We Spill The Tea On Using An English Breakfast Brew To Clean Our Toilet

The relaxing feeling of preparing and sipping tea to calm your mind, body, and soul is so pure that you almost have to wonder what else tea can do. Well, wonder no more! The internet has once again posed the question, and I am here to answer. Tea bags can act as a secret weapon against a smelly fridge, but can they clean a dirty toilet bowl? And would you even want to use this method? I took the plunge (no pun intended) so you wouldn't have to, and I sacrificed some of my precious tea in the name of science. There are a lot of ways to repurpose used tea bags around the house, so why not as a gentle cleaner? Even the Farmer's Almanac suggests putting your tea leaves to the test for a sparkling toilet bowl, so it might be worth a try.

Tea bags supposedly help remove hard-to-clean stains in your toilet bowl, making them an alternative to harsh chemicals. A used tea bag contains tannins, which could potentially be used to scrub away dirt and grime because their antimicrobial properties can fight the bacteria that could be contributing to those toilet rings. I wanted to test out this cleaning hack for myself.

Testing the tea bag hack on toilet rings

To prepare for my tea bag toilet cleaning, I found that most online sources explain the bag must be "used." I boiled my water and made a cup of tea, letting the bag steep for three minutes to make a strong cup without soaking it too long, since I wasn't sure how "powerful" the pouch would be if it sat too long in the hot mug. I opted for a standard English breakfast black tea which I brought back from the UK because it has the highest amount of tannins. I also had a standard toilet brush ready and a small plate to carry the hot tea bag around (although I did let it cool before adding it to the toilet).

I decided to try this "hack" on our seldom-used Jack and Jill guest room toilet which hadn't seen much use for a few weeks, if not longer. A water ring had formed inside the toilet, which is what I wanted to try and get out with the tea bag hack. The bowl wasn't so dirty as to make it impossible to tell if the hack would work, but the ring was obvious enough inside that I would be able to tell if the bag actually did clean the porcelain. One source suggested using three or four teabags, but I wanted to start with one to avoid a clog and to see how it might work.

It's not the most appealing way to clean a toilet

The same source said to just throw the bags in and wait around 15-20 minutes, so I dropped the tea bag in the toilet and opted to let it sit for 20 minutes before attempting to scrub it with a brush. I kept checking to see if the tea turned the water brown from the tannins, which it did but not a super dark color.

Another source suggested leaving the tea bag in overnight, but I decided to try the shorter time first. Once my timer was up, I chose to use a toilet brush to scrub both the bag and water around the rings, although some websites said you could simply flush after letting the tea bags soak. The tea bag immediately split when using the scrubbing brush, releasing the contents which then covered the inner bowl. I swished them around along with the bag, figuring they might act as an extra scrubber. 

The general understanding I got from the online searches was that people flushed these bags after throwing them in, but I didn't want to risk damaging my pipes, since people should only flush the three P's: pee, (toilet) paper, and poo (via Portland Environmental Services Government). However, when I tried fishing it out using the toilet brush, it had sunk to the very bottom of the bowl towards the pipes and had to be flushed.

Besides making a mess, this tea bag trick didn't do much

I noticed the darker build-up scrubbed away as I applied the toilet brush, but I am not sure whether that was because of the tool or the teabag. A lighter ring still remained. Although the bowl did look generally cleaner, the results was unimpressive. While the thicker, darker ring definitely dispersed through scrubbing, there is still a stain visible. I am fairly squeamish, and when cleaning with the tea bag it looked like someone had left waste behind. Once it split it was mildly disgusting since the water turned brown. When cleaning a toilet, it is my opinion you don't want the bowl to look like it's still dirty. Another con is that this process left me with some concern about flushing the tea bag, since I was not able to remove it.

I can't be certain the act of just scrubbing the ring didn't make the toilet cleaner. This hack might work if a new ring has just appeared, but if the waterline stain has been there for a while like ours had, it's not the best choice. For tougher stains, I would probably use bleach or a natural substitute toilet cleaner like vinegar mixed with baking soda for the stuck-on limescale. Tea is perfectly suited for its role as a cozy comfort drink, but cleaning toilets is better left to other household products.