I’ve heard rumors about the cleaning abilities of cola for many different types of products for years, but the thought of pouring sticky sweet beverages on my car or counter or toilet seemed a little crazy to me. Beyond it sounding a bit absurd, I couldn’t imagine that using cola instead of classic house cleaning solutions would save me any money.
Lucky for you, my dear reader, in the interest of journalistic curiosity I’ve gone ahead and tried this myth out. The two most common cola cleaning myths I’ve heard are that you can use cola to clean chrome on your car or that you can use it to clean your toilets. After consulting with my spouse we decided that pouring cola on our car probably isn’t prudent so we settled on cleaning the toilet.
I’ve used every other home cleaning solution, from stores or home made, to try cleaning my house and I know generally what works and what doesn’t. I decided that to do a true comparison on the effectiveness of cola to clean toilets I’ll compare it with the standard store brand toilet cleaner I use to see which does a better job. I cleaned one toilet with cola and cleaned our other toilet with my store brand cleaner and then compared the results.
Coca Cola’s Position
Considering this myth has been around for so many years, I wanted to know what Coca Cola’s position was on using their product to clean your bathroom. Naturally, Coca Cola isn’t thrilled with having their product lauded for it’s ability to be abrasive enough to clean chrome or porcelain, and as such they’ve posted a page on their corporate website specifically addressing the cleaning ability of Coca Cola. Naturally the page dismisses any thoughts of using Coca Cola to clean anything and says that the only appropriate use of their product is to enjoy out of a can or bottle or over ice.
What intrigued me about this page was that the tone of the site was quite defensive. If they’re so defensive about not using Coca Cola to clean your toilets, maybe it’s because the stuff really does a good job of cleaning up. With my interest totally piqued, I was more determined than ever to give this a real try and see how well cola worked as a cleaning agent.
The purpose of my testing this myth out is twofold. First, I wanted to see if cola could work as a cleaning agent and second I wanted to know if using cola to clean your home is less expensive than using a store brand toilet cleaner. With these goals in mind, I was off to the supermarket to pick up my supplies.
I settled on picking up store brand cola for my experiment and store brand toilet cleaner. Without any coupons or sales I was able to pick up a standard 750ml sized bottle of toilet cleaner for about £2. I headed over to find my cola and picked up a 2lt bottle of store brand cola for 20p. If I had chosen to buy Coca Cola for this experiment the price was about £1.80 for the same 2lt bottle so it’s a significant upgrade to go name brand.
Once I’d returned home I set about searching online for directions on how to use cola to clean my toilet. The most common instructions were to just follow the same directions as on a bottle of toilet cleaner but using cola instead. I decided to go with this method of 1) pour cola into the bowl and splash it around so it covers the bowl and under the rim, 2) walk away for a bit so it can “go to work”, 3) give the bowl a quick scrub with a toilet brush, 4) flush and inspect the bowl to see how clean it is.
Well, How Did It Go Already!
To my surprise, it went quite well. The toilet I cleaned with toilet cleaner was very clean but smelled strongly of chemicals. I’m aware that toilet bowl cleaner has some pretty potent cleaning agents in the bottle but I’ve never felt comfortable with those fumes and find myself holding my breath half the time I’m using these products. With cola there was no unpleasant smell, which in itself is a small victory against household cleaning. After cleaning my toilet with cola I was a bit surprised to find that it cleaned as well as the store brand toilet cleaner. It took very little effort, and did a great job so I have to say that this myth may not be a myth at all.
But Is It Cheaper?
Again, I paid about £2 for the bottle of store brand toilet cleaner and about 20p for the store brand cola I used in this experiment. I find that I generally get about 7 weeks of at least weekly cleanings for all the toilets in my home out of one bottle. My rough math puts the cost per cleaning per toilet at 12p. This comes out to just over £14 a year in cleaning product.
During my cleaning with cola I found it took about half the bottle or 1lt to get my toilet clean. That would translate to a cost per cleaning of about 10p. Comparing the two it is true that using store brand cola to clean your toilet is very slightly less expensive than using toilet cleaner. However, if you annualise your savings you’re only saving yourself about £1.5 each year. Realistically, using cola is cheaper but not by enough to make it worth your while.
I’m glad I gave this experiment a try and am happy to report that people who insist you can clean your toilets with cola are not crazy. However, there are a few downsides to cleaning with cola I didn’t touch on above. The reason that my store brand toilet cleaner smells like chemicals is because it is chock full of them and it guarantees killing 99.9% of germs and bacteria. Cola may make the bowl look clean, but it definitely does not kill germs or bacteria and because of the sugar content it may actually promote bacteria growth. When I’m cleaning my toilets I want them to actually be clean so I lean in favor of sticking with my standard toilet cleaner.