Toilet Cleaners

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 25 toilet cleaner brands.

We also look at animal testing, toxic chemicals, shine a spotlight on the ethics of SC Johnson and Son and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying toilet cleaner:

  • Is it organic? Looking for organic is a fail-safe way to avoid most of the nasty, artificial chemicals that are in so many household products. And thereby help the environment as well as yourself.

  • Is it cruelty-free? Although animal testing for finished household products has been banned in the UK, lots of companies still use ingredients that are tested on animals. Go for a company with a clear cruelty-free policy. 

  • Is it homemade? Toilet cleaner can easily be made at home, and that way you can know exactly what has gone into them. 

Best Buys

Our Best Buys are all vegan and cruelty-free, and several were also organic [O]:

Additionally, Libby Chan and Earth Friendly Products were palm oil free companies.

Recommended Buys

Lilly’s Eco CleanSonettEcozoneAstonish and Dri-Pak for making your own detergent.

Ecover and Method are best of the widely available brands although since their takeover they have a boycott call against them for being owned by a non cruelty-free company, SC Johnson.

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying toilet cleaner:

  • Does it contain toxics? The long and complex ingredients lists of household products often include toxic chemicals. These are bad for the environment as well as health.

  • Do they use palm oil? At its most unsustainable, palm oil is linked to massive deforestation and serious violations of human rights. Look for brands that commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably or avoid it completely.

  • Does it contain petrochemicals? Toilet cleaners often contain ingredients from petrochemicals, reliant on the climate change fuelling petrochemical industry.

Companies to avoid

Not only does Reckitt Benckiser score near the bottom of our table, one of its disinfectants is said to have caused over 100 deaths in South Korea between 2001 and 2011. Avoid its dishwasher detergent brands:

  • Cillit Bang
  • Harpic

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Greenscents toilet cleaner [A, O]

Company Profile: Greenscents Ltd
16.5

Bentley Organics cleaners [A, O]

Company Profile: Bentley Organic Trading Limited
16

Sodasan toilet cleaner [O,A]

Company Profile: Sodasan Wasch- und Reinigungsmittel GmbH
16

Bio-D toilet cleaner [A]

Company Profile: Bio-D Company
15.5

Libby Chan [F]

Company Profile: My Living Water UK Ltd
15.5

Earth Friendly Products Toilet Cleaner [A]

Company Profile: Earth Friendly Products
15

Ecozone toilet cleaner [A]

Company Profile: Ecozone (UK) Ltd
14.5

ecoleaf toilet cleaner [A]

Company Profile: Triangle Wholefoods Collective Ltd
14.5

Sonett toilet cleaner [A,S]

Company Profile: Sonett GmbH
13.5

Lilly's Eco Clean toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Lilly's Eco Clean Ltd
13

Astonish toilet cleaner [A]

Company Profile: The London Oil Refining Co Ltd
12

Dri Pak cleaning ingredients [A]

Company Profile: Dri-Pak Ltd
11.5

Bloo toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Jeyes Group Plc
8

Jeyes Sanilav toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Jeyes Group Plc
8

Method toilet cleaner [A]

Company Profile: Method Products Ltd
8

Parazone bleach toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Jeyes Group Plc
8

Ecover toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Ecover NV
7.5

Frish toilet cleaner

Company Profile: McBride plc
7.5

Bref

Company Profile: Henkel AG & Co. KGaA
7

Duck toilet cleaner

Company Profile: SC Johnson & Son Inc
7

Mr Muscle toilet cleaner

Company Profile: SC Johnson & Son Inc
7

Cillit Bang toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC
4.5

Harpic toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC
4.5

Cif toilet cleaner

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
2

Domestos cleaners

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
2

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

The score table covers toilet cleaners. Supermarket shelves are full of rows and rows of different cleaners for different household jobs, all seemingly with different formulations specially devised for the job, but in reality, most cleaners contain the same basic ingredients. 

There is a separate guide to other household cleaners.

However, some ingredients are toxic, most are based on petrochemicals from the oil industry and most use antibacterial chemicals and synthetic fragrances. None of these ingredients are necessary. 

