Are You Cleaning Your Toilet Properly?

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her. Are you really dirty? Join Jolie as she solves your cleaning conundrums every Friday at 1p Eastern on Facebook Live.

Since moving in together, my boyfriend and I have been trying to adjust and accommodate each other's cleaning habits. He hates when I leave my coat/purse on the couch and clothes on the floor. Fair. I hate that when it's his turn to clean the bathroom, because he believes that a wipe down of visible dirt with a wet paper towel is sufficient.

He finally agrees that the sink needs to be germ-free and that the tub needs a cleaning agent to effectively look clean, but stands firm on the toilet not needing anything more than a quick swish-around with the toilet brush and a wet paper towel wipe down on the seat and pee-dribblings on the outside of the bowl. He's actually quite persuasive and now has me convinced. Pee is sterile, as he points out. And if the bowl looks clean, isn't that sufficient for a place we're just going to poop into anyway?

I still kind of feel like, "but... for health?" but I don't have a strong argument. So, is he right? Is a wipe down to the point of visible cleanliness enough? When it comes to bathrooms, when is "looks clean" good enough?

Well, wait.Urine isn't sterile. Even if it was, it has a smell and leaves those unsightly yellow, dribbly stains behind. So! There are two good reasons to clean it from your toilet. Plus, peeing isn't the only thing that's going on in your toilet. We poop, about half of us are depositing the detritus of our monthly cycles in there, and plenty of you are barfing in your toilets. I know, because I get your emails about it. (Please send more emails about where you're barfing. I love a good barf story!)

There's also this: All of the ambient stuff (technical term) floating around in your bathroom like hair, residue from makeup, hair products and so on, andtoilet plumelands on your toilet, making it dirty. Using a wet paper towel to wipe that away will only serve to spread around whatever is fouling the commode.

This is particularly an issue when it comes to the toilet's handle, which gets incredibly dirty; think of it this way, you wipe your behind and then what do you do? Right. You flush. And then you wash your hands. Which means the hands that just wiped your behind, and all the other behinds using your toilet, transferred anything that was on them to the handle.

One last issue: The interior of the bowl will develop assorted bacterias, such as mildew and Serratia marcescens (that pinkish-orangeish stuff that loves to grow around drains and on grout) that can't be eliminated with just water.

Are You Cleaning Your Toilet Properly?

The thing is, none of that may move you to clean the toilet any differently from how you're currently getting the job done. That's fine! It's not my job to tell you how to live, or what should and should not bother you. I do want to point out that, effort-wise, adding the use of a cleaning product into your toilet beautifying routine doesn't make a huge difference. Like, you're already in there wiping and scrubbing, how hard is it to add some all-purpose cleaner to the mix? But, again, it's up to you to decide if that feels like too much work—I'm giving you just the facts, ma'am, and you can decide what to do with them.

As long as I have you here talking toilet cleaning philosophy with me, how about some detailed toilet cleaning instructions? Sure thing, let's do that!

This needn't be an overly formal introduction, though certainly if you want to announce the name of the cleaning product as if it's a debutante presentation, be my guest! The idea here is to apply a toilet bowl cleaning product and allow it to do much of the work for you while you turn your attention to the rest of the unit. What should you use? Well, there are loads of options, but for my money, I like a foaming bathroom cleaner likeScrubbing Bubbles. You can also use something likeLysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner, or even an all-purpose cleaner likeMr. Clean Multi-Purpose Spray.

Mist the toilet's exterior, from the lid down to the base, with an all-purpose cleaner. Then, using paper towels, a rag, a sponge, or a microfiber cloth, start at the top and work your way down, wiping away dust, hair, and whatever other unpleasantness has gathered on the toilet. Fold your paper towel or rag into squares, switching to a clean section as you move along so as not to transfer what you wiped off one part of the toilet to another; if you're using a sponge, rinse it with hot running water as you move from section to section. Pay particular attention to the handle, and don't forget to flip the seat up to wipe the bottom and the lip of the bowl, where a lot of, ahem, matter builds up.

Dip the brush in the toilet water, and vigorously scrub under the rim of the bowl. Then, flush the toilet and scrub the rest of the bowl, using a combination of the brushing action and the running water to remove bacteria and other buildup. This should go quick, because you allowed the product to do a lot of the work for you by applying it and allowing it to sit for a few minutes while you worked on the rest of the toilet.

Need a toilet brush recommendation?The Sweethome has you covered(I spoke to the author while he was researching that piece and it the conversation was far more hilarious than it had any right to be). There's also thisbowl brush-and-plunger comboby Casabella, which is what I have, to the extent that knowing what products I actually use has meaning to you.

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Look, dribbles happen. It's not the loveliest thought to consider but it's a fact of life, which is why you'll want to clean both the base and the floor around the toilet as part of your overall throne-cleaning routine.

If needed, give the exterior of the toilet—the lid, handle, seat, and base—a final wipe with a dry paper towel to remove any stray hairs or buildup that may have been left behind.

Technically speaking, you should spray the toilet brush, post-use, with a disinfecting spray and rinse it with hot water to remove all the nasty stuff it just lifted from your toilet bowl. Here in the real world, I'm calling that optional because, well, even I don't do that every time and I know better. It's definitely a good idea, though, from time to time, to clean your toilet brush and its holder, because oh wow, does it ever get gross in there. I mean, just really foul.

Go take a look, I'll wait.

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