The Best Toilet Brush

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After spending more than 30 hours researching toilet cleaning, comparing 41 brush and holder models, interviewing a nationally renowned researcher in household germs—not to mention scrubbing three toilets a total of 48 times and comparing our test notes with professional housekeepers—we’re sure the $6 Lysol Bowl Brush with Rim Extension and Caddy is the best toilet brush you can buy. Like a lot of good toilet brushes, it can clean a toilet well, but what sets this one apart is its overall design—especially the caddy—that makes it easier to use, clean, and keep germ free. 

Last Updated: One month ago
We’ve added a few suggestions for toilet cleaning gels to the section on How to clean and maintain a toilet.
Expand Most Recent Updates
Two years ago: The Lysol Bowl Brush with Rim Extension and Caddy has held up well after six months of regular use in a two-person household. The bristles are in fairly good shape, the wand remains straight and un-bent, and the holding caddy (bowl) free of stains. The spiky rim-cleaning bristle extension seems slightly bent, but still does its job. We’ll keep the brush around for another six months, then examine whether it needs a replacement for reasons beyond sanitary upkeep.
Two years ago: We spent more than 30 hours on research, scrubbed three toilets 48 different times, and compared notes with professional housekeepers to find the $6 Lysol Bowl Brush is the best toilet brush for most bathrooms. The caddy is the simplest to use, clean, and disinfect of any we tested, as well as the only caddy that allowed the brush bristles to dry out completely. Of course, it can also clean a toilet well.
Lysol Bowl Brush
In addition to great toilet cleaning power, this brush comes with a unique holder and design that makes it easier to use and clean than the competition.

The brush is a good length and has a solid grip, with bristles that are stiff enough to scrub yet flexible enough to not flick water at you. A special set of longer bristles reaches far under the bowl rim to get to the deepest, dirtiest parts of the bowl.

The detail that sets the Lysol brush apart is primarily the holder, or caddy—it’s the simplest to clean of any we tested. Among the competition, only this caddy has a plain, seamless bowl that you can easily disinfect and wipe out—no hidden crevices, no water-collecting cavities, and no risk of leaking out germ-laden liquid lurking inside. This was also the only stand able to lift the brush off the caddy bottom, letting the bristles dry out completely, unlike other stands that let the bristles sit in the muck or hide in a dark shell with no airflow. The base is stable and wide enough to not tip over, with a rubber ring on the bottom that lightly grips the floor to prevent sliding when you remove the brush or seat it in its notched holder. And at $6 for a whole new set (or just $3 apiece for new brush heads), the Lysol brush is cheap enough to easily change out each year. 

Also Great
Clorox Bright Blue Flexible Toilet Brush
Its narrow holder has a smaller footprint, but it’s easier to tip over. The brush, exclusive to Target, has a flexible neck that can bend under a toilet rim or reach deep into the bowl.
If you have a tiny bathroom, you might want a brush stand that takes up less floor space. In that case, a Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush (just over $9 with holder, about $6 without) offers similar appeal to the Lysol—almost as cheap to replace, a holder that’s almost as easy to clean—and a base that’s only 3½ inches in diameter, compared with the Lysol’s 7- by-5½-inch bottom.

Of course, that has a drawback: This base is more likely to tip over than the Lysol model. The holder hides the brush a little better than the Lysol, but that also means its bristles can’t dry out as easily, so it’s more prone to collecting liquid and germs. The brush itself features a neck that bends to reach under the toilet’s rim and deep into the bowl. It does the job, but there’s one more catch: It’s hard to find anywhere outside of Target’s website or stores.

