Is Limescale Bad for You? (or Just For Your Home?)

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If you’re one of the millions of households in America with hard water, you’ve probably seen the effects of calcium and magnesium in the form of limescale around your home.

These chalky white deposits are difficult to remove from your surfaces – but you might be more concerned about what they’re doing inside your body.

In this guide, we’ve answered the question: “Is limescale bad for you?”

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Limescale deposits are formed when hard water (with high concentrations of calcium carbonate) leaves mineral deposits on surfaces.
  • Drinking water containing limescale isn’t bad for you because hard water minerals are safe and necessary for human health.
  • Limescale can’t build up in the body, but in extreme cases, calcium may combine with uric acid and increase your risk of kidney stones.

πŸ€” What Is Limescale?

Limescale is the white spots and chalky deposits that you might see on surfaces that have come in contact with hard water.

Hard water contains a considerable amount of naturally occurring minerals. Mineral waters and natural spring waters are examples of hard water because they contain excess calcium and magnesium particles, amongst other minerals.

Limescale forms when these minerals deposit on surfaces, like your faucets, fixtures, plumbing pipes, and water appliances.

It’s harmless, but difficult to remove, especially if it’s allowed to accumulate over time.

Limescale in home

πŸ‘¨β€βš•οΈ Is Drinking Limescale Bad For You?

No, drinking limescale in a normal hard tap water supply isn’t bad for you.

To start with, you will rarely drink limescale itself, since this only forms when mineral particles deposit on surfaces. Your water will most likely contain hardness minerals in their dissolved form.

Calcium and magnesium ions are, according to the National Research Council, beneficial to human health, and contribute towards the essential minerals that we need in our daily diet.

Why do we need water hardness minerals?

  • Calcium is used in the human body for proper muscle functioning and bone development.
  • Magnesium is important for nerve function, muscle regulation, and making DNA and bone.

Some studies have found a connection between drinking water with a high mineral content and cardiovascular disease mortality, but as of yet, no definite conclusions have been drawn.

If you do drink water containing chunks of limescale (such as if little bits of limescale break away from the pipes in your plumbing system), it’s perfectly safe and will be dealt with by your body in the same way that it processes and expels the minerals in their dissolved form.

Limescale buildup in tap water

πŸ”Ž Does Limescale Build Up In The Body?

Can hard minerals start forming limescale inside your body? No.

The human body is a complex, intelligent system that absorbs calcium and magnesium minerals and uses them for various processes for healthy functioning. There’s no way for limescale to build up inside the body.

However, studies show that there is a possibility that calcium in hard water could form calcium stones, or kidney stones, in the body.

So, if you’re prone to kidney stones, soft water intake is better for you than hard water intake, since soft water is associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation.

Keep in mind that dietary calcium intake on a whole is linked to calcium stones in the kidneys, so even if you don’t drink hard water, there’s still a chance that you could develop kidney stones from the calcium in your diet. And for the average person, we don’t recommend simply avoiding all calcium-containing foods, since humans need this mineral to survive.

Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned.

🫡 Is Limescale Harmful To Touch?

What about the limescale on your surfaces? Do you need to wear gloves when you’re cleaning limescale deposits? Are they dangerous to touch?

The answer is no. Limescale is simply a buildup of hardness minerals, which, as we now know, are safe and in fact essential to human health.

You can touch limescale without wearing gloves. It’s not a chemical or a toxic metal, so there’s no risk of it being absorbed by your skin.

Just make sure to still take safety precautions if you’re using chemical-based cleaning products to tackle the limescale buildup in your kitchen or bathroom.

Limescale on fridge water dispenser

🚿 Is Showering In Limescale Bad For You?

It’s generally safe in drinking water, but is limescale harmful in your shower water?


Hard water minerals react with your soaps, shower gels, and shampoos to form a harsh lather, resulting in soap scum buildup on your skin and hair. If your skin ever feels sticky when you step out of the shower, hard water is to blame.

Soap scum can clog pores and dry out the skin, leading to irritated skin and exacerbating issues like eczema and dermatitis. In the same way, soap scum may cause an itchy scalp and dandruff, and dry out your hair strands, making them more prone to split ends and breakage.

🧐 So, Why Do People Use Water Softeners?

You might be wondering, if limescale isn’t bad for your health and might only have mild skin and hair effects, why so many people are so keen to remove limescale from their water using a water softener.

The main reason is not because drinking hard water causes health problems, but because limescale has expensive side effects in your home.

Limescale forms on all surfaces that are exposed to hard water, including your water pipes, dishwasher, washing machine, your heater’s heating elements, faucets, shower screens, toilet tank, and all other fixtures and appliances.

Hard water issues are persistent, and there’s no quick way to make them magically disappear. Over time, limescale will build up to the extent that your appliances become less efficient and deteriorate before the end of the expected life cycle.

Your water and heating bills may also increase due to the effects of hard water, since limescale accumulates inside your water heater and acts as a layer of insulation around the tank, meaning your heater takes longer to heat up water.

Limescale may even contribute to the corrosion of your pipes material, eventually resulting in leaks that require repairs.

A water softener eliminates limescale and all its associated issues. Softened water supplies contain no hardness minerals, so all the bad repercussions of limescale are no longer a concern.

Limescale before after water softener install

πŸ“‘ Final Word

From the available scientific and medical research, what we know so far about limescale suggests that it isn’t harmful to health when ingested in tap water – and, in fact, small quantities of hard minerals are healthy.

However, limescale is a water quality issue that can wreak havoc on your pipes, appliances, and fixtures, which is why so many people choose to remove water hardness minerals using a water softener.

If you have any reason to be concerned about drinking water containing limescale, seek advice from a health professional.

  • Laura Shallcross
    Senior Editor

    Laura is a passionate residential water treatment journalist who holds an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Over a span of 5 years she's written on a range of topics including water softening, well water treatment, and purification processes.

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