The best automatic toilet bowl cleaner
Of all the common household fixtures, none cry out for attention like the bathroom toilet. Maintaining a clean and sanitary toilet is essential for the health of the family, but the usual cleaning method (brushes, chemical cleaners, and elbow grease) can be challenging to perform. This is why many homeowners turn to a convenient product known as an automatic toilet bowl cleaner.
An automatic toilet bowl cleaner releases a small but effective amount of chemical cleaning agents after every flush. Many are in tablet form and can last for a few months until they completely dissolve. Automatic toilet bowl cleaners not only sanitize the water in both the tank and bowl, but they also address stain formation and dirt buildup.
If you are considering a switch from brushes and goopy chemical cleaners to a more convenient automatic bowl cleaner, read our shopping guide below. We have compared dozens of automatic toilet bowl cleaners on the market today and have compiled a short list of promising contenders. At the top of our list is Vacplus Toilet Bowl Cleaner, a strong stain cleaner with a pleasant citrus fragrance sold in an economical three-pack.
Considerations when choosing automatic toilet bowl cleaners
Ease of installation
There are generally three locations where most automatic toilet bowl cleaners can be placed: the tank, the bowl, or the fill valve. Each location has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s often a matter of personal preference. An in-bowl automatic cleaner attaches mechanically to the underside of the rim, and the chemicals are washed into the bowl during the act of flushing. This type of automatic bowl cleaner is fairly easy to install, but it can require some contact with the bowl itself.
Another type of automatic toilet bowl cleaner is attached to the tank’s fill valve, which replaces the water in the bowl after every flush. The clean water from the feed line washes over the gel or liquid-infused package of cleaning solution. This type of toilet bowl cleaner can be challenging to install but does take advantage of natural water pressure.
One of the easiest automatic toilet bowl cleaners to install is a hard tablet designed for the tank, not the bowl. Because the chemical agents in the tablets can be corrosive or toxic to skin, the user carefully opens a sealed package and drops the timed-release cleaner into a remorse part of the tank, away from the fill valve, flap, and other moving parts.
No matter what form the automatic toilet bowl cleaner may take, it will eventually dissolve and require replacement. This lifespan depends on the size of the original product and the formulation. Some may last just a few weeks, while others could take months to fully dissolve. Many contain a blue dye that can be used as an indicator for replacement. When the dye becomes faint, the cleaner has most likely reached the end of its effectiveness.
Some manufacturer’s measure a toilet bowl cleaner’s lifespan in numbers of flushes, not necessarily in linear time. A busy household or office will naturally go through more automatic toilet bowl cleaners. Buying in bulk does make good economic sense if frequent use is anticipated. On the other end of the spectrum, automatic toilet bowl cleaners should not be used in toilets flushed less than once a week, such as boat or RV models.
While they all serve the same basic purpose, different automatic toilet bowl cleaners have different formulas. Some stress disinfection and stain removal, which usually means they’ll contain a heavy concentration of chlorine bleach or an eco-friendly equivalent. Others put an emphasis on antibacterial agents. This is a good thing to consider during times of household sickness, when many family members may be sharing the same facilities.
Fragrance is also an important consideration in some formulas. The treated water either contains chemical/natural fragrances or odor-absorbing deodorizers. A blue dye in the formula can assure users that the toilet has been treated with a strong automatic cleaner.
Inexpensive tablet toilet bowl cleaners for the tank or the bowl can be found on store shelves for as little as $3 to $9 a package, but consumers should use caution before using them. Some cheaper brands have formulations that can damage plumbing and surfaces. A good midrange automatic bowl cleaner with more installation options and fewer harsh chemicals will retail between $10 to $18 in multipacks. Premium brands with an emphasis on eco-friendliness and longevity can cost anywhere from $19 to $26 per pack.
Q. Can I use other bathroom cleaning products if I’ve added an automatic toilet bowl cleaner to the tank?
A. In most cases, you should be able to use stain removers or other cleaning products in the bowl. However, automatic toilet bowl cleaners containing bleach can have a dangerous chemical reaction with products containing ammonia. Check the list of ingredients.
Q. Are my pets safe around toilet bowls treated with automatic cleaners?
A. Bleach, deodorizers, and other chemical agents can be toxic if ingested, so any house pet that may drink out of a toilet bowl should be kept away from the area, and the lid should remain closed between visits.
Automatic toilet bowl cleaners we recommend
Best of the best: Vacplus Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Our take: This three-pack of automatic bowl cleaners is powerful enough to remove stubborn stains from all parts of the toilet, not just the bowl.
What we like: Strong deodorizer with citrus scent. Prevents buildup in both tank, bowl and drain. Up to 800 flushes per container. Safe for septic tank systems.
What we dislike: Installation instructions challenging to follow. Shifts position in tank.
Best bang for your buck: Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner Tablet
Our take: These powerful bleach-based tablets provide drop-it-and-forget-it service for up to three months, and they are easy on the budget.
What we like: Strong antibacterial formulation with bleach. Economical price point. Effectively sanitizes in five minutes. Easy to install.
What we dislike: Tablets are smaller than expected. Concentrated formula is very toxic to pets and children.
Our take: While it may cost a little more per tablet, this product will last up to four months with regular use and works hard against hard water and scale buildup.
What we like: Long-lasting protection, up to 2,000 flushes per tablet. Easy to install in tank. Kills 99.9% of bacteria in tank and bowl. Strong stain remover.
What we dislike: On the expensive side. Strong chemical bleach scent.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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