How to Remove Hard Water Stains

If you've ever spent minutes or hours scrubbing white build-up on your sinks, showers and faucets, then you need to know how to remove hard water stains. Often mistaken for soap scum, hard water stains leave a white or gray film on the surfaces in your home that are most often in contact with water -- sinks, faucets, showers and shower doors, even toilets.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains

Hard water stains are the result of an abundance of minerals in your water system. The Water Quality Association identifies calcium and magnesium as the most common culprits when hard water is a problem. While these minerals are usually harmless as far as drinking water is concerned, they can nevertheless cause homeowners headaches when they build up on surfaces that often come in contact with water, oftentimes forming lime scale on surfaces.

Most of the time, these minerals are impervious to common household cleaners formulated for kitchen and bathroom use, requiring acids powerful enough to break up the minerals and wash them away. Depending upon the level build-up, a weak acid like white vinegar may be enough to remove the stains, but for heavier build-up, a product formulated for removing calcium and/or lime scale may be required.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains Using Vinegar

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • White Vinegar
  • Empty Spray Bottle
  • Water
  • Protective Gloves
  • Nylon Scrubber Sponge
  • Soft Cloths

For light hard water stains on glass shower doors, faucets, and sinks and showers, vinegar may be enough to break down these tough stains.

To use vinegar to remove hard water stains:

  1. Don protective gloves.
  2. Mix a 50/50 white vinegar and water solution in an empty spray bottle.
  3. Spray the surface to be cleaned, and allow the vinegar/water solution to soak for one minute.
  4. Scrub the surface, using the nylon scrubber sponge. Wipe clean with a soft cloth to determine that the hard water stains are gone. If not, repeat steps 3 and 4 until the stains are gone.
  5. Rinse well with water, and dry the surface completely.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains Using Calcium and Lime Remover

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Calcium and Lime Remover (available in the cleaning aisle of home improvement or grocery stores)
  • Protective Gloves
  • Nylon Scrubber Sponge
  • Soft Cloths

Tough hard water stains, or lime scale that has built up on faucets and shower heads may be impervious to a weak acid like vinegar. For these stains, you'll likely need a cleaner that's formulated specifically for removal of calcium and lime scale. Sold under a number of commercial names, these cleaners are great at removing calcium and other mineral deposits, but can be harsh and abrasive. Before using these cleaners, read the label carefully to determine whether or not the cleaner is safe for use on your stained surface.

For hard water stains in toilets, take care to buy a formula that is safe for use in sewers and/or septic systems. Many harsh chemicals like calcium and lime removers are unsuitable for toilet bowl use, so if hard water stains are a problem in your toilets, make sure to buy a formula that's safe to use in toilets.

Here's how to use calcium and lime remover to break up hard water stains:

  1. Don protective gloves.
  2. Apply the calcium and lime remover to the surface according to label directions.
  3. Scrub the surface, using the nylon scrubber sponge. Wipe clean with a soft, damp cloth to determine that the hard water stains are gone. If not, repeat steps 2 and 3 until the stains are gone.
  4. Rinse well with water, and dry the surface completely.
  5. Flush the cleaner from drains by running plenty of cold water down the drain after use.

When it comes to mineral desposits, knowing how to remove hard water stains is ultimately less important than knowing how to prevent them from happening in the first place.

You can reduce the impact of hard water on your sinks, showers and other surfaces by keeping them dry and periodically wiping them down with a vinegar solution. After bathing, showering, or using sinks, take a moment to wipe faucets, fixtures, shower walls and doors and other sufaces down with a dry cloth. Doing so will prevent calcium and other minerals from remaining behind after the water has evaporated. Wiping your sinks, faucets, showers and other surfaces down with a water vinegar solution once or twice a week may be enough to keep hard water stains from building up on your surfaces.