toilet bowl cleaners in front of commode

While having a clean toilet is a critical component of a sanitary home, commercial toilet bowl cleaners can harbor some of the most dangerous chemicals in your home. These chemicals contaminate waterways and pollute the air in your home. Using harsh cleaning products in your toilet can present more of a health risk than the germs you’re trying to kill. Fortunately, there are safer alternatives for you and the planet.

This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of these links, we receive a small commission that helps fund our Recycling Directory.

Concerning Chemicals in Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Numerous harsh cleaning products on the market contain chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and ammonia. Even low concentrations of chlorine can irritate the eyes and sinuses. Breathing hydrochloric acid vapors or contact with the skin can create serious health issues. In addition, the EPA considers hydrochloric acid a toxic chemical and it can harm ecosystemsAmmonia has the potential to cause burns when not used as directed. All of these chemicals are unsafe for children and must be stored in a safe location if used in the home.

Mixing some common household cleaners can also be dangerous. For example, combining bleach and ammonia creates toxic gases called chloramines, which can cause wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath; irritate the sinuses; and trigger an asthma attack. It is critical to use extreme caution when using strong cleaning chemicals.

One easy way to prevent chemical exposure from harmful toilet bowl cleaners is to use safer alternatives or make your own with safe ingredients.

How To Find Safe Toilet Cleaning Products

Choosing safer alternatives to harmful toilet bowl cleaners helps keep toxins out of your home and protects the environment.

Read Cleaning Product Labels

Making sense of product’s ingredient list can be challenging but it’s worth your health and the planet’s to take a look. For example, avoid products that contain hydrochloric acid, bleach, or ammonia. Also, if the label says “warning,” “danger,” or “poison,” it’s best to avoid the product.

Third-Party Information on Toilet Bowl Cleaners

One of the best ways to determine if a cleaner makes the cut is by referring to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) toilet cleaner ratings. Of the products rated, 9 scored an A rating, 11 have a B rating, and 48 scored an F. This highlights that many harmful products are on the market, but there are a handful of safe alternatives.

EWG’s Highest-Rated Toilet Cleaning Products

All the following products received an A or B rating from the EWG.

Safer Choice Certified Cleaners

Another option is to refer to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice database. Products that meet the Safer Choice criteria may also display the logo on the product label. The Safer Choice database contains various cleaning products, including toilet bowl cleaners and other household cleaning products.

Cleaning toilet with homemade cleaner
You can ensure your toilet bowl cleaner contains only safe ingredients by making it yourself.

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaners

One of the best ways to ensure you use safer products to clean your bathroom is to make your own cleaning products with safe ingredients. Going this route can save you money as well as reduce packaging waste. Some of the best DIY toilet bowl cleaners contain citric acid, borax, baking soda, cleaning-strength distilled white vinegar, and disinfecting essential oils, such as lemon or tea tree oil.

DIY Toilet Scrub

The Spruce has an excellent DIY toilet bowl cleaner recipe that includes powdered citric acid, baking soda, and essential oils mixed together.

  1. First, scrub the toilet with the dry ingredients plus the essential oils.
  2. Then, add ½ cup of cleaning-strength distilled white vinegar or substitute with 2 cups of 5% regular distilled white vinegar.
  3. Scrub the toilet again, and then let it all sit for 15 minutes before flushing the toilet.

This recipe works especially well for homes with hard water, such as well water.

Overnight Toilet Cleaner

If you can leave the solution undisturbed in the toilet overnight, here are two good options.

Option 1: Pour 16 ounces of 5% distilled white vinegar into the toilet at night. Let it sit until morning, then scrub the toilet.

Option 2: If you want to take it up a notch, place ¾ cup borax, 1 cup white vinegar, and 10 drops of essential oils separately into the toilet bowl. Let it sit overnight, and then scrub it well in the morning.

These options are especially helpful for removing scum and buildup because the vinegar and other ingredients work overnight.

Choose Safer Toilet Bowl Cleaners

You don’t have to expose your family to harsh cleaners to keep your home clean. Choosing safer toilet bowl cleaners is a great place to start if you want to help keep harmful chemicals out of your home and reduce your environmental impact. Try one of the safer commercial toilet bowl cleaners listed above or consider a DIY option made with safe ingredients — for your health and the planet’s.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.