How To Remove Hard Water Stains (6 Easy Methods)

Wondering how to remove hard water stains? Limescale is tough, chalky, and incredibly difficult to clean with many natural methods and chemical cleaners.

In this guide, we’ve shared the best tried-and-tested ways to remove hard water stains from glass surfaces, faucets, sinks, showerheads, and more.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • The best ways to remove hard water stains are with vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, high-acidity cleaners, lemon juice, and fluoride toothpaste.
  • You can prevent hard water stains from returning by addressing the cause of the issue with a water softener.

📖 How To Remove Hard Water Stains

Find the 6 best methods of removing hard water stains below.

Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is one of the most celebrated household cleaners for a few reasons: it’s safe and natural, and its high acidity (pH: 1-2) makes it effective at cleaning even the toughest stains, including stubborn hard water stains.

To use distilled white vinegar to clean mineral deposits, follow these steps:

  1. Pour pure, undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle.
  2. Spray the vinegar directly onto hard water stains.
  3. Leave the vinegar for 5-15 minutes. During this time, it should break down the minerals and lift them from the surface.
  4. Spray more vinegar onto the surface if the vinegar starts to dry up.
  5. Use an old toothbrush or a soft-bristled brush to scrub the surface and remove the lifted stains.

If you have large vertical areas that you’re trying to clean, follow these steps instead:

  1. Pour pure, undiluted vinegar into a small bowl or bucket.
  2. Soak paper towels in the vinegar solution, then stick them to the surface of the glass
  3. Keep the paper towels in place for 5-15 minutes to keep the surface wet.
  4. Remove the paper towels, then use an old toothbrush or a soft-bristled brush to scrub the surface and remove the lifted stains.

Concerned about damaging your surfaces? Make a vinegar and water solution by mixing equal parts vinegar and water.

📌 Note: If you don’t have white vinegar on hand, apple cider vinegar should do the trick, too.

White vinegar for cleaning hard water

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice, like vinegar, is an acidic solution, with a pH of about 2. This makes it another effective natural cleaner for removing hard water stains.

Follow the same instructions as above to clean hard water stains with lemon juice. Lemon juice, like vinegar, works especially well to remove limescale from glass shower doors.

You can also use a whole lemon to clean limescale off the ends of your faucets:

  1. Cut a lemon in half.
  2. Push half the lemon on the spout of each of your faucets, making sure the worst of the limescale is covered.
  3. Hold the lemon in place with a plastic bag tied around the faucet or an elastic band.
  4. Leave the lemon for as long as possible, preferably overnight.
  5. Remove the lemon and give the faucet a quick wipe with a clean cloth.

Finally, lemon juice can be used to remove tough hard water stains inside your washing machine:

  1. Pour a large cup of lemon juice into your empty washing machine.
  2. Run a normal washing cycle (without clothes).
  3. Open the door to air out the machine when the cycle is complete.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another super popular natural cleaner because of its ability to lift tough-to-remove stains. It’s another great choice as a hard water stain remover – especially on tiles – thanks to its affordability and its effectiveness as a DIY solution.

To use baking soda to get rid of tough hard water buildup on tiles, follow these steps:

  1. Mix equal parts baking soda and water to form a baking soda paste.
  2. Apply the baking soda paste to the affected surfaces, then let it sit for 5-15 minutes.
  3. Once the baking soda has had chance to take effect, use a scrub brush or a toothbrush to gently scrub the hard water stains away.

Water and baking soda not cutting it? Try mixing vinegar and baking soda. When vinegar and baking soda are mixed, the vinegar breaks down the baking soda and carbon dioxide gas is released. This gas boosts the ingredients’ cleaning abilities, effectively lifting dirt and grime, including hard water stains.

💡 Top tip: clean while the mixture is foaming!

Sodium carbonate washing soda

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is ideal for removing hard water stains from toilet bowls, bathtubs, and metal fixtures.