Also Great
OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush and Canister
This brush has the best bristles of any brush we tested, with a base that conceals the brush but still lets the head dry out. At $16, it’s pricy, and its holder is trickier to clean than some others.
 The OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush has the best bristles of any brush we tested. Bristles aren’t everything in cleaning a toilet, but OXO brushes are unique in that they actually offer different levels of cleaning: There are stiff rim-scrubbing bristles paired with gentle bowl-brushing fibers, with a corrugated shape that can pick up substantial grime without flicking much water. The holder conceals the brush head, but lets enough air circulate to prevent mildew. The base has a hinge and crevices, so it’s harder to clean than a basic bowl—but unlike some similar brush-hiding designs we tested, it is possible to clean every surface here. The brush and canister cost $16, a premium price that at least gets you three color options. And there’s a bit of a break on replacement brush heads, which are only $6 each on Amazon. 

Table of contents

Why you should listen to me

There is more to toilet brushes than most of us realize. We learned this by talking to a lot of people who spend their lives thinking about toilets, germs, cleaning, and sanitation. (We also cleaned a lot of toilets—more on that in a minute.) Our experts include:

Beyond interviews, we did as much research as we could with the very sparse editorial material out there about toilet brushes, toilet cleaning, and microbial spread in the bathroom. I read through the relevant sections of medical journal articles, cleaning guides and blogs, and the book Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari, by science journalist Nicholas Bakalar.

Should you buy a new toilet brush?

toilet brushes on a shelf

The many, many toilet brush options at a Bed Bath & Beyond.

Most of us are probably using our toilet brushes incorrectly, leaving our brush holders festering with hidden germs and keeping our brushes around for far too long.

Many of the experts we talked to suggested replacing your toilet brush “every few months,” or “when you can see the bristles are bent.”

Many of the experts we talked to suggested replacing your toilet brush “every few months,” or “when you can see the bristles are bent.” You can sensibly extend the life of your brush if you regularly spray it, and its holder, with disinfectant or bleach solution. But it is not just bacteria that should prompt a toilet brush replacement. As you wear out and flatten your brush’s bristles, you can eventually start scraping the handle itself against porcelain, causing scratches—and creating new places for germs to hide.

You probably have a toilet brush already, but don’t keep it around forever. Our picks are relatively inexpensive and easy to buy, and, for toilet brushes, they’re pretty attractive.

How we picked and tested

Most of us try not to think too much about what we’re doing when we clean a toilet. But when we really did consider it for our tests, we realized that the best toilet brush must meet some key criteria. The brush has to reach all the parts of the toilet bowl and scrub it effectively. The holder has to be stable, easy to clean, small enough to fit in a tight bathroom, and designed to allow the brush head to dry. The brush handle must be long enough to keep your hand clean, but short enough to let you work around the bowl, ideally clad in a nice material that you can grip with some force when you’re really scrubbing. And the product should be cheap enough to replace regularly without giving the purchase a second thought.

toilet brushes on floor

All the toilet brushes we tested, narrowed down from a field of more than 40.

Applying this criteria, we began with a field of more than 40 brushes. Some were prohibitively expensive—really, a toilet brush should not be a big investment. Some were high-end brush holders with cheap, non-replaceable brushes inside. Many could only be bought at one or two stores or online retailers, so they weren’t convenient to replace when needed. Most brushes simply had nothing to distinguish themselves from hundreds of other cheap, white-plastic brushes. And some had terrible reviews. We looked for brushes that people liked, with some basic feature to separate them from the pack, and a combination of price and availability that would allow readers to easily buy one now and then replace it each year.

I did the obvious thing: I used them to clean toilets. I cleaned three different toilets, used by real humans, at an office space and two different households, roughly twice each, with each of the eight finalists.

After narrowing the field to eight finalists, I did the obvious thing: I used them to clean toilets. I cleaned three different toilets, used by real humans, at an office space and two different households, roughly twice each, with each of the eight finalists. That’s approximately 48 scrubbing sessions in total. We also judged each toilet brush holder to see if it would be easy to clean, hard to tip over, and able to let wet bristles dry out after use. Then, to get a regular homeowner’s take on our picks, we gathered up 24 (surprisingly opinionated) friends and acquaintances, 13 men and 11 women, who offered their judgments on the appearance, design, and features of our finalist brushes.

Our pick

Lysol Bowl Brush
In addition to great toilet cleaning power, this brush comes with a unique holder and design that makes it easier to use and clean than the competition.

