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How to Clean a Toilet Without Paper Towels 


Last Updated on January 22, 2024

Learn how to clean a toilet without paper towels in 4 easy ways! Cleaning the toilet isn’t glamorous, but it’s something that has to be done. However, you might find yourself reaching for numerous paper towel wipes to get it done. 

Zero waste cleaning is one of the easiest ways to reduce your household waste. You can learn the best way to clean a toilet for you with these 4 easy ways to clean a toilet bowl. I’m sharing the best way to clean a towel bowl that leaves your toilet super clean with no stains or residue. No need to Google “best way to clean toilet” — I’ve got you covered!

How to clean a toilet: a photo of a white toilet with a green house plant next to it with overlay text reading "4 ways to clean a toilet bowl without paper towels"

how to clean a toilet without paper towels

Did you know it takes 12 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to make one ton of paper towels? In the US, we currently use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year, and most just end up in a landfill.  

Paper towels also cannot be recycled, especially once they’ve been soiled. And if you’re using them to clean, you don’t want to compost them. Most cleaners have questionable ingredients that don’t belong in a compost heap. 

In the US, cleaning companies aren’t legally required to disclose the ingredients in their products. That includes toilet cleaners and all-purpose sprays you use to clean the outside of the toilet.  

These products can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs, the building blocks of smog) which can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.  

On top of this, many cleaning products are not biodegradable which is a problem because many of our products (especially toilet cleaners) get into our waterways. You want to make sure the products are going to break down, not hang around forever.  

If products contain phosphates, they can build up in the environment over time and cause eutrophication (aka, big algae blooms that can deplete the water of oxygen and kill off fish).   

For these reasons, it’s important we learn how to clean a toilet bowl without paper towels or harsh chemicals. Here’s everything you need to know. 

A roll of paper towels and a generic cleaner to illustrate the best way to clean toilet

best way to clean toilet — scraps

The best way to clean a toilet without paper towels is to use cloth rags or cloth wipes. Using scrap fabric is a great way to upcycle and get some free rags.  

You can also buy organic cotton cloths to use specifically for cleaning. Just make sure to wash them after each use, and they’ll be ready to be used again. This method works best if you have access to a washer/dryer set.  

If the idea of cleaning a bathroom with reusable cloth wipes bothers you, there’s also the option to use compostable wipes, like the ones Biom creates.  

Biom is a refillable wipe system (you buy the dispenser once, then buy the refills as you need them). The wipes themselves are biodegradable, home compostable, and plant-based. They’re the most sustainable alternative to wipes and great for cleaning messes (along with being skin-friendly too). 

reusable microfiber cloths to illustrate the best way to clean a toilet

best way to clean a toilet without using paper

Instead of using paper towels to clean your toilet, you can use a number of reusable/upcycled items for cleaning.  

Here’s how to clean a toilet bowl without paper towels:

  • Microfiber cloths: I personally don’t use these, as they shed microfibers in the wash, but they are reusable and good for picking up dirt and dust. 
  • Rags: You can make these out of anything: old T-shirts, bed sheets, flannels, pillowcases, worn bath towels + dish towels, etc. You can reuse them until they get too worn out (but at the least you extended their life through upcycling). 
  • Cloth washcloths: Choosing to buy organic cotton washcloths for the sole purpose of cleaning a bathroom is a great idea. These are reusable, washable, and plastic-free, so no microfiber pollution to worry about. 
  • Biom: These home compostable wipes will do an excellent job of cleaning the outside of your toilet if there is no serious grime there. This is the best option for those who don’t like the idea of using a reusable rag. Just be mindful that this is best for a quick refresh rather than a deep clean. 
A photo of a clean white toilet to illustrate the best way to clean a toilet bowl

what is the best way to clean a toilet bowl? 

The easiest and best way to clean a toilet bowl is by using toilet cleaner tablets. These zero waste cleaning tablets act similar to bath bombs in the sense you just drop them into the toilet, let them fizz up, swish the water around, wait about 5 minutes, then scrub and flush.  

There’s minimal work needed as long as you have a reliable toilet brush to scrub all the crevices that need cleaning.  

