Everybody has a toilet to clean, but not everyone knows how to clean it without chlorine bleach and its harsh fumes and long-term toxic effects on the environment. An environmentally responsible strategy for cleaning the house can include homemade remedies made from common household ingredients, as well as carefully selected, commercially available cleaning products. Either way, you can achieve a sparkling-clean, fresh-smelling toilet bowl without using bleach.
White vinegar is a powerfully versatile substance with a range of applications throughout the house. The chemical reaction that occurs when vinegar's acetic acid combines with alkaline baking soda causes a fizzing action that boosts the cleansing power of the two ingredients. Sprinkle baking soda around the inside of the toilet bowl and let it stand for a few minutes, then add undiluted white vinegar and scrub with a toilet brush. Keep a spray bottle of vinegar under the bathroom sink for quick cleanups and odor fighting on and around the toilet.
In a variation on the theme of combining an acid with an alkaline abrasive, lemon juice and borax form a powerful team that has the added advantage of a pleasant citrus scent. The ascorbic acid of lemon juice combats rust stains and other residue, while borax has long been recognized as a disinfectant and deodorizer.
Add 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil to 2 cups of water; mix well and spray around the toilet's rim. Wait 30 minutes and scrub. Tea tree oil, an extract of the Australian evergreen Melaleuca alternifolia, exhibits antifungal and antibacterial properties that make it a worthy opponent for a toilet's stubborn stains and odors.
Keep toilet surfaces clean and germ-free by wiping them down regularly with a 3-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide. This is the standard hydrogen peroxide preparation that usually comes in an opaque brown plastic bottle. It is widely available in 16-ounce bottles from drug stores and other retailers and is very inexpensive.
Just as a pumice stone works effectively to smooth away calluses from your feet, a pumice stick can be a weapon in your toilet-cleaning arsenal. Scrub all traces of stubborn rust, lime and hard water stains away from your toilet with a heavy-duty pumice scouring stick; no chemicals required. Look for a pumice stick at your local hardware store.
Products marketed as “eco-friendly” should be free of chlorine bleach as well as other potential pollutants. When shopping for a toilet cleaner among these “greener” brands, look for products containing lactic acid, which possesses antimicrobial and descaling properties. Among nationally available brands, Seventh Generation, Clorox Green Works and Method all offer toilet-cleaning products with lactic acid.
Before applying the cleansing agent of your choice, lower the water level in the toilet bowl by pushing the toilet brush in and out of the trap several times. This increases the exposed surface area inside the bowl and lessens the dilution of your cleaner. Keep the toilet brush clean between uses by pouring a little 50-50 vinegar-and-water solution in the brush holder. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to the solution to boost its antimicrobial power.