The Lysol Bowl Brush with Rim Extension and Caddy ($6) is a solid scrubbing tool that is easy to use, store, clean, and replace. This feels like the brush our experts would have designed themselves—minus, perhaps, the bright green accents. Like any good toilet brush, it can clean a toilet well, but its thoughtful handle and caddy design are what make it stand apart from the competition.

green and white lysol toilet brush

The Lysol Bowl Brush in its holder/caddy.

The round, white bristles on the Lysol hit a midpoint between stiff enough to scrub and remove buildup and discoloration, but not so inflexible that they flick water around when turned or brought past an edge, like some other brushes we tried. When you rotate the brush head to scrub the bowl surface, it maintains its shape, and the dense arrangement of bristles enables controlled cleaning. They also flex just enough to allow you to get at awkward corners and a bit into the bottom of the bowl. For cleaning everything but the very deepest corner under the bowl rim, they work just fine.

To get to those deep under-the-rim areas, the brush also has a second set of bristles: a vibrant lime-green set of tufts jutting out from the brush a bit farther than the other bristles. It takes a few seconds to figure out the right angle for the green bristles the first time you use this brush, and then you’re off and scrubbing. This rim extension is not absolutely necessary, but it does help, and I found it useful for reaching the back areas of the toilets I cleaned. The brush’s bristles contain an “antimicrobial agent” that brush maker Quickie (licensing the Lysol brand) claims will last the life of the brush, inhibiting the growth of odor-causing bacteria and mold. We’ll be holding onto this brush for a while to test this.

Germ expert Dr. Charles Gerba told us that … toilet brushes and their stands “tend to get pretty contaminated” from both cleaning work and the aerosol spray of normal bathroom use.
rim scrubbing extension of lysol toilet brush

The rim-scrubbing extension on the Lysol brush.

The real standout feature of this brush set, even beyond the brush itself, is actually the brush’s base—a simple, plastic, lightweight 7- by-5½-inch stand that doesn’t look like anything you’d see in a Restoration Hardware catalog. But it was, among all the stands we tested, the easiest to disinfect and clean out. That’s because it’s a seamless open bowl with no crevices, corners, or cavities that can hide toilet water or germs inside. Germ expert Dr. Charles Gerba told us that, in an as-yet unreleased study, his researchers found that toilet brushes and their stands “tend to get pretty contaminated” from both cleaning work and the aerosol spray of normal bathroom use. Being able to quickly and easily clean and disinfect a brush and holder, Gerba agreed, was a small victory in the endless battle against the spread of bacteria and disease.

This was also the only container that lifted its brush off the caddy bottom. A notch at the top of the caddy grips the brush midway along its handle, suspending the brush head so its bristles can dry out completely. On other caddies, the brush heads sit in a puddle of toilet water, or hide inside a dark shell with no airflow. The Lysol design, obviously, is a lot more sanitary.

The base is wide and stable enough that it won’t be knocked over by anything short of a direct kick. When removing and inserting the brush, a light rubber grip along the holder’s bottom edge keeps it in place on the floor. (We actually tested this, by sticking a dot on the floor and seeing how much the stand moved in normal use—and really, it’s not much at all.) This is not the smallest stand we tested, but depending on your bathroom space and layout, you can possibly tuck it behind your toilet, which is handy.

lysol toilet brush holder

The Lysol Bowl Brush caddy/holder.

The brush’s overall size is smaller than some we tested, which is an advantage. It weighs four ounces and is 15 inches long—that’s long enough to keep your hands away from the dirty work, but not so long as to cramp your hands when you’re angling to get up and into the rim, a problem we had with 17-inch or 18.5-inch brushes (which also cost a great deal more). While not exactly flexible, the handle is not so rigid that you feel like you’re going to snap it if you press it into your bowl or against a back crevice.