My favorite zero waste toilet cleaner tablets are from Blueland and Tiny Yellow Bungalow. Both companies sell plastic-free toilet cleaners that make cleaning a breeze.  

For Tiny Yellow Bungalow’s tablets, you get 6 concentrated cleaners that come in an upcycled paper carton that’s compostable. Just make sure to keep them in an air-tight jar in the bathroom and use them as needed. If stored correctly, they will keep for months.   

For Blueland’s tablets, you can buy a reusable tin to store them in and order refills that come in compostable paper whenever you’re ready. Each refill packet comes with 14 tablets. They are vegan, cruelty-free, and utilize natural ingredients (aka no chlorine bleach, hydrochloric acid, or cetrimonium chloride).  

For a full list of sustainable cleaning brands, be sure to check out my blog post 16 All-Natural and Eco-friendly Cleaning Products.

zero waste cleaning without paper towels - a photo of a clean bathroom

zero waste cleaning in the bathroom

To clean your toilet bowl, I recommend using two things: Some kind of all-purpose cleaning spray for the outside of the bowl, and toilet cleaner for the inside of the bowl.  

CleanCult makes refillable all-purpose cleaning sprays. The refills come in paper cartons that CleanCult will take back and recycle for you.  

Blueland also sells toilet bowl cleaner tablets and bathroom cleaner. The toilet tablets can be used to clean the inside of the toilet — just drop them in, let them fizz up, then use a toilet brush to clean it. Blueland’s refillable bathroom cleaner can be sprayed on the outside of the toilet to clean the exterior. 

My natural DIY all-purpose cleaning spray can also get the job done for cleaning the toilet bowl’s exterior. 

Make sure to have some kind of rags, washcloth, or microfiber cloth around to avoid paper towels. You’ll need these to wipe down the toilet’s exterior after spraying it with cleaner. Look for a reusable paper towel with a wide weave — this won’t just push water around, but absorb it.

You’ll also need a toilet cleaning brush. You can find a plastic-free toilet brush on Earth Hero made by Redecker. The handle + stand is made from untreated beechwood, the bristles from Tampico plant fiber, and the tray (which catches any excess water) from terra cotta. 

Another option is Full Circle Home’s toilet brush with a replaceable head. It’s made from recycled aluminum, recycled plastic, bamboo, and ceramic.  

You’ll need the toilet brush to clean the inside of the toilet, so make sure you choose one that will last you a while. As always, use what you have before buying new — then replace it with something more sustainable when it’s worn out.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Cleaning 

a modern bathroom to illustrate how to clean a toilet

how do I clean my badly stained toilet bowl? 

If you have a very badly stained toilet bowl, here are the steps I recommend you take: 

step 1: toilet exterior

Clean your toilet exterior using an all-purpose cleaner and wipe it down with a thick washcloth or several rags. Avoid paper towels and use a reusable option specifically designated for cleaning the toilet.

step 2: toilet interior

Use toilet tablets like the ones from Blueland or Tiny Yellow Bungalow. Or make your own DIY toilet cleaner fizzies. Once you plop them in, let them dissolve and wait a few minutes. Then, give it a good scrub with your toilet brush and flush. 

step 3: hydrogen peroxide

If your toilet still needs to be cleaned more thoroughly, pour a half-cup of hydrogen peroxide into the toilet and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, use your toilet brush to scrub the stains.  

step 4: baking soda

Stains persist? Sprinkle on some baking soda, scrub again, then flush away.  


what causes stains in toilets?

Aside from the obvious things that leave stains in toilets, many people live in a constant battle with hard water staining, rust, and calcium deposits. The above tips will remove even the toughest hard water stains.

will natural cleaners disinfect your toilet?

Yep! Naturally, no one wants to leave bathroom bacteria all over their toilet. When we clean, we want to kill germs and know our space is hygienic. The truth is you don’t need harsh chemicals or toxic ingredients to disinfect and effectively clean. Cleaners made with natural ingredients are fully capable of appropriately disinfecting your toilet.

So, are you inspired to clean a toilet bowl without paper towels? What are some of your tips and tricks? Let me know in the comments!

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