How to Clean a Toilet tank – Don’t Bleach Again

Last Updated on January 20, 2022 by toilethaven

Most people have never seen the inside of their toilet tanks. Some don’t even know how a toilet tank works. To some, it is just a water reservoir for flushing the toilet.

It doesn’t help much that the toilet tank is always closed. This is why most people always remember to clean the toilet bowl and not the tank.

But why would anyone want to clean a toilet tank? At least we know what happens in the bowl, but the tank! What could possibly happen inside the toilet tank that would necessitate the need to clean it?

The first time I saw the inside of my toilet tank I didn’t believe what I saw. The base of the tank was literally black. The walls brown. I initially wanted to replace the toilet flapper, but I instead spent the entire afternoon cleaning the toilet tank.

A toilet tank is placed on top the toilet bowl by design rather than accident. It makes it possible to flush the toilet by the help of the natural force of gravity. The tank is connected to the house water system by the toilet water supply line.

A toilet tank is covered with a lid at all times and most bathrooms are cleaned daily. How then does the tank get dirty?

To clean a toilet tank, turn off water supply and drain the tank. Fill the tank with vinegar all the way to the top of the overflow tube and let it sit for 12 hours. Flush down the vinegar, spray a disinfectant inside the tank and use a brush to scrub it. Avoid using chemicals like bleach and acids.

How Does a Toilet Tank Get Dirty?


Before water gets to your toilet tank, it has to come from somewhere. The most common type of dirt in the toilet tank is minerals from the water supply.

When water is being pumped, it is difficult to see them but when the it settles in the tank the minerals are deposited at the bottom and walls of the tank. Continuous depositing over a period of time forms a layer at the bottom of the tank and also stains its walls.

Hard water stains in the toilet bowl is also as a result of these minerals. The most common ones are iron, calcium and manganese.

Water is pumped into the toilet tank at a high pressure. If the pipes transporting the water are corroded, the scrapped off corrosions will end up being deposited inside the tank. Over a period of time, the inside of the tank will have brownish sediments.

The toilet tank is also a natural habitat for mold and algae . As a result the water in the tank will turn cloudy and/or greenish.

Why You Need to Clean a Toilet Tank

Most people don’t see the need to clean a toilet. They only clean the exterior but completely ignore the inside. But why is it so important to clean the inside of your toilet tank?

1. For a Powerful and Better Flush

Have you ever noticed that when a toilet is brand new it flushes amazingly well but then after a few years or months (depending on where you live) it starts to flush poorly? What do you think causes this?

Dirt and and minerals deposits are embedded on your toilet tank’s water ways inhibiting the natural flow of water. Water from the tank enters the bowl via the rim holes and a siphon jet at the bottom of the bowl.

When the siphon jet and rim holes are clogged by the dirt from the tank, the water pressure is greatly reduced. You would then need to flush the toilet twice or thrice, which is very irritating.

Regularly cleaning your toilet tank ensures that you always have a powerful flushing toilet since the rim holes and siphon jets are always clear.

Read more on how to clean a toilet siphon jet and rim holes here.

2. Prevent a Running Toilet

A running toilet is not only irritating but expensive. With every passing minute water will be dripping into your toilet bowl from the tank. Although a running toilet is not always caused a dirty toilet tank, most of the time cleaning the tank is enough to fix it.

When you have lots of debris and mineral deposits inside your toilet tank, some of them will be embedded below the toilet flapper. The toilet flapper is the rubber seal that sits on top of the flush valve to prevent water flowing down to the bowl. It is connected to the flush handle via a lift chain and should only lift off during flushing.

When the debris is trapped between the flapper and the flush valve opening, water will continuously run from the tank to the bowl. Cleaning the toilet tank will fix this problem.

Debris and minerals can also be deposited inside the toilet fill valve. When this happens, the fill valve will not be able to shut even when the tank is full causing a running toilet.

To learn more on how to fix a running toilet check out this post.

3. Prevent Awful Odors

The inside of a toilet tank is a good haven for mold, mildew and odor-causing bacteria. If you want your bathroom to constantly smell fresh then you need to start cleaning your toilet tank frequently.

Some people use artificial fragrances to cover the awful smell but you really don’t need to do that. Apart from eliminating the bad odors, cleaning your toilet tank will also ensure that you and your family are some from diseases.

4. Prolong Your Toilet Tank Parts

If you don’t want to keep replacing your toilet tank parts then I suggest that you get in the habit of cleaning your toilet tank regularly. Mineral deposits will cause your toilet flapper to warp, tank bolt washers to weaken hence leaking and many other problems.

Toilet tank parts may not be very expensive but plumbers are. It is also not very convenient when you have a constantly running/leaking toilet.

How to Clean a Toilet Tank Naturally.

There are several ways to clean a toilet tank, some of which are great and some which I would not recommend. Cleaning a toilet tank is different from cleaning the bowl.

To start with, the bowl is all porcelain and is relatively easy to clean. The inside of the toilet tank on the other hand has many parts some of which are made of rubber.

While cleaning a toilet tank, you need to make sure that you choose a cleaner that will do the actual job and also not destroy these parts.

You do not want to use a cleaner that will eat away all the rubber seals and parts. This is how you will end up with a running toilet.

It is also good to pick a toilet cleaner that is eco-friendly and most importantly sept-safe if you are on a septic system. Check out the best septic-safe toilet cleaners here.