The brush’s grip comes to a slightly flattened and flared oval at its end, with a softer rubberized pad in the center for your thumb and fingertips. When you’re cleaning the bowl at bent-elbow angles, and pressing the brush head forward with only your wrist strength, this extra bit of purchase on the handle really helps.

lysol toilet brush handle

The grip on the Lysol Bowl Brush.

The price, for what you get, is hard to beat. A Lysol brush with a caddy costs $6 on Amazon, and you get Prime two-day shipping if you add it to an order of more than $25. Replacement brushes are just over $3, also available with free add-on Prime shipping. If Amazon sells out, you could likely find the brush and caddy at Lowe’s, Walmart, or Home Depot, or another store near you.

Reviews of the brush on Amazon (and everywhere else) are positive. It’s the best-selling toilet brush and holder in the Bathroom Accessories category, with plenty of compliments and recommendations. “The white part of the brush does a really good job of getting under the rim easily, too, so I haven’t had to use the green (extension) yet,” N. Gregg wrote. “The short handle makes it easier to get up and under the rim,” stated “Eco Shopper.” “Before seeing this brush, I had been using a regular brush to clean (under the rim) but it isn’t nearly as effective, and it (flicked) those particles everywhere,” Sandy G. explained.

Reactions among friends were positive, if qualified with practicality. One friend (mid-30s, female, city apartment) said it looked “Straightforward to access and store, and I like its little goatee for under-rim scrubbing.” Another (mother of three, mid-50s, suburban home) said the Lysol brush “allows ventilation of a wet brush,” and the “base seems somewhat broad—nobody likes a tippy toilet brush!” Others said it “looks clean” and “will allow for breathing after (becoming) wet,” and that the compact handle and corner-friendly shape would work for a Brooklyn apartment.

Last, our housekeeper testers liked the way this brush worked, and for one of them it was her pick among the finalists. Consider that a professional endorsement.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

As you might expect, a $6 product made of plastic is not perfect.

The notch at the top of the holder grips the brush for storage, but getting the hang of it can be frustrating. You can’t simply drop this brush into the holder, or even place the brush head down and let the brush fall back into it. You have to seat it into the notch at a high angle, and not too fast—it requires some finesse, and it can be a tricky maneuver when you’re reaching in a narrow space between a toilet and vanity. But our housekeepers think you would get the hang of putting this brush back after one or two uses.

When the brush is seated in the notch, it’s not the most stable grip, and a rambunctious kid/dog/cat could possibly knock the brush forward and off its perch. The holder itself is stable, but you really don’t want a dirty brush to go flying, so you’ll be limited to storing it where it can’t be jostled.

A couple of reviewers mention rusting bristles, or rust near the bristles, as an issue. We’ll keep an eye on this brush over a year or more of testing, but it’s a rare complaint that could possibly result from improper drying, or storage in a very damp environment.

Some friends surveying this brush’s looks said the Lysol model did “not stand out in any way,” was “just kind of blah,” or disliked the open style in general. One person’s nondescript is another person’s blah, but it’s fair to say our runner-up and upgrade picks are generally better looking.

Long-term test notes

The Lysol Bowl Brush with Rim Extension and Caddy has held up well after six months of regular use in a two-person household (as of fall 2015). The bristles are in fairly good shape, the wand remains straight and un-bent, and the holding caddy (bowl) free of stains. The spiky rim-cleaning bristle extension seems slightly bent, but still does its job. We’ll keep the brush around for another six months, then examine whether it needs a replacement for reasons beyond sanitary upkeep.

The runner-up: Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush

Also Great
Clorox Bright Blue Flexible Toilet Brush
Its narrow holder has a smaller footprint, but it’s easier to tip over. The brush, exclusive to Target, has a flexible neck that can bend under a toilet rim or reach deep into the bowl.

If you can’t find our main pick, or you want more of the brush hidden, or floor space in your bathroom is limited, or, perhaps, blue works better than green in your bathroom’s color palette, then the $9.29 Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush Kit and a few replacement brushes make a solid backup option.

