Sidney Richardson5-Minute Read
UPDATED: May 25, 2023
If your home uses hard water, you may find that you’re frequently faced with stains and other unsightly crusts forming on your sinks, toilets and showers. These frustrating stains can turn even the shiniest of surfaces dull and dingy – but the good news is, they’re not hard to remove.
Here are a few of our tips and tricks for removing hard water stains from susceptible surfaces in your home with household items you likely already have on hand.
Hard water is water with a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium dissolved in it. Because of the high mineral content, hard water tends to leave a residue on surfaces it comes in frequent contact with, which tend to be things like your faucets, dishes, cups, showers, etc. These stains typically take the form of a chalky white residue or discolored marks where water typically rests.
One of the most common places you might find hard water stains in your home is the bathroom. The toilet, sink, bathtub and glass shower walls are all likely to show water buildup marks. While these stains may look dark and difficult to remove, you usually don’t need any special products to make them disappear – you likely already have everything you need sitting around the house.
Let’s take a look at the different types of bathroom hard water stains you might encounter and how to get rid of them – and remember, whether you’re cleaning with natural products or chemical cleaners, you should always wear gloves to protect your hands.
Hard water stains in your toilet are easily recognizable – they usually take the form of darkened rings around the bowl or discolored streaks. The easiest way to get rid of these marks is to utilize a combination of baking soda and vinegar, which you may already have around the house.
1. To begin, pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the bowl and mix it with the water using a toilet brush. Once mixed, let that mixture sit for 1 – 5 minutes.
2. After it’s had time to sit, add 1 cup of baking soda and another 1 – 2 cups of vinegar. You want the mixture to start fizzing – once it does that, you can let it sit for 10 minutes.
3. After the solution has sat for 10 minutes, do not flush it. Use a toilet brush to scrub the mixture around the toilet bowl, scraping away at the hard water stains.
4. After scrubbing, let the mixture sit again for up to 30 minutes. At this point, the stains should be washed away – and if not, try scrubbing with a coarser brush. Flush to rinse once clean.
Hard water stains are very common in sinks as well, particularly on faucets. If there are dark streaks or rings in your sink or a white film on your faucet, you can remove them with some of the same products used for hard water stains in your toilet.
For hard water stains in the bathtub, you may be dealing with larger scale marks than you would when you’re cleaning a sink or toilet. Rather than fill an entire tub with vinegar, in this case, it might be a good idea to mix up your own cleaner.
Some stains that are darker or rust-like may require chemical cleaners to fully remove, but for lighter stains, vinegar and baking soda can keep your tub looking clean and shiny.
If you have a glass-paneled shower, you may notice that hard water can create a white film or white spots on the glass over time much like it does on faucets. These spots can also usually be removed with vinegar unless they have become too severe and warrant a chemical cleaner.
1. To begin, mix equal parts white vinegar and water and apply to the glass with a sponge or spray bottle. Use 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water, which should work unless your shower is especially stained or you have a lot of space to cover. Be sure to saturate the mixture. Let sit for 5 – 15 minutes.
2. After the mixture has had time to sit, scrub any remaining stubborn stains and then rinse with hot water. This should remove soap scum from glass shower doors as well, leaving them sparkling and good as new.
Though this guide focuses on vinegar and baking soda as easy, eco-friendly and affordable cleaning solutions, there are many other ways to remove hard water stains as well. If the hard water stains in your home are proving difficult to remove, there are other methods out there as well as plenty of store-bought cleaners that will do the job just as well.
Additionally, keep in mind that although hard water stains are most common on bathroom surfaces like toilets, faucets and shower walls, they can also appear on anything else in your home that hard water touches – like dishes, glasses and cups.
If cleaning with vinegar isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, there are other methods of removing stubborn hard water stains as well.
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