If it's yellow, let it mellow into a hard sandy crust at the bottom of the toilet.
August 4, 2010 9:54 PM   Subscribe

My roommate and I long ago decided that we would not flush pee. Save water and all. The only problem is this: apparently if you let urine sit in the toilet, it turns into a really attractive layer of brown sediment, in a spot that is very difficult to clean with a toilet brush . . . right up to the front of the little recess on the bottom, and right in the back of it as well. Is there anything we can add to the reservoir to keep this from happening?

I know one answer is "Just flush every other time." I'm not as interested in that answer. I want ideas on whether softening or otherwise treating the water will keep this sediment from forming.

Obviously, a relatively enviro-friendly solution is best, since that concern got us into this mess to begin with.

I have figured out how to clean it . . . by scraping it all off with a coat hanger. It's time consuming and potentially damaging to the toilet. So a preventative solution is best.

posted by kensington314 to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have read that a pumice stone (like the ones you buy for pumicing your feet) works and doesn't damage the toilet... But I find the not damaging the toilet part hard to believe.
posted by amro at 9:59 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I briefly lived in a house where my roommate did this for years and it literally corroded away a little ring of the white layer in the toilet. It was very visible and it wasn't stained. It had literally eaten away the top layer over several years. So my guess is no. It's probably good you are scraping it off though to slow it down.
posted by whoaali at 10:08 PM on August 4, 2010

I've had good luck with CLR. Just use a cup to dip out as much of the toilet water as you can, pour in a bottle of CLR, add boiling water until it covers the stain, and leave it to soak for a few hours. Give it a good scrub with a slightly abrasive dish sponge and flush. I've heard that CLR is fairly environmentally friendly.
posted by SamanthaK at 10:22 PM on August 4, 2010

They sell a pumice stone like abrasive stick that's marketed for cleaning that does this well. AFAIK it's never damaged my toilet.
posted by Precision at 10:36 PM on August 4, 2010

I finally gave up on the toilet brush last year after discovering that it's actually a lot easier to just use rubber gloves, Comet, and some sort of scouring sponge thing. With the toilet brush, it was hard to tell which parts of the toilet I'd missed, but with the sponge I'd get the whole toilet in one go and it didn't take any longer.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:45 PM on August 4, 2010

Growing up with well water, I was used to the "if it's yellow, let it mellow." I know you said you're not interested in flushing every other time, but with a limited water supply, we made sure to flush at the end of every day, and our toilet was fine.
posted by Ruki at 10:46 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think you can either have 'environmentally conscious' additives, or 'automatic cleaning' additives (which usually require a flush to swirl the water around the bowl). Hard/soft water won't really make much difference.

Don't think you're going to find a solution that gives you both. Flushing once a day is a bit more sanitary, a hell of a lot cheaper than additives (enviro-friendly or not) that may or may not actually be enviro-friendly, and as a bonus your bathroom doesn't smell like piss all the time. Learned that one the hard way.
posted by Heretical at 11:03 PM on August 4, 2010

But I find the not damaging the toilet part hard to believe.

No, it's true. I have ... extensive ... toilet cleaning experience, unfortunately. Some of it taxpayer-funded, on the bright side. I've never damaged a urinal with pumice stone, and if it were possible I'd have done it.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:30 AM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

Use a fine grit drywall screen to clean the stains from the toilet. This seems to be much gentler than the pumice, and faster. This is a secret that I learned from somebody who cleans apartments as a side job to get people's deposits back. It typically only takes a very light touch to remove the stain.

Also, Nthing the notion that any additive to the water is likely going to negate whatever environmental benefits you gain by reducing flushing. If you're in any kind of civilized area, that water doesn't really go to waste, it gets treated and reused. Adding chemicals just makes it harder to treat the water to prepare it for its next life.
posted by BrandonAbell at 1:08 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I may not be the best one to answer, as my white porcelain has weathered to a light blue below the water line, probably a combination of hard water and previous use of abrasive cleansers.

Currently, my environmentally friendly solution is: occasionally bail all the water from the bowl and pour a couple inches of vinegar in the bottom. After soaking a few hours, the black stains are more amenable to removal with a nylon scrubby pad. Mostly.
posted by wjm at 1:20 AM on August 5, 2010

Is there anything we can add to the reservoir to keep this from happening?


Remember that everything you put in the toilet ends up in the ocean. Waste water treatment plants do very well with organic matter, much, much less so with chemicals.

Whilst I admire the desire for water conservation, doing this at the cost of releasing chemicals into the environment is perhaps the wrong choice.