The biggest distinction with the Clorox brush is its smaller base—it’s just under 3½ inches in diameter at the bottom, whereas the Lysol was 7 by 5½. It’s also taller, and hides all but the very base of the brush head, so it has subtlety going for it. Like the Lysol, it’s possible to clean every surface of the base (but it’s not quite as easy, which we’ll explain).

blue toilet brush and holder

The Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush, in its holder (shot from a low angle).

The brush itself is 16 inches long, just a half inch longer than the Lysol. Its neck is indeed flexible and can bend to roughly a 45-degree angle. That flexibility essentially makes up for its lack of a rim-scrubbing extension, as you can get farther into deep rim spaces. The bristles each have a slight ripple, or corrugation, to them, and are packed at about the same density as the Lysol brush head. Being able to flex them a bit allowed me to “skip” the bristles across grime and discoloration, which helped with cleaning. 

close up of blue toilet brush

The neck of the Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush.

The grip is a simple flat handle with a large oval cut out; you can grip it across its wider side for tougher scrubbing, or along its thinner side for angles and slight movements.

As with the Lysol, Clorox claims this brush to be “made with antimicrobial materials to help inhibit the growth of bacteria,” and that said materials are manufactured into the brush so it “won’t wash off, or wear away over time.” Clorox, which licenses its brand to an outside manufacturer for this brush, could not clarify its antibacterial claim, and could not provide a contact for the manufacturer.

close up of blue toilet brush handle

The grip on the Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The stand’s narrower width and taller height may be great for storage, but it’s much easier than the Lysol to accidentally knock over. It’s also harder to clean—it’s deeper, and it has a small divot at the bottom, so it requires a bit more work with a towel or sponge to get in and around it to disinfect it. The good news is you can reach every part of it if you try.

The flexible neck is handy, but if you really bend it hard, you can slightly deform the brush. After that, the brush may not sit up perfectly straight in the holder again, adding more instability to the base.

Because this holder conceals most of the brush head, you don’t get a ton of airflow to the bristles at the tip. This makes it take a little longer than the Lysol to fully dry, and it lets more toilet water collect in the bottom of the caddy, which can promote bacteria growth. If you don’t dry the brush thoroughly,  some will drop into the bottom divot and remain unevaporated, and possibly remain in contact with the bristle tips. Unlike the Lysol caddy, this one does not suspend the brush above the bowl bottom.

Last, the product is not as easy to buy and replace as our first pick. You can find the brush and the holder at Target, either in a store or, often, online (that item link contains both a brush and holder; it’s just the image that is missing). It seems to be in stock at Targets near many ZIP codes across quite a few states. You can replace the flexible brush with another flexible brush, if your local Target has one, or a $4 non-flexible blue Clorox brush that fits the holder.

The better-looking upgrade: OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush

Also Great
OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush and Canister
This brush has the best bristles of any brush we tested, with a base that conceals the brush but still lets the head dry out. At $16, it’s pricy, and its holder is trickier to clean than some others.

For a brush with excellent bristles and a holder that totally hides the business end from view, the $16 OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush and Canister is your best bet in the middle-to-upper tier of toilet brushes. It’s not cheap, but it is a better deal than the more expensive models we saw (including ones made by OXO).

The superior bristles are the real selling point of this kit. They are nylon, not the standard polypropylene, and arranged on the brush head with two stiffness levels: The white bristles at the top of the bullet/cone head are stiffer for under-rim cleaning, while the longer blue bristles on bottom provide more give as you scrub the bowl. A corrugated texture lets each bristle pick up substantial grime without flicking much water.

white and blue toilet brush

An OXO Compact brush with replacement head, slightly unscrewed. The “biscuit”-colored brush arm doesn’t match the white replacement head, but it doesn’t matter when it’s inside the holder.

You can buy a replaceable head for the OXO Compact brush for $6 from Amazon, and you can occasionally find the heads in stock at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond. OXO product head Michael Delavante told me that full brush kits far outsell replacement heads, which is unfortunate. The plastic on the replacement head I bought from Amazon fit perfectly, but the color wasn’t an exact match. Be sure not to throw away the black plastic coupling on your brush along with the head (a female end), as it’s what the replacement head needs to fit onto the brush.