This naturally acidic solution has a pH of about 4.5, so it has decent cleaning power and should rival commercial products as a treatment method for hard water stains.

You can use hydrogen peroxide to remove hard water stains in a toilet bowl:

  1. Pour half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into your toilet bowl.
  2. Let the solution sit in the toilet for 20 minutes, then use a toilet brush to scrub around the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Flush the toilet. The hard water stains should have been lifted.

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to clean hard water stains from smaller areas, like faucets and sinks.

To use hydrogen peroxide to spot-clean mineral deposits, follow these steps:

  1. Pour pure, undiluted hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle.
  2. Spray affected surfaces and let the solution sit for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Use a soft cloth or an old toothbrush to scrub the hard water stains.
  4. Rinse the area with plain water, then wipe clean with a cloth.

Fluoride Toothpaste

You wouldn’t think that fluoride toothpaste would have any purpose aside from keeping your teeth clean – but it turns out it’s good at tackling hard water stains, too. Fluoride toothpaste works best on glass surfaces, like your glass shower door, and metal fixtures, like faucets.

To get rid of hard water stains with fluoride toothpaste, follow these steps:

  1. Squeeze a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto a damp, soft cloth.
  2. Rub the cloth over the stained surface.
  3. Rinse the area with water, then use a separate clean cloth to buff the surface and remove leftover water.
Fluoride toothpaste for cleaning hard water

Acidic Cleaning Products

We know now that high acidity is often key for lifting limescale stains, so it’s no surprise that high-acidity cleaning products are an effective solution for hard water deposits.

Many bathroom cleaners are low-pH, or acidic, for this reason. If you’ve tried everything else and you can’t cut through the stains, acidic cleaning products are guaranteed to work – but take care when using these cleaners because they release toxic fumes and cause skin irritation if the correct cautionary steps aren’t taken.

To use an acidic cleaning solution to remove limescale, here’s what to do:

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to dilute the solution in water (if necessary).
  2. Apply a small amount of the solution to a soft sponge.
  3. Use the sponge to clean the stained area.
  4. Continue to add more solution to the sponge until all the surface has been cleaned.
  5. Rinse the surface thoroughly with plain water.

Make sure to wear gloves and open a window to air the room as you work.

📝 Final Word: How to Prevent Hard Water Stains In The Future

It’s all very well knowing how to remove hard water stains, but what if you want to prevent them from forming in the first place?

The only way to do this is to install a point of entry water softener.

Water softening systems get rid of hard water minerals by physically pulling them out of water and exchanging them for ions that don’t form scale (usually sodium).

When you install a water softening system in your home, you can say goodbye to hard water mineral deposits. You’ll also enjoy soft water benefits including better lather with soap in water, reduced hair and skin irritation, and more efficient appliances.

Water softeners cost $800-$2,400, depending on the system size, type, quality, and complexity.

Limescale hard water stains on a faucet before and after water softener installation

❔ How To Remove Hard Water Stains: FAQ

What does a hard water stain look like?

Hard water stains look like chalky, white or yellowish deposits. They’re usually found around your faucets, on the underside of your shower head, and on the glass surface of your shower walls.

Can hard water stains be permanent?

Yes, hard water stains can be permanent if you never clean them. The longer you go without cleaning mineral deposits, the more and more they’ll build up, making them more difficult to remove. However, even the most stubborn stains can be removed with a bit of elbow grease.

Can vinegar get rid of hard water stains?

Yes, vinegar can get rid of hard water stains. In fact, vinegar is one of the best natural solutions for tackling mineral deposits and soap scum. You can use it straight on most surfaces, or dilute it with water if you prefer.

How do you remove hard water stains from shower doors?

The best way to remove hard water stains from shower glass doors are with vinegar, lemon juice, or a vinegar and baking soda mix. For the best results, apply soaked cloths to the entire surface and leave them for 5-15 minutes to take full effect.

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