Image: ethical consumer guide to toilet cleaner

Fortunately there are a number of plant based and more natural cleaners available.

Plus you can make your own from simpler products such as white vinegar and soda crystals. Dri Pak makes these basic ingredients.

Bleach

Toilet cleaners usually contain chlorine bleach to kill off bacteria and microbes. Many mainstream toilet cleaner makers portray the toilet bowl as one of the dirtiest places in the house and we need to use these deadly chemicals to keep ourselves safe.

Chlorine bleach (aka sodium hypochlorite)  is a corrosive chemical, toxic if ingested, an eye and respiratory irritant, can irritate the lungs and eyes, and in waterways can become toxic organochlorines, compounds rarely found in nature and which can take centuries to decompose. The industry says that chlorine bleach traces are present at such low concentrations in waste waters, that there is no real possibility of the formation of trace toxic by-products.

According to Lucy Siegle in The Guardian:

"But the real ethical issue centres around manufacture. Bleach is from the organochlorine family of chemicals, compounds rarely found in nature and which can take centuries to decompose. Greenpeace has called for a complete end to organochlorine production.

“Bleach does the job, but what is the job and is it necessary? As we live in the Age of Bacteria immunologist, Gerald N Callahan, sums up: 'Neither humans nor micro-organisms benefit from fully destroying the other. This is not a war, as it has often been described, even though we have an impressive array of weapons - bactericidal cribs and mattresses, toilet cleaners... If it were (a war), we would have lost long ago, overpowered by sheer numbers and evolutionary speed. This is... like a waltz that will last for all of human history. We must hold to our partners carefully and dance well.'"

Palm Oil

Two brands in this guide are owned by palm oil free companies:

Libby Chan and Earth Friendly Products.

Bentley Organics, Sodasan, Sonett and Ecoleaf are owned by companies that get our best rating for palm oil because they use sustainable palm oil.

Toxic chemicals

We have rated all the companies for their toxic chemicals policies. The companies which received a best rating had a policy because they had banned the use of parabens, phthalates and triclosan (see our feature on toxic chemicals for why we have chosen these chemicals) were:

  • Greenscents
  • Bentley Organics
  • Bio-D
  • Faith in Nature
  • Earth Friendly
  • Ecozone
  • Libby Chan
  • Lilly’s Eco Clean

Animal testing

In October 2015, the UK Government banned the testing of ‘finished’ household products on animals and introduced a ‘qualified ban’ on testing the ingredients on animals. But it’ll make little difference to animal welfare. This is because no animals have been used for testing ‘finished’ household products in the UK since 2010. It’s usually the ingredients not the ‘finished’ products that are tested on animals. 

Ethical Consumer rates all companies selling cosmetics on their animal testing policy. Companies will score a best rating if they have a policy not to test on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals), and are not selling to markets, such as China, where animal testing of products is required by law.

Libby Chan, Greenscents, Bio-D, Faith in Nature, Earth Friendly, Ecozone, Ecoleaf, Lilly’s Eco Clean, Astonish, Method, Dri Pak and Ecover all received our best rating for animal testing.

Ecover has been targeted for animal testing in recent years.

Make your own

Pour 1 cup of borax substitute into the toilet before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush. For an extra-strength cleaner, add 1/4 cup vinegar to the borax substitute.

A natural disinfectant can be made by mixing two parts water to one part vinegar or lemon juice.

See Dri Pak tips for more information.

Company Profile

The American household giant SC Johnson and Son Inc produces the Shout, Mr Muscle and Duck brands. The company has operations in six oppressive regimes (China, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Vietnam and Venezuela) and also has three subsidiaries in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer’s list of tax havens.

On the issue of toxics, the company had phased out its use of phthalates but did not have dated targets for the phase-out of parabens and triclosan and so received our worst rating on toxics.

On ending animal testing, the company stated that it had given this “a lot of thought” but “we’re not there yet”, blaming “stringent legal and regulatory requirements of countries around the world” for its failure. Without a clear and dated commitment to ending animal testing for all products, SC Johnson could receive no more than our worst rating for animal testing.

 Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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