With an overall length of 16.5 inches, the OXO Compact brush is an inch or two shorter than its OXO cousins, even though it’s the longest of the three brushes we recommend. This shorter length is a plus, as the longer models could feel somewhat punishing on my wrists and elbows moving through certain angles.

The OXO Compact model’s round base is just under 5 inches in diameter. A spring and weighted hinge flip the holder open when you pull up on the brush. It stays open, then closes when you insert the brush and push it up and back in. This conceals the brush head, and there are no inaccessible crevices or bottom wells that will collect brush drippings. It is also stable and not easy to tip over. But it has its flaws, which we’ll get to in a minute.

This OXO model holds a 4.6-star rating on Amazon, with 303 reviews as of this writing. A reviewer named Kindle Customer hit several common themes: “Well-designed and good-looking (for a toilet bowl brush), small and discreet, this little guy not only melds into the bathroom scenery, but carries out its intended function spectacularly. It puts to shame all those other bowl brushes we’ve all accumulated over the years.” Another reviewer, JR YS, has to clean every few days due to iron deposits. He’s bought a total of three for different rooms: “This product loses a star only for the price, but it’s well-designed and fully functional … and I just can’t get myself to say I love a toilet brush.”

The holder and brush are offered in white, black, or “biscuit” (beige). My surveyed friends and family found it, essentially, inoffensive. “It’s simple (and) has great potential to go unnoticed,” a house-dwelling friend in her early 30s told me. “Fine, but not necessarily the best,” wrote an early 30s man in an apartment. One friend critiqued the beige color as suggesting public toilet design; another said the OXO “looks like a Comic Sans exclamation point.” To each their own.

toilet brush holder

The OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush Holder, staying open while the brush is removed. It’s a bit tricky, but you can get under the holding cup for cleaning.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The OXO Compact is not our primary pick because its container, which keeps the brush discreet, also creates some problems. It’s not the easiest to clean, for certain—the Lysol is the clear winner there. Air does circulate, but not very well, so you’ll want to drip-dry your brush thoroughly before placing it in a dark container. Three reviewers on Amazon saw rusty leaking problems, but having that much water on your brush when you put it away is not a great idea in general. And a handful had trouble removing OXO’s branding sticker from the base; I could use my fingernails to get every bit off.

The handle is simply a flared knob at the end of the brush. It’s fine for a relatively quick cleaning, but without any grip on it, tougher scrubbing and angled scrubbing can bother your wrist and fingers.

Beyond that, the price is nearly three times that of our main pick. Replacement heads aren’t so expensive, but they are hard to find on a lot of store shelves. And if you buy the black or biscuit brush and holder, you might be bothered by having to screw on a mismatched white replacement head.

How to clean and maintain a toilet (and a toilet brush)

Everyone we spoke to for this guide said the vast majority of homes keep toilet brushes around for too long. “Cleaning supplies need to be clean, and should be replaced more often than most people have a tendency to replace,” said Debra Johnson, cleaning expert with Merry Maids. How often you should replace depends on how often you clean, but summarizing our experts: four months would be nice, six months is better than average, and most toilet brushes are done for after a year of regular use. If yours is older than that, then at least check to see if your bristles are bent, and if there is notable discoloration, mildew, or mold.

When the cleaners working for the Don Aslett service clean a toilet, they first use their swablike brushes (technically a Johnny Mop) to push the water down, over the curve of the S trap (air lock), and then down and out of the bowl. This lets their cleaner sit, undiluted by water, working on germs and stains—like those discolored rings around the bowl, which come from hard minerals or acidity imbalances. You can do the same thing by dumping a small bucket of water in from high above the bowl, and I found that nearly emptying the toilets out in this way made cleaning the bowl easier, and the results looked far more impressive.

