Bought a house a little over a year ago and it was previously a foreclosure and sat for a while. Because of that, it hadn't been cleaned for a while and developed some stains around the water line in all the toilets that we haven't been able to get off.

Anyone have any tips on how to get rid of them? Rather unsightly and sure there must be a way to clean them off.

Have tried some different tips I'd heard, like pouring a 20oz Coke in the toilet and let it sit over night... that didn't work.

  • 3
    Have you tried white malt vinegar? Stains can be caused by mineral deposits from evaporating water and vinegar can sometimes soften and dissolve them.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Sep 13, 2010 at 20:21
  • Ask your janitor for a bottle of the stuff you can't buy at the store. If it comes in a nondescript bottle and says 'industrial strength' and you have to wear gloves, it should work.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 2:39

6 Answers 6


Surprisingly (to me, anyway) a pumice stone works great for this. A friend recommended it to me when I had a similar situation to yours. I had a hard time believing the stone wouldn't scratch the porcelain bowl, but it didn't and removed the rings pretty quickly.

  • Great tip Mike. I've got a pretty messy basement toilet that I might give that a go on. My wife is grossed out enough by it, that she wants a new toilet (it really is pretty gross). So if it did scratch the thing up, no loss at all.
    – MarkD
    Commented Sep 14, 2010 at 3:01

Have you tried CLR?


I have a well as my water source, and my water has high levels of iron. This stains and leaves a residue in my sinks, shower, and toilets. It's from from the byproducts of the iron-eating bacteria. It's actually harmless, but it's smelly and ugly.

If you're not sure what's in your water, you should take a water sample to get chemically tested. I found a state certified water lab in the yellow pages under "Chemical Consultants."

Mostly cleaning the toilet just takes elbow grease, patience, and a willingness to work on a gross toilet for some time. I start by just scrubbing with a toilet brush, both in the bowl and in the tank. That gets rid of some of the loose buildup.

Then I put on some long rubber cleaning gloves, get a fresh Scotch-Brite scrubbing pad (a used one is too soft to be effective), and I get started.

I use Barkeeper's Friend, a dry acid-based cleanser. This helps to break down the stains. I shake about 1 tablespoon of Barkeeper's Friend onto the Scotch-Brite pad and scrub it into the stain. I mix Barkeeper's Friend with a small amount of water to make a thick paste and smear that liberally on tough stains. I let it sit for about a minute, and then the stain is a lot easier to scrub out.

The cleaner is helpful in the upper bowl, but it's less effective below the water line as it just dilutes in water. I've tried liquid toilet bowl cleaner too, and that can help.

Just make sure you don't mix acid-based cleaners with chlorine bleach! This produces poisonous chlorine gas. I think liquid toilet bowl cleaners are now made without acids for this reason, but check the ingredients carefully. And wear long cleaning gloves and eye protection.


I would suggest stainsolver


Use brick acid or patio cleaner shifs any stains, just be careful as they are strong acids.


Use a plunger to push most of the water out of the bowl first thing. Keeps the old water line exposed without diluting any cleaner you’re using to clean with, and easier to use pumice stones or scratchy pads with the water out of the way.

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