Materials and Items Needed

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Rubber gloves
  • Disinfectant
  • Long brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Sponge

Depending on the condition of the tank, you might decide to clean it with a basic disinfectant or white vinegar if it is in a dire condition

How to Clean a Toilet Using a Disinfectant

If your water tank is in relatively good condition albeit with little dirt, you should use your normal disinfectant to clean it. These are the steps to follow:

  • Turn off the water shut off valve. You will find this valve at the back side of the toilet.
  • Flush your toilet and hold the flushing lever down until the tank is empty
  • Wear your gloves.
  • Use your sponge to mop out the little water at the bottom of the tank. Use this chance also to remove some of the dirt/debris prior to using the disinfectant.
  • Spray your disinfectant all around the toilet tank focusing more on the walls and the bottom.
  • Remove your gloves and wash your hands with soap
  • Take a 10 to 15 minutes coffee break.
  • Come back to work and wear your gloves.
  • Use you long brush to scrub every area of the toilet tank.
  • Use a toothbrush to clean in between areas that you cannot get to using the big brush.
  • Open the water inlet valve and let water fill in the tank.
  • Flush a few times to completely rinse the tank.
  • Clean the lid in a sink and cover the tank.
  • Repeat twice an year.

How to Clean a Toilet Tank using Vinegar and Baking Soda

If your toilet tank is stained and discolored after many years of mineral deposits, you need something more aggressive than a disinfectant. White vinegar and baking soda will do the job for you.

Vinegar’s acidity will eat into these stains and scales and this makes it a perfect choice. Baking soda which a natural cleaner is a alkaline and will hence combine perfectly with the vinegar.

You can also use borax, which is a stronger cleaning agent that baking soda. Borax is however banned in the Europe but legal in the United States.

This is how to clean a toilet using vinegar and baking soda:

  • Turn off the water shut off valve.
  • Flush the toilet and mop out all the remaining water in the tank with a sponge.
  • Pour one cup of baking soda inside the toilet tank.
  • Add white vinegar inside the toilet tank up to just below the overflow tube. The overflow tube is the large tube inside the tank that prevents the toilet from overflowing.
  • You should add the vinegar slowly as it reacts quickly with baking soda and might spill over.
  • Leave the solution for up to 12 hours or preferably overnight.
  • Flush down all the vinegar.
  • Put on your gloves.
  • Nicely spray your disinfectant all around the inside of the tank (optional).
  • Leave it for 10-15 minutes to work.
  • Take you long brush and get to work. Use a toothbrush to thoroughly clean between small spaces that your big brush cannot reach.
  • Clean away all the stains until you are satisfied with the results.
  • Turn on the water shut off valve.
  • Let water fill the tank. Flush the toilet a couple of time to rinse the tank and all the tank parts.
  • You can take this chance to do all the toilet tank repairs you deem necessary.
  • Check the condition of the flapper and make sure there is no debris embedded underneath it and on top of the flush valve opening.
  • Also, make sure the fill valve is working flawlessly and that the water level in the tank is as it should.
  • Clean the lid in a nearby sink and cover the tank.

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Keeping the Toilet Tank Clean

Learning how to clean a toilet tank is one thing. Knowing how to keep it clean at all times is another thing altogether. It is exceedingly important that you take good care of your toilet tank. It will in return save you a lot of headache and plumbing costs. There are 2 main ways to keep your toilet tank in good condition:

1. Clean the toilet tank at least twice a year

Unlike a toilet bowl which needs frequent cleaning, two times a year will be sufficient for a toilet tank. It is therefore important for you to schedule the 2 dates which you will dedicate to this task

2. Pour vinegar regularly

Check the condition of your toilet tank from time to time. When you notice minerals and stains starting to build up, fill the tank with vinegar. Flush it down after 12 hours.

Do not also forget to pour vinegar inside the overflow tube. This will be the one to make sure that your rim holes and siphon jets are always open.

Toilet Tank Tablets – Are They Safe

Toilet tank tablets are placed in the tanks to give it a fresh smell. They also help to dissolve the minerals and other contaminants in the tank. In a simple language, toilet tank tablets clean the toilet for you so that you don’t need to.

They are advertised as the best way to clean a toilet tank without scrubbing. They also make it possible to clean a toilet tank without draining it.

Should however use toilet tank tablets? Are toilet tank tablets safe for use? These are are some of the question I often here people ask.

Toilet tank tablets may seem like a great choice for cleaning toilet tanks but they are not. These are the reasons/;

  1. Most toilet tank tablets are made of chlorine which dissolves in the water and starts attacking all the rubber parts of the toilet tank like the flapper and fill valve. After some time the toilet will starts running/leaking.
  2. While you can scrub away the stains using vinegar, baking soda and a brush, toilet tank tablets will not. Thy are therefore not a good replacement of the real thing.
  3. Toilet tank tablets will not remove debris from a toilet tank. If you therefore have an obstructed flapper, no amount of tank tablets will clean it and you will constantly have a running toilet.
  4. Tank tablets are bad for the environment and especially when you are on a septic system.


1. How do I clean toilet tank rust?

This is how to clean a toilet tank rust:

  • Turn off the water inlet valve
  • Flush the toilet
  • Fill tank with vinegar up to just below overflow tube
  • Wait for 12 hours
  • Spray a disinfectant
  • Wait for 15 minutes
  • Scrub thoroughly
  • Open the water valve
  • Flush and rinse the tank

2. Can I put bleach in the toilet tank?

Bleach is not recommended inside the toilet tank. The rubber and plastic components would be destroyed by the bleach over time leading to expensive repairs/replacements.

3. How should I clean the wall behind the toilet tank?

Remove the lid of the toilet tank and use a yardstick with a wet towel on its end. This may however not work for all toilets