It’s kind of ironic that stainless steel is not, in fact, stainless – or at least not when it comes to hard water minerals.
Limescale stains are particularly difficult to remove from any surface because they’re tough and chalky. The longer you allow the stains to accumulate, the harder they are to clean.
But you don’t have to accept that your stainless steel appliances and sinks are destined to be stained with hard water minerals for the rest of their lifespans. Here, we’ve shared the best methods to remove hard water stains from stainless steel.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Hard water stains are white, chalky deposits that can be difficult to remove with normal cleaning tools.
- The best ways to remove hard water stains from stainless steel are with vinegar or lemon juice and baking soda, olive oil, or a high-acidity cleaner.
- You can prevent the recurrence of hard water stains on stainless steel surfaces by installing a whole-home water softener.
Table of Contents
📋 3 Best Methods To Remove Hard Water Stains From Stainless Steel
Read on to learn which three methods we recommend for removing hard water stains from stainless steel appliances.
1) Vinegar And Baking Soda
The best method you can use for removing tough stains from your stainless steel sinks and other appliances is the vinegar and baking soda method.
This natural cleaning solution is one of the most effective ways to lift heavy stains due to the reaction between vinegar and baking soda when they’re mixed, which causes the baking soda to release carbon dioxide gas that lifts dirt from surfaces that are being cleaned.
You can use a baking soda vinegar solution if you want to effectively tackle hard water staining but you don’t want to use a chemical-based commercial cleaner that may release toxic fumes as you clean.
It’s cheap and easy to use this method – just grab some white vinegar and baking soda from your local grocery store.
Can’t find white vinegar? Lemon juice has very similar properties to vinegar, so you can use equal parts lemon juice to vinegar and achieve similar results with this method.
Related: Does vinegar soften water?
You will need:
- 1 cup white distilled vinegar (double if using on a large surface)
- 4 tbsp baking soda (double if using on a large surface)
- Clean spray bottle
- A cleaning sponge (don’t use a steel wool pad as this could damage the surface)
- A microfiber cloth
- Prepare your stainless steel surface by clearing the area.
- Sprinkle an even amount of baking soda across your surface.
- Scrub the surface with a sponge to lift the mineral deposits.
- Put the white vinegar in a spray bottle and use it to spritz your stainless steel surface.
- Wait for the fizzing to stop (usually a couple of minutes).
- Scrub the surface again with a sponge.
- Rinse the area with clean water or a damp cloth.
- Dry with a microfiber cloth.
‼️ Our tip: Vinegar is an even more effective cleaner when combined with a little dish soap. Add a couple of drops of dish soap to the cleaning bottle and give it a shake before spritzing your surfaces.
2) Olive Oil
Our next method is a good option for spot-cleaning a stainless steel appliance.
If you just need to remove a few drops of water spots from your surfaces, you probably won’t need to bother with baking soda and vinegar.
Instead, you just need another kitchen staple: olive oil.
This is the most effective method we’ve found to tackle water spots caused by hardness minerals, but it’s important to properly clean all the excess oil away after you’re finished to prevent build-up.
You will need:
- A quart-sized drop of olive oil
- A soft paper towel
- A microfiber cloth
- Fold your paper towel up small and pour a quart-sized amount of olive oil onto it.
- Fold again over the olive oil drop and press the paper towel to encourage the olive oil to spread and cover the entire towel.
- Press the paper towel against the hard water stain and scrub with the grain from left to right to lift the stain.
- Continue until all hard water spots have been cleaned. You might need new oil-soaked paper towels if you have a lot of spots to get through.
- Use a microfiber towel or another soft cloth to buff the surface, removing all traces of oil and adding some extra shine.
‼️ Our tip: It’s best to use this method following any other disinfection or cleaning methods that you may be doing at the same time. You can use this method to remove water spots from stainless steel stovetops, refrigerators with an ice and water dispenser, and more.
3) High-Acidity Cleaner
Finally, if you don’t want to bother with a natural method and you just want something quick and easy, consider buying a high-acidity cleaner for your hard water problems.
We’ve personally found that highly-acidic cleaners are the best commercial cleaners available for removing hard water stains.
They’re quick to work and are very effective, lifting stains without requiring much elbow grease.
However, there are a few setbacks to using a chemical cleaning product:
- It’s not an environmentally-friendly choice
- The cleaning fumes may be dangerous to inhale
- It may not be suitable for stainless steel appliances
Read the label carefully before you use a high-acidity cleaning product as a stainless steel cleaner. Make a note of the manufacturer’s recommendations, check that the product can be used on stainless steel, and only use the measurements outlined in the instructions.
Make sure to follow the safety precautions to reduce the potential health effects of using the cleaner in your home. This could include opening windows to air out the room, wearing protective gloves and a mask, and washing your hands thoroughly if you touch any of the product.
📖 How To Prevent Hard Water Stains On Stainless Steel
Even the best stainless steel cleaner won’t prevent water spots from returning in the future.
The reality is that if you have hard mineral-rich water, you’ll have to repeat the same process of cleaning again and again to keep the water spots and mineral stains at bay.
The only way to prevent hard water stains from forming in the first place is to remove the cause of these stains.
A water softener offers the best calcium and magnesium mineral removal process. This water treatment system is installed at your main water pipe’s point of entry, meaning that your entire home, including your stainless steel sink and all your stainless steel appliances, is protected from hard water minerals.
Soft water is unable to form mineral stains because its hardness minerals have been replaced with small amounts of sodium. If you want to never have to clean stains from your surfaces again, a water softener is the best solution.
Water softeners cost around $800-$1,600, so they’re not cheap – but you might think that they’re worth your money if you want a guaranteed method to avoid scale build-up in the future.
📑 Final Word
Removing limescale stains from your stainless steel sink and other stainless steel appliances is actually fairly easy – as long as you have the right tools for the job.
A soft sponge and a mild cleaner won’t cut it for removing water stains, no matter how hard you clean. You need a powerful cleaner, like baking soda and vinegar, to get rid of all the residue and get your kitchen sink and other appliances gleaming once more.
And remember, the only way to eliminate the need to remove water stains entirely is to install a water softener, which will remove the cause of these stains in the first place.