Toilet Cleaning and Maintenance
Toilets can pose challenges to homeowners. Understanding the rudiments of toilet maintenance and care can spare homeowners needless heartache.
What is the proper way to clean a toilet? May seem like a basic procedure, but there are tips to prolong your toilet’s life, keep it clean and sidestep easy-to-avoid problems. Factors to consider: Do you have hard or soft water? How frequently is the toilet cleaned? Are you interested in environmental friendliness?
First of all, don’t bother using tank cleaners as they don’t provide much more than cosmetic cleaning. There are different kinds of bowl cleaners: citric acid-based, the most environmentally friendly and safest to use, but less effective and takes longer to dissolve mineral deposits; phosphoric acid-based, more effective but won’t corrode chrome; hydrogen chloride-based (muratic acid); hydrochloric acid-based is the harshest of the four and should only be used inside the bowl and not on outside surfaces or chrome. Hydrochloric acid also melts through nylon carpeting, synthetic fabrics and skin, so take care when using. Rubber gloves and even eye protection are not over careful. Try to limit your exposure to the fumes as well.
First and foremost, as with any chemical cleaner, read the label and all instructions carefully. Any product labeled “disinfectant” will have an EPA number on the label that authenticates the claim. If it’s not a disinfectant, it won’t kill bacteria, fungus and viruses, and that’s the object, isn’t it?
You’ll want to start by spraying the outer surfaces of the toilet with your chosen disinfectant. In order to be effective, disinfectant cleaners need to be left on the surface for ten minutes to kill all germs (most people immediately wipe down, and while it may look nice, it’s still covered in germs!)
To effectively clean inside the bowl, the water level must be lowered. There are four different ways to accomplish this: 1. Using your toilet brush, push the brush end quickly in and out of the hole. The water level will go down. 2. Fill a bucket with a gallon and a half of water and pour it quickly into the bowl. 3. Turn the water off behind the bowl then flush the toilet. 4. Using a plunger, force the water back through the hole and beyond the trap.
Once the water level is lowered, spray the inside of the bowl with your disinfectant until all inside surfaces are saturated, taking care to spray under the rim (this is where protective eyewear comes in handy.) Leave the cleaner on for 10 minutes unless the label directions instruct otherwise.
After 10 minutes, use your bowl brush, starting under the rim and working your way down toward the hole. You can use a mirror to look under the rim to see if any soil remains. When this is finished, wipe down the outside of the toilet. If you’re really serious, you can use a black fluorescent light in the dark to check if any urine salt reside remains even after following the above procedure.
After cleaning, the most common maintenance problem encountered by homeowners is the clogged toilet. Many people make this common mistake: when confronted with a clog and the water level rises, people often flush the toilet again. While it’s tempting (isn’t that how you get rid of toilet bowl contents?), the only thing this action is likely to do is flood your bathroom floor with water and other unmentionables. When the water level in a toilet bowl is higher than normal, do not flush it again. Wait until the water level drops back to normal, then try flushing. If it doesn’t drop back to normal, then it’s time for some toilet detective work.
What’s the best procedure when a toilet starts to overflow, in spite of (or because of) your best efforts? Turn off the water under the tank. If there isn’t one or you can’t turn it, remove the tank lid and lift up on the float ball or cup. Then have someone else turn the water off at the main shut off valve.
If possible, you need to find out what is gumming up the works. (If you have a toddler, it could be almost anything. A recent toilet clog was the result of a magnifying glass being flushed away.) Putting your hand in a large plastic trash sack, reach into the toilet hole and try to get at the object. Some may not have the stomach for this, and it may not even work. But for those with strong constitutions, it’s worth a try.
If this doesn’t work, it’s time to get out the plunger. Position the plunger over the hole and push downwards, beginning slowly and lightly and working up to a quick and forceful rhythm. This will usually work, but if it doesn’t, it’s time to try a toilet auger. A toilet auger is a plumbing snake inside a protective tube. Do not try using a regular plumbing snake in the toilet as it will scratch the delicate porcelain (the magnifying glass was retrieved, but at a terrible price: an abraded bowl.) Still no luck? Take a deep breath…and call the plumber.