You are cleaning your toilet to eliminate two things: bacteria and viruses, including longer-living salmonella strains, and to remove the stains and discoloration of hard water, rust, and regular use. Unless you have seriously hard water, or a terrible toilet to clean, you shouldn’t need a heavy-duty cleaner with hydrochloric acid or other harsh chemicals. Cleaners with natural ingredients are a safe bet; we have used Seventh Generation, Greenworks, and Ecover, and they all work fine.

“The actual scrubbing of surfaces is more important for getting rid of germs than the use of any antibacterial detergent.” —Where the Germs Are

Once the cleaner has had some time to work, get in there and scrub. As noted in Where the Germs Are, based on a few different studies of bathroom bacterial counts, “The actual scrubbing of surfaces is more important for getting rid of germs than the use of any antibacterial detergent.” Get up under the rim, most importantly, then move the brush around the bowl. Get the brush head a good distance down into the outgoing waste pipe, too.

When you’re done cleaning your toilet, you should dry out the brush by placing the brush over the bowl, then closing the lid over the middle of the handle. This trick worked with every one of the finalist brushes I tested.

toilet brush in toilet with blue water

Drying the Lysol Bowl Brush over a toilet, using the lid. Photo courtesy of Kim Christensen/A Real-Life Housewife.

Every few cleanings, you should clean the toilet brush itself, and the holder, probably during a deeper bathroom clean. As detailed in Kerr’s My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag: Spray the brush, bristles and handle, and as much of the holder as you can reach, with a disinfecting spray of your choice. Let it all sit about five minutes, then turn your tub tap as hot as it will go. Rinse the brush and holder under the hot water. Let it dry out, and then, yes, give the tub a good cleaning, too. Oh, and don’t move one toilet brush between toilets, because that is a germ nightmare. Buy one for each toilet.

As for hygienic bathroom practices in general, Merry Maid’s Johnson and Charles Gerba both recommend making a habit of closing your toilet lid before flushing, which cuts the spread of bacteria throughout your bathroom.

The competition

We were quick to dismiss toilet brushes whose holders were entirely closed, or had no holders at all. In the latter category, that meant eliminating the swab-style Fuller brush, a $3 mop, and a very cheap wire-ring brush. Without a place to store them, even after drying, there was just too much germ spread to recommend stashing them under your sink, or standing upright on your floor.

Then there were holders that were too nice for their own good: made of heavy granite or other stones, reactive metals, or matte white surfaces that will never survive multiple brush encounters unstained, and almost always without a replacement  My own bathroom was stocked with a Home Basics bronze brush and holder before I started this guide, which I had kept for at least five years. Examining it up close, I quickly realized how thoroughly grime travels throughout a bathroom, and what damage liquids can do to a wire-based brush in a closed-off container. I’m proud to say it is now in the garbage.

The OXO Good Grips Toilet Brush and Canister in white plastic, and its stainless steel variant, easily became finalists. OXO is a known brand, and these brushes had replaceable heads, clever opening mechanisms, and even a flexible neck on the plastic model. But both models float a slotted holding cup over the wider bottom base.

toilet brush holder

The OXO Good Grips Toilet Brush canister. You can’t remove or get under that central cup for cleaning.

This does help your brush drip-dry, but you can’t get into that dark, largely closed-off bottom area for cleaning. In addition, the flexible neck brush does not flex very far before it feels like it might break. The modern look was divisive (“a Transformer’s poorly designed plunger” or “overgrown Q-tip,” two friends said). A good number of Amazon reviewers tell of rusty leaks from the stainless model. And while it’s a niche case, I did find that the replaceable head became slightly untwisted while I was cleaning into the bowl channel. Not to the point where it came off and plugged the toilet, but a concern in any case.

A simplehuman Toilet Brush in its holder.

A simplehuman Toilet Brush in its holder.

