Toilet Cleaners

Finding eco-friendly and cruelty-free toilet cleaners. We rank the ethical and environmental record of 23 toilet cleaner brands, investigate plastic packaging, animal testing, bleach and toxic chemicals, look at vegan and organic options and how to make your own, 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.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying toilet cleaner:

  • Is it a refill product? If you want to cut out unnecessary packaging and plastic then choosing a refill product is a good way to go.

  • 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 it. 

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

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.

  • Is it using animal testing? Although animal testing for finished household products is banned in the UK, lots of companies still use ingredients that are tested on animals. If you want avoid animal testing, we’d advise only buying from companies that ensure ingredients they source aren’t tested on animals.  

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Score table

Updated live from our research database

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Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

Finding an eco-friendly toilet cleaner

We look at the key environmental issues, and the most eco-friendly and cruelty-free options.

Most toilet cleaners contain the same basic ingredients, although some use more bleach, while others are palm oil free, vegan-friendly or organic. 

Nearly all come in plastic bottles, although many companies are making moves to reduce single-use plastics with either recycled plastic content, concentrates, refills, no plastic packaging at all or even no packaging.

We identify which are doing that best, and show how to make your own environmentally-friendly toilet cleaner from white vinegar and soda crystals.

Image: ethical consumer guide to toilet cleaner

Damaging ingredients in toilet cleaners

Chlorine 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.'"

 

Other 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:

 

Palm Oil in toilet cleaners

Some of the brands we reviewed are completely palm oil free across all products. They were: Bide, Greenscents and Planet Detox.

Greenscents was certified as palm oil free by the International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark POFCAP.

Several others (Bio-D, Fill Refill, Miniml, SESI, Sodasan, and Splosh) scored our best rating for stating that all of their palm ingredients, including derivatives, were certified by the RSPO.

 

Animal testing and cruelty-free toilet cleaners

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.

The following brands scored best ratings for their Animal Testing policy: Astonish, ATTITUDE, Bio-D, Bide, ecoleaf, Ecozone, Fill Refill, Greenscents, Miniml, Planet Detox, SESI and Sodasan.

Those whose entire product range was certified as cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny were Astonish, ATTITUDE, Bio-D, ecoleaf, Ecozone, Fill Refill, Sodasan and Greenscents.

Ecover has been targeted for the animal testing of its parent company, SC Johnson.

 

Vegan toilet cleaners

Virtually all the toilet cleaners in this guide were either certified or marketed as vegan except for brands made by multinational companies at the bottom of the score table: Easy, Duck, Cillit Bang, Harpic and Domestos.

 

Organic toilet cleaners

Only two products in this guide were certified as organic, Greenscents and Bentley Organics. They are marked on the score table with [O].

 

Shelf in shop with refill bottles of detergent

Reducing plastic waste

Most toilet cleaners come in single-use plastic bottles. We noted five main innovations for conscious consumers: refills, bulk buying, concentrates, alternative products and making your own.

Liquid refill stations

Using refill stations significantly reduces the plastic impact of your purchases. This is the best option because super large containers can be used.

Once a fringe ethical phenomenon, more and more shops and companies are now offering refills. And it’s not just health food shops, alternative supermarkets and zero waste stores.

Refill only brands

We’ve also seen a boom in consumer interest in refill-focused companies, like Splosh, SESI, Fill Refill and Miniml, who only sell products to refill an existing bottle with.

SESI, Fill Refill and Miniml have wide networks of refill stations, and Fill Refill and Miniml sell directly to consumers too. Splosh send concentrated refill pouches (which you can return to them for recycling) in the post. All of these companies were awarded a positive Company Ethos mark for their focus on refills.

Bulk-buying

Many other companies included in this guide also offered bulk sizes (2 litres to 20 litres) to consumers so they can 'refill at home': ATTITUDE, Bio-D, ecoleaf, Eco-max, Ecover, Greenscents, and Sonett. Although the plastic impact of bulk purchasing is lower than buying individual bottles, only Greenscents containers can be returned for reuse.

You can also look for bulk containers made from recycled plastics such as Bio-D’s 5 litre bottles or other innovative solutions such as Greenscents’ biopolymer bottles made from sugar cane waste.

A recent Which? report (May 2021) stated that large bottles of household cleaning products used 47% less plastic and needed less space to be transported.

