Sunrise Specialty » How to Clean Under Toilet Rim Stains, Rings and Limescale?

How to Clean Under Toilet Rim Stains, Rings and Limescale?

Toilets are notorious for developing all kinds of nasty stains the moment you fall behind on your regular cleaning schedule. And of all the places where they can appear, stains under the rim can be the hardest to spot and the most difficult to remove.

However, by keeping on top of things and giving your toilet rim a deep clean as required, you can prevent the problem from getting out of hand, and in this post, we explain how to do it as we talk about how to clean under toilet rim stains, rings and limescale.

What are the stains Under Toilet Rim?

What are the stains Under Toilet Rim

Before we look at how to remove the stains – and how to prevent them from developing in the first place – let’s look at what causes the stains since this can be useful information to know when thinking about how to tackle them. Here are some of the most common causes:

1. Urine

Urine contains a chemical called urobilin, also known as urochrome, and this is what gives it its yellow pigment. If urine is left on the toilet bowl, it will stain it – and urine splashes under the rim that are not cleaned off quickly are a common culprit for causing stains there.

2. Hard water stains

In many areas, the water in our homes contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and these can gradually cause mineral deposits that stain your toilet bowl, especially around the rim.

This can be a particular problem because we can’t easily see under the toilet rim, so there can already be quite a significant limescale deposit before we are even aware of it.

These stains can vary in color and can be brown, yellow, green or other colors.

3. Bacteria buildup

Another common issue, and one that we often don’t see until it is quite advanced, is a buildup of bacteria under the rim of the toilet.

The most common culprit is the bacterium Serratia marcescens – when the stains first appear, they have a pink or orange hue, but this eventually turns black with time.

3. Rust

Rust can also cause stains under the rim of your toilet, and the rusty orange-brown color will help you identify them.

Rust stains can indicate problems with your pipes, so if rust stains begin to develop, it could be a good idea to call a plumber out to check.

What can you use to clean rim stains?

When it comes to cleaning the rim of your toilet, other than dedicated products you can buy from a store that are designed for the purpose, there is a range of other options you can turn to. Here are some of the most popular:


Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is why it’s such a popular option for a wide range of home cleaning applications – including cleaning toilet bowls, rims and under the toilet lid.

The fact that it’s so readily available and also very inexpensive also makes it a great choice – preferably, you should opt for white vinegar rather than vinegar intended for eating.

Bicarbonate of soda

Bicarbonate of soda, also known as baking soda, is another common household item that most people have access to – or that you won’t have trouble finding if you don’t already have some.

You should choose the type intended for cleaning rather than food-grade baking soda since it’s much cheaper!

Lemon juice

Like vinegar, lemon juice contains acid – citric acid, in this case – which makes it another great natural solution for all kinds of cleaning jobs. As an added bonus, it also smells pleasant, which means it will leave an agreeable odor in your bathroom after use.


Borax powder is similar to bicarbonate of soda, but it’s a bit harsher, so you’ll have to pick it up at a hardware store rather than at a regular supermarket or grocery store. It’s an effective product to turn to for particularly stubborn stains.


If you’re a fan of Coke, you might think it’s a waste to tip a bottle down the drain, but it’s well known that cola is an effective cleaning agent. This is because it also contains a kind of acid, which helps break down various stains, including those under toilet rims.


Chlorine bleach is a powerful chemical that you can turn to as a last resort when dealing with stains you just can’t remove using anything else. Be careful when working with bleach since it can damage your skin and especially your eyes.

Problems with cleaning toilet rims

cleaning toilet rims

The cleaning agents we’ve mentioned above are useful and effective when dealing with a range of stains in your toilet bowl – and they can also be used on stains in other parts of your bathroom like the shower.

However, toilet rims present a special kind of challenge since they are hard to access, and it’s difficult to soak the stains with liquid cleaning agents since they just run off and down into the toilet bowl.

For this reason, you need to choose which product you use carefully – or otherwise, you need to be a little creative in how you apply them. So now let’s look at a couple of ideas for how to do it.

How to clean under toilet rim with Vinegar

What you’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Spray dispenser
  • Toilet brush

Step 1. Flush the toilet and scrub under the rim with the toilet brush

If you notice a black ring, a pink ring or any other stain developing under your toilet rim, start by flushing the toilet and then give the rim a good scrub with your toilet brush.

This won’t solve the problem alone, but it will get the worst of it off, which will make the rest of the job easier.

Step 2. Spray the vinegar under the rim and leave it to act

Put the vinegar into the spray dispenser and spray it generously all around under the rim. Leave it there for at least 15-30 minutes to act – or longer if possible.

Step 3. Scrub again with the toilet brush

After the vinegar has been in place for the allotted time, take the toilet brush and scrub under the rim again. This time, since the acid in the vinegar should have dissolved whatever is causing the stain, you should be able to scrub all or most of it off.

Step 4. Flush and inspect – and repeat if necessary

When you’ve finished scrubbing, flush the toilet and check under the rim to see your results. If the rim isn’t completely clean, simply repeat steps #2 and #3 once or twice more until the stain has been completely removed.


How to clean under toilet rim with Bicarbonate of soda

What you’ll need:

  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Water
  • Cup for mixing
  • Spatula or old spoon for application
  • Toilet brush

Step 1. Brush the rim with the toilet brush

As above, start by flushing the toilet and brushing under the rim with the toilet brush to remove the worst of the stain.

