A toilet shaped like the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones

Cleaning a Dirty and Stained Toilet: The Real Game of Thrones

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Does anyone actually enjoy cleaning toilets? It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re cleaning the ones at home or you’re on toilet-cleaning duty as a new member of the Night Watch in Game of Thrones, cleaning a dirty toilet is never any fun. 

But it may surprise you to learn, two frequently recommended old-school cleaning methods can permanently damage newer toilets. So, let’s go over how to clean your toilet and the right way to tackle tough stains to avoid making more work for yourself.

Safety Tip

Before you clean your toilet, remove any automatic bowl cleaners or gel toilet-cleaning stamps then flush the toilet twice to get rid of any residue that could cause a dangerous product combination.

Standard Toilet Cleaning Steps

Step 1: Wipe it off.

Grab a dry cleaning rag and wipe the commode top to bottom. Disinfectants can’t work properly if there’s too much mess in the way, like all the fuzz that collects on a toilet base or tank.

Step 2: Clean the seat and hinges.

Make a paste from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide in a small bowl using about a 3 to 1 ratio. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the hinges with the paste, then spread it onto both sides of the seat and lid with a damp microfiber cloth, scrubbing as needed. Rinse by wiping it with a clean, damp cloth.

Did You Know?

In season 7 of Game of Thrones, Samwell Tarly had to clean toilets as part of his duties at The Citadel. Actor John Bradley’s almost 60 hours of “toilet duty” turned into just 90 seconds of film!

Step 3: Clean the bowl.

Flush to get the inside of the bowl wet. Sprinkle baking soda in the bowl and on your toilet brush, then scrub beneath the rim, down the walls, and as far into the outlet as you can reach. Leave your toilet brush in the bowl while you fill a spray bottle with white vinegar. 

Ready for some fizzing fun? Aim a straight jet of vinegar at the underside of the rim where the water nozzles are, then spray the rest of the bowl. That noisy reaction lifts stains, knocks out odors, and eliminates germs, so wait until it’s done then scrub one more time and flush. 

Step 4: Disinfect the toilet.

To disinfect the rest of your toilet, wipe it with hydrogen peroxide or disinfecting wipes. Get the surfaces wet enough to stay damp for the 5 minutes needed to knock out bacteria and viruses.

Switch cloths or wipes between surfaces as you go over the tank and handle, the hinges, both sides of the lid, both sides of the seat, the bowl rim, the outside of the bowl, and the pedestal. 

Step 5: Disinfect your brush.

Never put away a dirty or wet toilet brush, it just turns into a bacterial nightmare.

To disinfect your toilet brush, hold it over the bowl—lid up, seat down—and pour hydrogen peroxide on it. Then rest the handle on the toilet seat and close the lid so the brush drip dries over the bowl. 

Did You Know?

Emptying bedpans was another of Sam Tarley’s stomach-churning tasks in that The Game of Thrones episode. To simulate the type of solids you’d expect, they used fruitcake soaked in water. As if you needed another reason to not like fruitcake?

Old-School Toilet Cleaning Methods to Avoid

Thanks to glazing and coating advances since the early 2000s, using bleach or pumice stones on toilets can now do more harm than good. While these methods were once go-to solutions, alkaline cleaners like bleach or abrasive substances like pumice stones can erode the antibacterial and anti-stain coatings in modern toilets.

That coating isn’t just on fancy ones like the Toto models with their CeFiONtect glaze. American Standard toilets, some of the most affordable on the market, feature EverClean coatings that inhibit bacterial and mold growth. So if your toilet isn’t old enough to vote, don’t clean it with either method.

How Often Should You Clean a Toilet?

In homes with healthy individuals, weekly toilet cleaning is usually enough for safety and bathroom odor control.

However, with small children, especially during potty training, or if someone has a weakened immune system, daily cleaning of the seat and handle, and scrubbing the bowl every other day is advisable. For illness, particularly with viruses or stomach upsets, clean the toilet after each use.

Tackling Tough Toilet Stains

To clean a really dirty toilet, first follow all the steps above to loosen stubborn stains. Then shut off the toilet’s water supply by turning the valve at the wall to the right. Flush the toilet then soak up any remaining water with an old towel.

Stubborn Waste

Combine hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to make a paste, then stir in a drop or two of liquid dish soap and spread it onto the stain. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to loosen the mess then scrub and flush. 

Hard Water

Soak paper towels or cleaning rags with white vinegar and smooth them in place over the stain. Let them sit for 30 minutes then sprinkle on some baking soda and scrub. Flush once the fizzing stops.


Dip a cut lemon into table salt and use this to gently rub the rust stain, squeezing the lemon as you work. Let this sit for 30 minutes then flush. 

Another option is applying a paste made from vinegar and cream of tartar, which is a baking ingredient available in grocery stores. Let the paste loosen the rust stain for at least 30 minutes then scrub it with a rag dipped in vinegar. Flush with plain water. 

FAQs about Cleaning Toilets

Remember, just because something can work doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Can I use a can of Coke to clean my toilet?

Don’t. This hack uses Coca-Cola, which is acidic, to dissolve toilet stains by leaving it in the bowl overnight. But remember what I said about the purpose of your toilet’s glazing? Coke is acidic enough to permanently damage it, leading to stain and odor issues.

Can I use WD-40 to clean my toilet?

Don’t. WD-40 is a spray containing mineral oil. Like all oils, it can clog drains and lead to costly plumbing problems. So, this cleaning hack can cost you not only time but money, too.

Can fabric softener keep my toilet smelling fresh?

Don’t. Fabric softener’s oily residue it leaves can keep your toilet flapper from sealing properly. Then your toilet will run nonstop and drive up your bills, and that stinks.

Ready to move beyond the throne? Check out my Bathroom Spring Cleaning checklist. (Dragons not included.)

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  1. What about tips for cleaning the tank? That’s where my toilet is dirty and smells

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Tina,

      I’d shut off the water supply at the wall and empty the tank. Then, use a sponge or towel to get out as much water as you can. (Be careful you don’t damage the mechanisms.) Go over both sides of the flapper and its gasket with a damp microfiber cloth and a little baking soda to remove grime, then wipe it clean. Use the toilet bowl stain remover on any stains you find. Wipe away as much of the paste as you can before refilling the tank, so you aren’t leaving stuff in there that can clog the flushing mechanisms. Once you’ve got it all out, turn on the water supply to fill the tank and flush a few times.

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