How to clean a very stained toilet bowl: AVOID Brown film or stains

With the importance of hygiene in today’s world, one of the most important places to keep clean is your bathroom. Most importantly, toilets are quite hard to clean due to their shape and how often stains can appear. While this is often not too much of a problem, your toilet can sometimes develop various brown stains that will ruin the look of your bathroom and make your mornings a bit duller.


That being said, don’t worry. These stains are often caused by various reasons apart from human waste. Many chemical reactions and substances in your toilet bowl can cause brown stains to form in your toilet bowl. The problem with these stains is that they are usually quite difficult to clean. So, in this article, we’ll be covering how these stains appear and what you can do to get rid of them.

How Do Brown Stains or film Appear on Toilets?

Some of the most common stains that you’ll find on your toilet are brown stains. While they may be quite unsightly, these stains are actually caused by hard water. Hard water is essentially created by water carrying many minerals such as calcium, lime, etc., and mixing into water sources.

This causes the water to become much denser with minerals which can cause problems for things such as your skin, appliances, etc. It is also possible that you don’t clean the toilet often enough. Another reason is not flushing every time that you use the toilet.

While this effect is minimal, the real problem is the limescale present in this water. Also known as calcium carbonate, this substance gradually builds up in your toilet bowl as a white film. Over time, as it comes into contact with other minerals, this limescale build-up will change into a thick brown film which looks unhygienic and is hard to remove.

However, while normal products may not work, let’s go over some tips that you can use to clean these stains.

Most people don’t clean their toilet tank while this can contain a lot of dirt as well.

4 Tips to Help You Clean Brown Toilet Stains

Use vinegar for cleaning

One of the most efficient and popular methods for cleaning limescale deposits is vinegar. Vinegar is very acidic and can easily soften the deposits and make cleaning them off a lot easier. If you do plan on using vinegar, here is what you should do:

  • Start by pouring vinegar into your toilet bowl while making sure to get it overall brown stains.
  • Leave the vinegar to rest for about 1-2 hours so that it can break down the limescale deposits.
  • After this, you can clean your toilet with a brush until the stains are completely gone.

Vinegar can also be used with other substances such as baking soda or lime juice for even better results.

Use the citric acid in lemons

If you don’t have access to vinegar or other professional cleaning substances, you can also use a lime/lemon from your kitchen. Lemons contain citric acid which isn’t as strong as something like vinegar but is still enough to help you clean out brown stains. The process is similar to using vinegar but make sure to properly cover the stains with lemon juice.

Substitute your brush with a pumice stone for rough stains

Even with citric acid and vinegar, sometimes brown stains can be too difficult to clean. In these cases, you might want to substitute your brush for something rougher and tougher like pumice stone. While your brush uses softer bristles made of synthetic materials, pumice stone is much more jagged and can get through stains more efficiently.

If you do use a pumice stone, we would advise getting both medium and fine grain. This is because medium grain can get through most of the stain while the fine grain will help in getting your toilet bowl white again. Here is what you should do when using a pumice stone to clean your toilet.

  • While wearing gloves, use medium grain pumice stone and scrub over the stains directly.
  • Keep in mind to only use mild pressure as pumice stone can easily scratch through your toilet and leave deep marks.
  • If you feel like it is required, you can also use vinegar or citric acid while scrubbing to help break down the stains.
  • Once most of the stain has been cleaned, switch to the fine grain pumice stone and begin scrubbing gently on the same areas.
  • Once your toilet bowl is completely clean, flush your toilet and it should be clear again!

The only problem with using sandpaper is that you will have to get quite close to the stains which many people might not be comfortable doing. Wear gloves when you do this. It can smell quite bad while you are using a pumice stone to clean your toilet.

Clean your toilet more often

While this is more of a preemptive measure than a cleaning method, you should clean your toilet more often. These stains aren’t caused due to a lack of hygiene but increasing how often you clean can help get rid of the limestone deposits early on. So, you won’t have to worry about too much building up and even if it does, cleaning it should be a lot easier.

Toilets have a lot of small parts. You can use a toilet brush to access these. This makes it quite fast to clean a toilet. In less than 2 minutes you can clean the toilet bowl.

Once the dirt starts to clog up, it can be a lot harder to remove it.

Some areas have hard water. There are special cleaning products that help to remove calcium from your toilet. You can also get a water softener to avoid problems with this.

Clean the Cistern!

Aside from getting rid of calcification on the toilet bowl, the cistern also needs cleaning. Since the cistern has a constant stream of water, it needs to be cleaned as often as possible. In all likelihood, it will be dirty and will need a complete clean-up before cleaning the toilet bowl. You can of course add some washing liquid and let it sit, for an hour and then flush it out.

That should get the cistern clean. However, if it has a serious amount of sludge or debris that has built up over time, again, you may not be able to remove the dirt. It may be time to change the unit.

Today we have an array of products available in the market that clean up pipes. However, before buying anything off the shelf, try a home remedy like so with baking soda sink. After you have completed the job with a home remedy, make sure that you remove any residue on the brush, pumice stone, or scrub. If you need to scrub again, rinse the cleaning products and add more soda and remove the dirt.

These are a few home remedies that offer a good solution to a problem.

What Not to Do

Getting rid of these pesky stains is often quite problematic and many people tend to go overboard in their cleaning ideas. Here are some things you shouldn’t do to clean brown toilet stains:

  • Using Coca-Cola – Coca-Cola might seem like a great item to clean through stains but this is not the case. It is actually much less acidic than substances like vinegar and also doesn’t stay on the toilet bowl as easily.
  • Hard scrubbing sandpaper – Sandpaper is very rough and can easily shred through your toilet bowl’s upper layers. Due to this, always use a light hand with minimal pressure when using sandpaper or you’ll be left with a different problem on your toilet.
  • Using bleach – While bleach is a great cleaning solution for many purposes, brown stains are not one of them. This is because it is not suited for clearing through limestone and will only solve the problem temporarily.

Toilets are quite fragile and if you use harsh products, the drains can break down. This can result in leaks and other problems. Avoid harsh products that can result in things breaking down.


Stains can make your bathroom look much worse and getting them out is very important. So, we hope these tips help you get out any brown stains from your toilet and keep it looking clean and new!

If your toilet is older than 15 years, you can consider installing a new one. There are several parts inside the toilet that start to wear down. This can result in water leaks and other problems. The coating of the toilet bowl can also start to break down, making it harder to clean it.