Step 2. Mix up a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water

The advantage of using bicarbonate of soda is that it can be mixed up into a paste, which can then be applied to the rim of the toilet. It will then stay in place, unlike a liquid. To do this, mix some water and bicarbonate of soda in a cup with a ratio of 2:1 bicarbonate of soda to water.

Step 3. Spread the paste under the toilet rim and leave to work

Using the spatula or spoon, spread the paste under the toilet rim and leave it there for at least half an hour to do its thing. If you can leave it there for an hour or two, so much the better.

Step 4. Scrub with the toilet brush

Using the toilet brush, give the rim of the toilet a good thorough scrub to make sure all of the stain is removed.

Step 5. Flush, inspect and repeat as necessary

Flush the toilet to wash away any of the baking soda paste, inspect the rim to see if the stain has gone – and repeat a couple of times as necessary if the stain is still there.


How to clean under toilet rim with Borax and vinegar

What you’ll need:

  • Borax powder
  • Vinegar
  • Cup
  • Spatula or old spoon
  • Toilet brush

If you need a more potent weapon to use against your toilet rim stains, mix up a paste of borax powder and vinegar. Simply follow the same instructions for bicarbonate of soda and water – but substitute a cup of borax and some vinegar instead.

Often, people use borax simply by sprinkling it on the stain – but since this isn’t practical for stains under the rim, this technique using a borax paste is much more effective.


How to clean under toilet rim with Duct tape and vinegar

What you’ll need:

  • Duct tape
  • Vinegar
  • Toilet brush
  • Old cup or ladle
  • Old towel

To clean stains inside the toilet rim – i.e. inside the part where the water comes out – here’s a clever technique you can try using duct tape.

This is a good method to try if the stains keep reappearing after you clean them because that can indicate that the buildup is happening inside the toilet rim rather than just under it.

Step 1. Turn off the water supply, flush the toilet and scrub with the toilet brush

Start by flushing the toilet and scrubbing under the rim with the toilet brush.

Once you’ve brushed the rim, allow the cistern to fill up with water one more time and then turn off the water supply. Flush again, and this time, the cistern won’t fill up again because you’ve turned off the water.

Step 2. Empty the toilet bowl

Using an old cup or ladle, remove all the water from the toilet bowl. When most of the water is out, you can then use an old towel to mop up whatever remains.

Tip: This step is not absolutely necessary, and you can skip it, but if you remove the water from the bowl first, it will make things easier.

Step 3. Apply duct tape around the toilet rim

Place duct tape all around the rim to create a seal. The idea is that when you pour the vinegar into the cistern and flush, the duct tape will keep the vinegar in the rim, allowing you to leave it to soak inside and out.

The best way to do this is to place lots of small strips vertically rather than one long strip horizontally. It will take longer to do this way, but it will be more effective.

Step 4. Pour vinegar into the cistern and flush

Pour a whole bottle of white vinegar into the toilet cistern and flush the toilet. The vinegar will go into the rim of the toilet but will then stay there because of the duct tape.

Step 5. Leave to do its job

Leave the vinegar in the toilet rim for at least half an hour to dissolve any stains and kill any bacteria in there.

Step 6. Remove duct tape and flush several times

After the vinegar has been left for long enough to act, remove the duct tape to release all the vinegar

Turn the water back on and allow the toilet cistern to fill. Flush the toilet, allow it to refill and then flush again. You can also give the rim another scrub with the toilet brush and then flush once more.

Your toilet rim should now be clean both inside and out.


More Cleaning tips

Here are a few tips that will help ensure you get the best results when cleaning stains from your toilet rim.

Check the inside of the cistern

If you find that stains keep returning quickly, it could be that there’s a problem inside your toilet cistern – there could be a bacterial buildup there or something might have rusted.

If so, open up the toilet tank and have a look – and if you find it’s dirty, give it a clean by emptying it and filling it with a few cups of vinegar.

Clean your toilet regularly

If you have a regular toilet cleaning schedule, stains won’t be able to build up to the point where they become hard to remove. Cleaning your toilet once a week will be enough to prevent stains from appearing.

Wear gloves when cleaning your toilet

Wearing rubber gloves will mean you don’t have to touch the dirty, unhygienic toilet rim – and it will also protect your skin from any harmful chemical cleaners like bleach you might be using to clean the toilet.

Use the same cleaning products for other parts of your bathroom

All the cleaning agents we mentioned above can be used to clean dirt, grime, mold and mildew from other parts of your bathroom too. You may just need to adapt the methods slightly to achieve the best results.

Avoid scrubbing with abrasive brushes

Don’t scrub your toilet with an abrasive brush since this can damage the porcelain, which will make it easier to stain in the future.

You may also see some suggestions that using a pumice stone is a good idea. However, this should be avoided – or only used as a last resort – since they can also damage your toilet bowl.

Better to keep on top of it

You might think that it’s not important to clean under the toilet rim since you can’t see it anyway. However, it’s vital to keep it clean to prevent stubborn, difficult stains from developing.

Toilet rims can be a little awkward to clean, but by using some of the methods and techniques we introduced in this post, you should have no trouble keeping yours in perfect condition.