clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

How to Clean a Toilet Tank

Read this step-by-step guide on how to clean buildup and rust from the inside of a toilet tank.

Toilet, Tank, Toilet Tank, Bathroom iStock

When it comes to cleaning the bathroom, an important yet often overlooked part is the toilet tank. The inside part of the tank can harbor rust, mold, mildew, and bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors and impair your toilet’s functionality and longevity.

If you don’t know how to clean the inside of your toilet tank, don’t fret. The job doesn’t take a lot of effort, thanks to everyday cleaners you’re likely to have on hand.

How Often You Should Clean Your Toilet Tank?

Experts suggest cleaning your toilet tank twice a year to avoid mildew, rust, and grime—and to prevent a buildup of minerals that can damage the parts. If left unaddressed, not only can bad smells permeate the bathroom, but the toilet’s components might corrode and rust.

Using Vinegar to Clean the Toilet Tank:

From mildew to hard-to-tackle calcium deposits, vinegar is an inexpensive, natural cleaner that dissolves a range of bathroom offenders, including toilet tank rust. Choose a white vinegar (either distilled or the basic white vinegar will work) over a colored variety, as the latter could stain your toilet.

Tools You’ll Need to Clean Your Toilet Tank

  • White vinegar (as much as 3 gallons depending on the state of your toilet)
  • Rubber gloves
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Plastic-bristle scrub brush

How to Clean the Inside of a Toilet Tank

  1. Wear rubber gloves.
  2. Remove the tank cover and place it gently on a towel on the floor.
  3. Without draining out the water, pour white vinegar into the tank, stopping at least an inch below the top rim.
  4. Let the vinegar-water solution sit for 12 hours to dissolve mineral deposits, rust, and mildew.
  5. Flush the toilet a couple of times to remove the vinegar from the tank.
  6. Turn off the toilet’s water valve, usually located near the floor.
  7. Flush the toilet again to completely drain the water from the tank.
  8. Using a scrub brush, clean the inside of the tank’s walls to eliminate gunk and buildup. Wipe down the metal parts with a sponge to remove any rust.
  9. If the toilet tank walls still look dirty, spray an all-purpose cleaner (choose one that is safe for not just the toilet tank but one that is safe to use on plastic and metal) onto the inside walls. Let it sit for the manufacturer’s suggested time, usually 5-10 minutes. Scrub the walls with a scrub brush.
  10. Repeat as needed.
  11. Turn the water back on, flush the toilet again, and confirm the water is clear in both the tank and the bowl.
  12. Replace the tank cover.

For particularly stained or foul tanks, turn the water valve off, flush the toilet until the tank is empty, and fill the tank with just vinegar (no water), letting it sit overnight. Continue with step 5.

Maintaining Your Toilet Tank

To avoid nasty buildup and extensive cleaning sessions, consider using drop-in tablets to help maintain your toilet tank and prevent the formation of mildew, rust, and bacteria, making it a lot easier to clean the next time around.

Look for tablets that are non-toxic and bleach free—the harsh chemicals found in some drop-ins have been known to cause corrode and cause damage to toilet tank parts.