do you need to clean it then? Inside the tank there are metal parts that can corrode and rust. The inside of the tank can also be susceptible to mold, mildew and bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors that you don’t want lingering in your bathroom.

How Often Should You Clean Your Toilet Tank?

The bowl itself requires a pretty regular, thorough cleaning, for obvious reasons. But you don’t need to clean the tank quite as often. It’s best to clean the tank twice a year. Add it to your spring cleaning checklist, and do it again in the fall. Cleaning the tank regularly is just one more step for maintaining your toilet; it will help keep rust and corrosion from building up on the internal parts, extending the life of your toilet.

It’ll also mean one less odor you have to worry about in your bathroom.

What Do You Need to Clean a Toilet Tank?

  • Rubber gloves;
  • A scrub brush with a long handle;
  • A sponge;
  • Disinfectant;
  • White vinegar (optional).

How to Clean Your Toilet Tank

  1. Empty the tank by locating the water valve, usually on the wall behind or near the toilet’s base. Shut it off, lift the lid from the tank and flush until it drains completely.
  2. If there’s just grime and dirt, start cleaning. If there’s discoloration from residue, fill the tank with cleaning vinegar to the overflow valve (about three gallons in a standard toilet) and let it sit for 12 hours. Then flush.
  3. Put on rubber gloves and spray the inside of the tank with disinfectant. Let the disinfectant set for 15 minutes.
  4. It might be tempting to clean it with bleach, but don’t do that because it’s corrosive.
  5. Scrub the inside of the tank thoroughly with your scrub brush.
  6. If your toilet’s internal parts need maintenance or replacement, now is the time to do it.
  7. Wipe off the internal parts to remove any slime or dirt.
  8. Turn the water back on and allow the tank to fill. Go ahead and flush it a couple of times. If it’s working, you’re done!

How to Maintain Your Toilet Tank

There are drop-in tablets you can add to a toilet tank that help keep it clean. However, you have to be careful with those because they contain bleach. The problem is that, over time, the bleach will eat away at the parts inside your toilet tank, and then you’ll have a different problem to deal with, replacing the toilet’s parts in the tank like the flush and fill valves.

You can put vinegar in the tank, let it sit overnight, and flush it. That will help, but the reality is that there’s just no easy substitute for cleaning your toilet tank. But at least you only have to do it twice a year.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.