Holy Sh*t, I've Been Cleaning My Toilet All Wrong

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
A person cleaning a toilet bowl with a toilet brush
Scary Mommy and Peter Dazeley/Getty

No one in my house goes running to the chore chart crossing their fingers and hoping for toilet duty. Actually, no one runs to do a damn thing at my house because no one cleans the toilets but mom. But I digress. I have always cleaned the toilet the same way. I put in the bowl cleaner, scrub it up really good. Remove the toilet seat, polish it with a little bleach cleaner, put it back together and give the whole thing a once over with a disinfecting wipe. That is sufficient. It sanitizes, smells good, and keeps everybody’s buns safe. Well, according to a new instructional guide in the New York Times, my bathrooms are as filthy when I am finished as they were when I started.

First, they request a toilet brush that’s not past its prime. They consider that to be six months. My toilet brushes are as old as some of my kids and I don’t have a single baby anywhere near me. So I failed that step. But I kept going. They don’t want it to be bent or misshapen or I guess looking like that fucker has been used a million times. Yeah, still not looking so great for me. They want it to be able to get under the lip. I mean, mine can and has been doing that just fine. I think. I don’t see anything growing out from under there, so I’ve been kinda OK at the scrubbing part. But I guess I better put four new brushes on my next Target Drive Up order.

Next, they want you to choose a good bowl cleaner. I know I’ve got that one on lock. I mean, I even go name brand and with bleach. Boom! I appear to be passing this part of the test. The expert said that they use something with hydrogen peroxide. I guess that’s because they don’t want to die from the bleach fumes filling the air in a closed bathroom. Yes, it’s closed because I can’t leave the damn door open or I risk someone coming in, startling me and I fall into that nasty bowl face first. So I shut it up tight and breathe in the toxic chemicals. So far, I’m still alive. I kept reading.

Things were going fine until they mentioned the bucket. WTF do you need a bucket for? I’ve got a brush that keeps me an elbow’s length away from anything disgusting. There will be no sponging by hand, so what’s the bucket for, you ask? Well this is where it got interesting. They want you to get rid of the water in the toilet so that you can clean the bowl more effectively. Evidently if you dilute your cleaner, it’s not going to work as well. But you have to do that without flushing, otherwise the bowl will just fill up again. The exact instruction is: “To empty your bowl, quickly pour a half-gallon of water inside, which will trigger the flush action without the tank pouring any new water in to replace it.” Honestly, I don’t even understand what they’re talking about. Is this water going in the bowl or the tank? Trigger the flush action? Does your toilet automatically flush like you’re at some fancy restaurant…or Home Depot? I don’t get it. I’m skipping the bucket.


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After you finish dumping water into the toilet from your bucket, which I think — even though I still don’t understand that step — should be step one. I mean, if you really want me to empty it, that comes before the cleaner right? Shit, I don’t know. Let’s move on to surface disinfectant, shall we?

I have been doing this part, so that’s a win. I wipe everything down and make sure that it is shiny and nice. They say you can use a variety of wipers like a sponge or reusable rag. I am lazy and just use a disposable wipe so I can throw it in the trash and not think about it any more.

OK, so that’s it, right? What more do you need to do after you’ve polished the throne? These crazy people want you to disinfect the brush. Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth. They recommend spraying the brush head and its holder with a disinfectant. OK, I can get behind that. But then, they want you to clean it in your sink or tub. If you do that, then you have to disinfect that too. And, why are you disinfecting the holder if you’ve made it a habit of disinfecting the brush? Isn’t that redundant? My brain hurts thinking about it. Plus, who has time for that?! I’m sticking with my “put it back in the receptacle and let it marinate in its own filth and not think about it again until the next scrub” method.

They say this is supposed to take 10-15 minutes. Seriously? I am used to knocking this out in about three minutes flat. Evidently there are instructions on your toilet bowl cleaner that tell you how long it is supposed to sit. Huh? I have never read a toilet bowl cleaner bottle. I honestly thought it was just supposed to hang out there until the next person comes in to pee. That is incorrect. Apparently, you should flush within the recommended time frame to get the maximum cleaning power out of that bowl sanitizer. If your kid comes and pees on it, does that nullify everything you’ve just done? Damn, I hope not.

There were also a few things that they recommend we avoid. Like, you’re not supposed to put that blue stuff in the tank because it breaks down some rubber something-or-other. And according to the vice president of product management at toilet manufacturer American Standard, due to the caustic liquid they produce, it actually voids the toilet’s warranty. Who knew that was even a thing? The toilets just came with the house. I didn’t know they had warranties! They also don’t want you to use disposable wands because they are wasteful and ineffective. And I have to think that’s expensive and I prefer to invoke my thriftiness on this task.

I don’t mind cleaning the toilet. It’s pretty quick and you walk out with a sense of accomplishment. After reading these instructions, I am feeling OK about my methods. I will 100% not be bringing a bucket into my bathroom. I’ll take the advice and spray the brush and receptacle, but there is no way in hell that I am cleaning it in my shower.

This summer we will be changing up the chores in my house and I am going to start delegating the bathroom responsibilities. I will gladly pass these tips on to my darling sons to ensure that they don’t do a shitty job.

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