Or on preview what BrandonAbell said.
posted by three blind mice at 2:11 AM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]

Try pouring some full fat coke in and leaving overnight.

posted by Neonshock at 2:12 AM on August 5, 2010

Vinegar. The cheap, white kind.
posted by Paris Elk at 2:27 AM on August 5, 2010

Fizzy limescale remover tablets left in for a few hours will get rid of this sediment without any scraping. I had a pretty bad build up of this stuff which I needed to remove before vacating a flat and these did the trick.
posted by tomcooke at 3:40 AM on August 5, 2010

Just giving the full hippie perspective here - what does it matter if there is a sediment stain on the inside of your toilet bowl? All you do is deposit poop and pee in there, it isn't like we require food-quality cleanliness for the thing is it?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:43 AM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

Go outside.
posted by K.P. at 5:23 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about a dual flush system?
posted by Ferrari328 at 5:55 AM on August 5, 2010

Once a week use the Clorox toilet bowl cleaner..I just squirt it around and walk away..it's just bleach.

I'd probably flush at least once a day. The world's surface is 2/3 water--I think we can all use a little for hygiene!
posted by AuntieRuth at 6:12 AM on August 5, 2010

Put a jug in the back of your toilet to make it low-flow, and then flush it every other time. Or every other-other time.

Also, pumice will definitely NOT damage the toilet. The stone is softer than porcelain, so it's impossible. It's similar to saying that if you scratch really hard with your fingernail, you'll leave a mark on a glass table.

Disclaimer: I am so anti-hippie on this issue, it's not even funny. I had a roommate a while back who used to abide by the if-it's-yellow rule, but only when she used my toilet, and then she'd get all indignant on me when I'd notice and flush it. Go let your pee rot away your own goddamned toilet, bitch. Ugh.
posted by phunniemee at 6:40 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Not exactly what you asked, but you could always just pee in a bucket instead. Once upon a time, years ago, I was living in a place where there was a very looooooooong walk from the place where I slept to the place where the toilet was, with two locked doors in between, and, well, I had a bucket and I started using it.
posted by Gator at 6:40 AM on August 5, 2010

Buy a dual flush toilet. I bought an Eljer at Menard's and it works beautifully with only 1 gallon used for pee.
posted by JJ86 at 6:46 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could also try to save water by collecting gray water to use to flush. So when you shower, put a basin down and collect water. It should give you enough for a daily flush with no additional water usage. I also collect the water I run before the water is hot enough and use it to water plants and the like.
posted by advicepig at 6:46 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Also try to pee in the shower whenever you can. Saves water, less yellow in the toilet, less hard sandy crust.

The Brazilian government encouraged its citizens to do this last year.
posted by jstarlee at 6:54 AM on August 5, 2010

Don't even use the toilet.

Just go to the bathroom outside.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:27 AM on August 5, 2010

KogeLIz's suggestion is great if you don't have grass because your urine will slowly kill it.)

There are also toilets that have a two button flush. One is larger and is for flushing down solids. The other is smaller, and just removes the current water int he bowl, no new water added and very small amount of rinsing done. This is to address your concern and not waste water on "number 1." Can look into that...
posted by oblio_one at 8:47 AM on August 5, 2010

One preview I'm likely talking about what JJ86 mentions
posted by oblio_one at 8:48 AM on August 5, 2010

What about a drop-in automatic bowl cleaner? The kind that turns your water blue. There are septic-safe versions that contain borax instead of bleach. Since borax is a water softener, it will help prevent deposits, I think.
posted by annsunny at 9:19 AM on August 5, 2010

We've got dual flush toilets; we still let it mellow. 4L of water is 4L of water, why waste it. We don't get the crust you are talking about. It sounds like hard water (iron from the colour?) precipitation caused by the urine. There are drop in automatic cleaners specifically for hard water caused by iron.
posted by Mitheral at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2010

It is some kind of bacteria. I used to follow this practice for years, with nary a problem. Then practically overnight, I started having the problem. If the waste is left for more than a couple of hours, it goes cloudy and smelly. Never used to.

I've never used a pumice stone, but the reason they would be more effective and less destructive is that they do very little actual "digging" into the surface. The pumice slides over the surface and scrapes or knocks the gunk off. Where sandpaper might seem more gentle, you actually end up digging into the surface.

If you live in a place where the waste water is returned to your source (like a lake), or where the source is mostly infinite, like a mostly unused aquifer, flush away. You aren't wasting water, and you are better off because you are limiting your use of chemicals that taint water supplies. The only waste of water is when reservoirs are at their limit, or if you are flushing it downstream. Because you can mostly trust the sewers to return the water to the lake, you can't trust the rain to return the water from the ocean.
posted by gjc at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2010

« Older Not a disco ball, but a disco...disc?   |   Can I order a long espresso at an American... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.