Glass Door Shower White Bathtub And Tiled Walls In Bathroom

Top Tips When It Comes To Removing Hard Water Stains

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.

What Are Hard Water Stains?

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.

Top Four Bathroom Hard Water Stains And How To Remove Them

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.


How To Remove Hard Water Stains From The Toilet

White Toilet With Hard Water Stains

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.

How To Remove Hard Water Stains From The Sink

Old Bathroom Sink Faucet contaminated with calcium and grime. Hard water flows from an old tap aerator.

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 stains in your sink, there are plenty of cleaners on the market – or you can simply use white vinegar. The stains need to soak to be fully removed, so you can either fill your sink with vinegar or soak paper towels in vinegar and drape them over the stains. Either way, let the vinegar sit for 15-30 minutes and then scrub to remove the stains. Keep in mind that if your sink has a finish that might be damaged by exposure to vinegar, you should not use it.
  • For stains on your faucet, you can also utilize the paper towel method. Soak a paper towel in vinegar and allow it to sit on the faucet for 15 – 30 minutes, then scrub and rinse.


How To Remove Hard Water Stains From The Tub

Dirty sink drain mesh, hole with limescale or lime scale and rust on it close up, dirty rusty bathroom washbowl

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.

  • For lighter spots, you can mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and douse discolored marks, allowing that solution to sit for at least 15 – 20 minutes. Once it’s had a chance to sit, scrub the mixture away and rinse with hot water once clean.
  • For trickier stains, coat them in a layer of baking soda and then pour white vinegar directly on top to form a fizzy paste. Scrub the stain with the paste and allow it to sit for 15 – 30 minutes before wiping clean.

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.

How To Remove Hard Water Stains From Glass

Hand washing with pink sponge glass shower door.

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.

How To Remove Hard Water Stains

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.

Hard Water Stain Remover

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.

  • Baking soda: You can use baking soda with vinegar or with water. Scrubbing this cleaner onto stains with a sponge, brush, or even a toothbrush can often get stains out fairly quickly.
  • Toothpaste: Though it may come as a surprise, toothpaste can sometimes get hard water stains out as well. Scrubbing toothpaste onto faucets and into other small spaces can be an effective way to get rid of hard water stains in a pinch.
  • Hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar: If you have some cream of tartar left over from baking, you can actually mix it with hydrogen peroxide to create a paste that’s fairly proficient at removing hard water marks and stains. Scrub this paste onto bathroom stains and let it sit for 15 – 30 minutes for the best results.
  • Store-bought cleaners: While these cleaners may contain chemicals and may be a little pricier, they can usually remove tough stains. There are plenty of these cleaning products out there, often called hard water spot removers or calcium and rust removers.

The Bottom Line: Hard Water Stains Can Be Removed

You don’t have to live in fear of the hard water stains in your home – they can often be removed quickly using products you already have on hand, like vinegar, baking soda and even toothpaste. For more tips on taking care of your home, check out our Rocket Homes® homeowner tips.

Sidney Richardson

Sidney Richardson is a professional writer for Rocket Companies in Detroit, Michigan who specializes in real estate, homeownership and personal finance content. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in advertising from Oakland University.