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Question DetailsAsked on 6/7/2016

I have bought a house where toilets have not been cleaned for years and are badley brown stained tried everthing n

Old toilets ...

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1 Answer


Do not use any abrasive cleaner or pads - will scratch and dull the finish which promotes adherance of dirt and mold growth, and deeper staining.

Things that commonly work for this -

1) Lime Away or Iron Out for toilets commonly takes it off.

2) First soak/spray with about 25% solution of Dawn dishwashing detergent in hot water and let soak for 5-10 minutes, then scrub off with brush. This cuts the grease/oils on the surface of the stain, exposing the actual stain underneath. Then use white (NOT brown - stains) kitchen vinegar sprayed or dabbed on and let sit 5 minutes or so, then scrub off with brush or non-abrasive scouring pad. Likely to take several rounds of the veingar to get all of it off.

In severe cases, stronger measures might be needed - though the more severe you get, the more risk of permanent damage to the glaze on the ceramic:

3) WD-40 sprayed on and let soak 5 minutes, then non-abrasive scouring pad to remove. Leaves an oil film that can promote growth of toilet mold (like you get at the bowl waterline) so you have to clean off with Dawn after done with the WD-40 treatment to remove the oil layer.

4) Hydrogen Peroxide - put on toilet paper laid over the stained areas as a "poultice" and let soak for 10-30 minutes, then scrub with non-abrasive scouring pad. Likely to take several applications and go through a 1/2 to full quart per toilet in heavy staining cases.

5) dilute hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid) - hard to find in small quantities (you will likely need a 1/2 pint maybe per toilet), if in a pool area find a neighbor with a pool who has a bottle and beg a quart or so. Not expensive in gallon bottles at pool suply places, but you then have to worry about how to get rid of the excess safely. Be sure to flush several times after the cleaning use to get it out of the sewer lines, and while using run water in a tub or sink on the same line ( in same bathroom - usually the sink is "upstream" of the toilet) to minimize chance of damage to sewer lines. DO NOT use this in tubs or basins which have or may have brass/copper/bronze drain lines, but should be OK in ceramic (not metal) toilets.

6) This WILL dull the finish and make for easier buildup of toilet grundge in the future, but some people resort to it as a last resort rather than changing out their toilet (which can run $250 and on up per toilet) - using the abrasive Comet or similar scouring powder which says not to use it on porcelain or enamel.

SAFETY NOTE - muriatic acid is a moderately strong acid - use container recommended eye protection (against splashes), long sleeves, and chemical protective gloves when using, and don't breathe in strong fumes and use bathroom fan while using.

Here is a previous similar question with more in-depth responses and more responders -

Lots more suggestions if you google "removing brown toilet stains" - but not all those suggestions will work, and steer away from the ones on Youtube showing how to use explosives to clean it off.

Some very badly stained toilets cannot be cleaned effectively - you may get the buildup off, but if it has penetrated the surface glaze into the more porous toilet ceramic, you may always have a general brownish haze. Clorine bleach on toilet tissue over the spot (as a wet poltice basically) may or may not bleach that out - sometimes it never gets back to near original gloss or color.

For prevention - if it starts coming back again - using the bleach containing toilet tank tablets will suppress it to a large extent ot totally, but they also damage the gaskets and seals and plastics in the toilet tank parts, so instead of 20 or more years parts life, you may be getting leaks from the tank and have to install a rebuild kit or at least new tank bolts and seals every 4-8 years or so.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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