In this report
May 2010 Ratings

Safer, effective toilet-bowl cleaners

Last reviewed: May 2010
Ecover, Martha Stewart Clean, and Seventh Generation Natural toilet-bowl cleaners

Toilet-bowl cleaners seem mundane, but the health warnings on some containers are enough to make you hold your nose. How about "causes irreversible eye damage and skin burns" or "not recommended for use by persons with heart conditions"?

In our tests, in which a machine scrubbed soiled ceramic tiles meant to replicate the toilet's surface, we found seven liquids that we rated Good for cleaning yet have chemicals that are less likely to harm you or the environment. Those products included Seventh Generation Natural and Martha Stewart Clean, which listed specific ingredients. We think all companies should be doing that, and we support legislation in Congress that would require complete disclosure.

The products shown in our chart were fine for cleaning and normal use. You don't need the more toxic stuff on a regular basis. Reserve their use for when you have to disinfect the toilet because of illness or remove rust and stains. Lysol Power Disinfectant and The Works Disinfectant were Good at cleaning but could pose more serious hazards, based on manufacturer information. (They contain hydrochloric acid.) Clorox Tough Stain Remover also cleaned well but has other heavy-duty chemicals.

We also tested two mildly abrasive powders. Comet was Good at cleaning and is a multiuse disinfectant cleaner you might already have. Kaboom Bowl Blaster Foaming powder was only Fair. Both can cause moderate irritation. We tested two disposable abrasive detergent pads attached to a handle: Clorox Disinfecting Toilet Wand, $10.25, and Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush 2-in-1, $6.30, both of which scored Very Good at cleaning. They contain pads that should not be touched.