how to clean hard water stains

Depending on where your home is located, your water could be categorized as hard or soft. Hard water doesn’t feel “hard,” and soft water doesn’t feel “soft,” so what’s the difference and how can you tell?

Water hardness or softness refers to the concentration of minerals like lime (aka limescale), calcium, and magnesium found in your home’s tap water. The water that comes out of your faucet travels a long way to get to your home and picks up traces of underground minerals as it passes through layers of rock.
Due to these higher mineral deposits, hard water tends to adhere to glass, dishes, sinks, and bathtubs than soft water causing stains. In fact, it can even damage plumbing, water heaters, porcelain, and glass.

That’s why if your home has hard water, it’s a good idea to learn how to remove hard water stains in your bathroom and kitchen. While hard water isn’t a health concern or safety issue for you and your family, it can be a nuisance if you don’t know how to clean hard water stains. To learn what hard water looks like and how to remove hard water stains, follow along with The Maids’ field-tested easy processes below.

What Do Hard Water Stains Look Like?

How do you know if you have hard water? Here are a few signs that your water may have high levels of mineral content:

  • A film on your hands after washing dishes or on your body after taking a bath could be a sign of hard water. The film results from soap reacting with the calcium in your water to create what most of us call soap scum.
  • Hard water can leave spots on glassware, silverware, and dishes after they are washed in your dishwasher. The culprit here is calcium carbonate, and it can stain and even etch glass.
  • Unexplained stains on your laundry could be coming from the minerals in hard water. Because of minerals’ abrasiveness, they can also cause unnecessary wear and tear on clothes each time you wash them.
  • Low water pressure could be caused by faulty plumbing or a local water pipe bursting, but it could also be caused by hard water. Mineral deposits build up inside your water pipes, and the smaller waterway reduces water flow.
  • Dark red or brown stains in a toilet, sink, or tub can occur because of high iron levels found in some hard water.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Glass

Even if you clean your shower like a pro, you still need to know how to clean hard water stains. Cleaning your shower doors regularly will help keep limescale at bay, but it’s best to be on the lookout for new hard water stains before they get too bad. These cloudy water stains won’t come off with regular glass cleaning solutions, so you’re going to need a DIY solution for cleaning hard water stains on glass.

Salt and Water

  • Mix a paste with table salt and water.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to rub the paste onto the stains
  • Scrub firmly until the cloudiness disappears
  • Wipe the stained area with a clean damp cloth
  • Dry the glass with paper towels.

Distilled White Vinegar and Lemon Juice

  • Mix equal parts lemon juice and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the vinegar and lemon juice stain remover on the stain.
  • Let the cleaning solution work on the stain for about five minutes.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to rub the stained area until the stain is gone.
  • Rinse the area with a clean camp cloth.
  • Dry the glass.

If you water your lawn and have hard water, the minerals can stain and etch your exterior window glass. You can use either of the stain removers above, but you’ll want to have your windows cleaned first so you can see the hard water stains you’re trying to remove in the first place.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains On Sinks And Bathtubs

Many tubs and sinks are made from porcelain or iron with an enamel finish, and while they aren’t very porous, hard water often stains these finishes. Iron stains should be easy to identify on the typically white finishes, but other hard water stains can be chalky-white and much harder to see. Follow these stain treatment tips for hard water stains, and check out our guide for cleaning other bathtub stains when you’re done.

  • Start with a clean bathroom and use these tips to learn how to get rid of hard water stains using safe, natural cleaners.
  • Mix half water and half white vinegar in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the entire sink or tub until it’s saturated.
  • Let the vinegar and water work on the hard water stains for 20 minutes.
  • Respray the stained areas and scrub them with an old toothbrush.
  • Retreat any visible stains with your spray and let it sit for another 20 minutes.
  • Use a magic eraser to scrub away any remaining stains.
  • Rinse the tub or sink with hot water.

If your tub or sink with hard water stains is made from acrylic or similar material, you’ll add baking soda to the mix.

  • Lay paper towels on the hard water and soak them with vinegar.
  • Let the vinegar work on the stains for two hours.
  • Remove the paper towels, rinse, and check to see if the stains are still visible.
  • Use a baking soda and water paste to tackle stubborn stains and rinse again.

Since you’re learning how to clean hard water stains, why not tackle the grout in your shower while you’re cleaning the tub? You can use the same cleaners for hard water stains to get your grout looking new again.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains In The Toilet

When you start seeing those faint rings around the inside of your toilet bowl, the likely cause is the minerals in hard water. As the minerals build up on the porcelain, the stains become much harder to remove, so keep on top of your bathroom cleaning and watch out for hard water stains. As soon as you notice rings forming, use these tips for how to remove hard water stains from a toilet.

  • Pour a cup of white vinegar into the toilet.
  • Swish the water and vinegar around and let it sit for five minutes.
  • Scrub the toilet with a toilet brush.
  • Flush the toilet and check for stains.
  • Pour a cup of baking soda in the toilet if you still see stains.
  • Scrub the stains with baking soda and water using a toilet brush.
  • Let the baking soda whiten and break down the hard water stains for 20 minutes.
  • Flush the toilet and check for stains.

If the hard water stains are still visible, cut off the water supply to the toilet and flush it. Pour a bottle of hydrogen peroxide into the toilet, let it sit for 20 minutes, and then flush the toilet.

For old hard water stains in a toilet, you may need a bit more firepower. Borax is an excellent natural cleanser and whitener, and it’s considered safe if used correctly. Chemical data shows that borax has the same safety rating as baking soda and salt, but borax is much more acidic.

That means this natural cleaner does a great job breaking down hard water stains and whitening porcelain—and as long as you don’t ingest it, borax is very safe. Here’s how to remove hard water stains using borax.

  • Cut off the water flow to the toilet.
  • Put on rubber gloves and sprinkle borax into the toilet.
  • Make a paste with the remaining water and borax.
  • Rub the paste all over the inside of the toilet bowl.
  • Let the paste work on the hard water stains for 20 minutes, then flush the toilet.

While there’s not much you can do about where your tap water comes from, you can invest in a water softening system to minimize the mineral content. Water softening systems use filters that trap calcium, magnesium, and other hard minerals that cause stains, giving you softer water and fewer stains.

Now that you’re an expert hard water stain remover, why not add to your housekeeping skills with our extensive library of housekeeping guides? Whether you do the work or choose one of our popular house cleaning services, we’re committed to helping you enjoy a clean home more often. Learn how The Maids can make keeping your home clean easier when you get your free estimate today.


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