The simplehuman Toilet Brush, in white or black, was another easy finalist, for its wide-open holder, replaceable (if pricy) heads, distinct semi-circle brush design (with dark bristles that could show less grime), and magnetic brush-holding neck. The bristles were high-quality, with both just enough give and scrubbing power in their clustering. But the head shape required some arm and wrist contortions that could bother those with injuries or weaknesses. Like the OXO, the minimalist plastic-and-steel look was divisive among those polled. And the magnetic attachment worked as intended only six or seven times out of two trials of 10. If you learn exactly how to place it, and move quite carefully, you’ll come to peace with it, but your guests and housemates will probably get frustrated.

The Libman Designer Bowl Brush & Caddy looked from the outside like a great contender: cheap, replaceable brush, and a holder that closes but has plenty of venting and cleaning access, and made in the US, to boot. And then we used it. The bristles on the brush are the stiffest of any we tried, and arranged in spaced-out clusters. If there is any liquid on the brush when you try to slide it back into the holder, it can flick back a lot of water if you hit certain angles. Its appearance garnered almost entirely negative reviews from friends. Cleaning the holder involves either some pinched-finger moves or dropping the whole thing in some disinfectant, and then drying it out. Pass.

I picked up a Clorox “Corner” Toilet Brush with Caddy at a nearby Target for $7. It had  space-conscious corner-hugging shape, and a rim-cleaning extension, akin to the Lysol brush. But that extension is wire-based, which could eventually lead to porcelain damage. The brush and holder are hard to find online, and no replacement brushes seem available. The head bristles are about the same as our Clorox pick, but the extension bristles are made of very cheap, terribly stiff plastic, both flicking a bit and not allowing for pressing up into rim crevices.

What about disposable toilet “wands” and “systems”?

Search for toilet brushes in Amazon, or just your local store, and you’re likely to find thin wands with clamps, designed to be fitted with “scrubbers” or “refills.” The pitch for using disposable or flushable toilet cleaners is seemingly obvious: Flush, or throw away, the part that touches the toilet, then hide the wand somewhere out of sight. Among the home goods companies that have joined the use-and-toss party are Clorox, Scotch-Brite, and Scrubbing Bubbles. But you do not want to join this party.

Buy the Clorox ToiletWand starter kit from Amazon, and you can clean your toilet six times for $8.48. The next 20 cleanings will cost $8.48, and by “cleanings” we include incidents where the toilet needs, shall we say, a post-use touch-up. The chemicals in the pads are such that they “should not be touched,” according to Consumer Reports. The pads are individually wrapped, and the “wand” is not particularly strong; it’s not hard to find reviews mentioning snapped heads. Some pads ask that you throw them out, while others claim to be flushable, but your wastewater treatment plant, your septic sytem, and likely your landlord or plumber would really rather not explain it again: Do not flush anything except waste and toilet paper.

As cleaning columnist Jolie Kerr put it: “(Disposable pads) engender lazy cleaning. They don’t do a very good job, they don’t replace an actual scrub brush, and it’s just as inconvenient to have to stash those refills as to keep a toilet brush. They’re the microwave meals of cleaning.” Kerr went on to say, “You still have to put the pads on the wand, which means touching the top of the brush. Do you want to regularly touch the top of your toilet brush?”

Our suggestion of buying a plastic toilet brush and replacing it annually is not environmentally benign, we realize. But if you are rigorous in cleaning your toilet brush and its holder, and you keep an eye on the strength of your bristles, you can extend the usable life of your brush, minimizing waste. In either case, we believe replacing a solid brush is a better compromise than regular disposal of chemical-rich pads and their packaging. Ecological costs aside, from a personal dollars and cents standpoint, a basic brush is certainly a lot more affordable.

Wrapping it up

The best and most functional, replaceable, easy-to-clean brush for most households is the Lysol Bowl Brush and Caddy. Those who have limited floor space, prefer blue colors, want more of their brush hidden, or want a bit more help getting around the rim should try the Clorox Flexible Toilet Brush. Anyone in the market for a totally hidden brush and a more distinguished holder should step up to the OXO Good Grips Compact Toilet Brush. Choose one of these brushes and you can feel confident that you have the right tool to tackle a job that nobody really wants to do.

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