Both refills and bulk purchases re usually a much cheaper way to buy your household cleaners too.

Concentrated products

The main ingredient in household cleaners is water. Refilling with a concentrated solution that you dilute at home significantly reduces the amount of water being unnecessarily transported around and therefore cuts down on carbon emissions. Plus, they use less packaging.

Which? magazine recently assessed (May 2021) the environmental impact of different household cleaning products and found that concentrated products used 75% less plastic packaging and 97% less water. The report also found that refill pouches, like those sold by Splosh, used 85% less plastic.

Bide, Planet Detox, Splosh, Eco-Vibe all sold concentrated products.

Plastic free toilet cleaners

Even when bought in bulk or at a refill station, in its liquid form, toilet cleaners necessitates a reliance on plastic packaging to some extent.

Promisingly, we have found a number of alternative products that offer a completely plastic-free solution to your dishwashing needs.

Ecovibe, Planet Detox and Bide all offer products which circumnavigate the need for plastic packaging. Ecovibe concentrated powder is packaged in glass, Planet Detox scrub powder comes in a paper bag and Bide toilet bombs come in a cardboard box.

We have awarded a whole positive Product Sustainability mark to these companies for offering innovative plastic-free products.

Packaging, refills, bulk sizes and concentrates - who sells what

None of the big best-selling brands were making an effort with their plastic packaging. All were using single use, virgin plastic bottles.

Least plastic use

  • Greenscents – bulk sizes, which can be returned to them for reuse, and refill stations. Standard size bottles made from biopolymer, from waste sugar cane
  • Bio D – bulk sizes and refill stations. Majority of single bottles and bulk sizes are 100% Recycled plastic, apart from 20 litre bulk refill containers.
  • Bide - no plastic packaging and concentrated products
  • SESI – refill only from stockists
  • Fill Refill - Supplied in 500ml glass bottles & jars and/or 10l bag-in-box for home refill. Bag can be returned to them for refill. Or refill at stockists.
  • Miniml – buy filled PET or glass bottles and/or 5l or 20l containers to refill from home. Containers can be returned to them for reuse. Or refill from stockist.
  • Ecoleaf by Suma – 5l and 20l bulk sizes for refill at home and refill stations. All bottles and bulk containers are 100% recycled plastic

Medium plastic use

  • Splosh – buy a filled plastic bottle then buy through the post concentrated pouches of cleaners. Pouches can be returned to Splosh for reuse or recycling.
  • Bentley Organics – no info re sustainability of its packaging

Other toiler cleaner brands

  • Attitude – Standard bottles are recycled plastic. 2L eco-refill boxes are plastic bag in a box which can be put in recycling
  • Eco-Max – 1 litre plastic bottles and 4 litre refill containers.
  • Ecover - most bottles use 75% PlantPlastic, from sugar cane, and 25% recycled plastic. Toilet cleaner is 50% recycled. 5 litre Bulk sizes and refill stations.
  • Eco Vibe - concentrated powder in a glass jar.
  • Ecozone bottles either 100% or 50% recycled plastic. Some bulk sizes.
  • Planet Detox – no plastic packaging, toilet scrub powder. Come wrapped in paper or in a paper bag.
  • Sodasan bottles 100% recycled pet or glass
  • Sonett – 5l, 10l and 20l bulk sizes but bottles are virgin plastic.

Toilet cleaner brands with no information about packaging and refills

  • Reckitt Benckiser brands – Cillit Bang, Harpic
  • Domestos – Unilever
  • Duck - Sc Johnson
  • Astonish
  • Easy
  • Bentley Organic

Make your own toilet cleaner

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.

Flush some soda crystals down the pan to clean and freshen it and to prevent blockages. Soda crystals can also be used to clean toilet brushes.

White vinegar will clear limescale from the lavatory bowl. Just add it to the bowl and leave it overnight before flushing away.

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

NB: please check the safety and toxicity information that comes with these chemicals because they can be skin and respiratory irritants.

Company Profile

Fill Refill manufactures all its products in its own factory in Northamptonshire and has grown out of a family business called Ideal Manufacturing which began in 1980. It is working with the University of Northumbria on a way to enable professional laundries to wash at low temperatures without chlorine bleach or aggressive chemistry and to reduce microfibre shedding. It donates 1% of its turnover to environmental causes as part of its membership of ‘1% for the Planet’.

 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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