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Can cleaning with cola save you cash?

Woman sacked after child played in créche toilet bowl gets €15k

Lemon, vinegar, soda crystals… You name it, I’ve used it to clean my house at some point. In my quest to save money, I have tried many substitutes for pricey cleaning fluids, but I’ve always found that they require an additional ingredient – elbow grease.

But when I read that some people clean their toilets with cola, I wondered if I might finally have struck upon a cheap, no-effort alternative. After all, I remember as a child being told that left long enough, teeth dissolve in cola (or many other soft drinks and fruit juices for that matter) and that it can clean pennies so they look newly minted.

However, before I donned my rubber gloves and started sloshing pop round the pan, I decided to see what cola giant Coca Cola had to say.

[Miracle money savers for you and the home]

Coca Cola’s official toilet-cleaning position

As you can imagine, Coke aren’t too keen on having their brand associated with toilets or with chemical abrasiveness. It has a whole page of its website dedicated to ‘Can Coca-Cola be used as a household cleaner?’ where it dismisses as rumour the idea that the popular pop can clean toilets, car batteries, rust, grease or dissolve teeth.

Despite that, it goes on to highlight that no one scrubs at their teeth with cola, or holds a drink in their mouth longer than a few moments. That additional information sounded a little defensive and made me wonder if the ‘rumours’ could actually be true.

“We are unaware of any mechanics using Coke for any purpose other than refreshment. Plain water or vinegar would be as effective and less costly,” remarked Coke.

Hmm, that made me think – after all, the object is to save money, not to terrify my children away from the brown fizzy stuff (although definite potential bonus there once they reach their teenage years).

So, I gave it a go…

How to clean your toilet with cola

Cola vs chemical cleaner
Cola vs chemical cleaner

My local supermarket only had diet cola in its budget range, so I decided to risk that instead of the standard drink.

There were a few different methods online but I went with 1) slosh the drink around the bowl, 2) leave it a while, 3) quick wipe, 4) flush.

Unlike normal toilet cleaner, I didn’t feel a need to hold my breath around the cleaning fluid so wiping the bowl was easier than normal.

Did it work?

Yes. Sorry drinks companies, but the cola did genuinely get my toilet sparkling clean with minimal effort from me. Yikes, I may drink less.

However, there have been concerns raised (by my husband) that the stickiness of the cola may encourage bacteria growth. That is a worry with cola that you don’t have with vinegar – or with kill-99%-of-everything, wear-protective-clothing toilet cleaning fluid.

Will it save me money?

I currently pay £2 for 750ml of Harpic toilet cleaner, which probably lasts my three-loo home about six weeks. So we’re talking total expenditure of £17.33 a year, not counting flushing water and rubber gloves as I’d still need those with cola.

One 2lt bottle of Coke costs £1.85 a unit and it took about half the bottle to clean a toilet. That means a toilet cleaner cost-per-clean of 11p a clean and a cola cleaning price of 92p. Coke is right, this won’t save me cash.

However, the basics cola I bought cost 20p for two litres, which would do me two washes. That means 10p a clean – so it just scrapes in at cheaper. However, with an estimated 156 cleans a year that would save me a grand total of £1.56 in 12 months. That’s not even enough to treat myself to a bottle of Coke…

Will I use it again?

There are two pre-schoolers and one puppy in my house, so I am always uneasy about bringing unnecessary chemicals in.  

My current cleaner of choice has dire warnings like: ‘Causes severe burns’, ‘Wear suitable protective clothing, gloves and eye/face protection’, and ‘If swallowed, rinse mouth with water (only if the person is conscious)’. So I like the idea of a cleaning fluid that’s simply a relatively unhealthy soft drink instead.

However, I don’t just want my toilet to look clean; I want it to be clean. And since cola makes no claims about killing 99% of bacteria (and we probably wouldn’t drink it if it did), this is one money-saving technique I will just have to do without.

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