How to Remove Hard Water Stains Quickly & Easily on Toilets, Showers and More

Hard water stains not only leave unsightly residue, making your glasses and shower doors cloudy, but the minerals that cause white stains can also slow down and eventually clog showers and faucets. Knowing how to remove hard water stains quickly and easily can reduce the elbow grease needed to remove those chalky marks and help prevent buildup to keep your showers and faucets flowing freely.

Helping to keep your home clean and sparkling is a top priority here at the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab. We test cleaning products year round and find the best ways to help keep your home spotless, including removing hard water stains. And since nothing is worse than cleaning your crystal to leave nothing but stains, we’ve put together our top tips for removing hard water stains from all surfaces in your home.

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What is hard water?

First off, you might be wondering what exactly hard water is and why it causes stains. When water contains high levels of minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and iron, it is considered “hard”. These unsightly hard water spots are caused when hard water droplets dry out and leave mineral calcium deposits. Usually these spots are chalky white, but can also be brown or rusty depending on the minerals in the water.

Note that hard water stains can become permanent and damage surfaces like glass if left on for too long. It is best to remove hard water stains as soon as they appear. While it can be tempting to let a light stain sit until the day you clean it, the longer it stays, the harder it is to remove.

The best ways to remove hard water stains

The best way to remove hard water stains is to use an ingredient you probably already have in your pantry: the vinegar. This closet staple can remove stains from glasses, polish chrome faucets and fixtures, and clear shower heads. There are also cleaning products you can buy that can easily remove stains and hard water buildup. Find out the best ways to get rid of hard water stains on toilets, showers, sinks, glass and more.

How to remove hard water stains from glass

To remove hard water marks from glasses when washing your dishes by hand, you will need a basin large enough to submerge your glass in vinegar.

  1. Reheat the vinegar: Heat some white vinegar in the microwave until hot and pour it into the basin.
  2. Let’s sit down: Immerse the glasses in the vinegar for 10 minutes, turning them over to cover all sides.
  3. Add baking soda: After 10 minutes, remove the glasses and sprinkle generously with baking soda.
  4. Rinse: Gently rub the baking soda with your fingers to remove the stains, rinse and dry.
    1. How to remove hard water stains from shower walls and tubs

      To clean your shower and tub, take a spray bottle and mix equal parts water and vinegar. Spray the solution on the affected surfaces, let sit for at least 15 minutes, then wipe off. For stubborn, hard water stains that require more scouring power, you may need to use something stronger, like CLR Brilliant Bath Cleaner, a top-notch product that won the 2020 Maintenance Voucher award.

      How to remove hard water stains from shower heads

      If your shower spray doesn’t feel as strong anymore, it could be a sign that hard water minerals are blocking your shower head and nozzle. To clean your shower head, dip a toothbrush in white vinegar and rub jets of water, then wipe it down and turn on jets to remove clogging minerals. (While you can soak the shower head in vinegar, be aware that it could damage some finishes.)

      How to remove hard water stains from sinks

      Give your chrome sink appliances a polished look again using a 50/50 water and vinegar solution.

      1. Wrap the fixture: Dip a rag in the mixture, wrap it around the stained object and leave it for up to 10 minutes.
      2. Rinse and polish: After letting it sit, rinse and polish – then repeat if necessary.
      3. Soak the aerator: If your sink has an aerator (a removable grill), unscrew it, soak it in vinegar, and scrub to remove mineral buildup.
        1. How to remove hard water stains from the toilet

          The easiest way to get rid of filthy residue is to use a toilet cleaner specifically designed for hard water stain removal, as Scrubbing Bubbles Power Stain Destroyer. Simply apply the product around the inside of the toilet bowl, let sit for 15 minutes and scrub until you reach a sparkling bowl. In our cleaning lab tests, we found this product easy to use thanks to the curved neck bottle. For stubborn stains, a second application may be necessary.

          If you prefer to use items that may already be in your home, a DIY vinegar and baking soda solution is a great alternative:

          Vinegar and baking soda method

          1. Pour in the vinegar: Measure a cup of vinegar and pour it around the inside of the toilet bowl, making sure to cover hard water stains with vinegar. Swish it around with a toilet brush and let it sit for a minute.
          2. Add baking soda and more vinegar: After letting the vinegar sit, sprinkle a cup of baking soda around the toilet bowl, then add another cup of vinegar over the baking soda. It is normal for the mixture to sparkle, so don’t worry. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
          3. Swish solution and let sit: Using a toilet brush, run the solution around the toilet, making sure to cover the stains, and let the solution sit for 30 minutes. Stir the solution around the bowl a few times to make sure you get rid of the stains.
          4. Scrub: After 30 minutes, if there are still stains, use the toilet brush to scrub them.
          5. Rinse and repeat: Flush the toilet to flush and repeat as needed for stuck spots.
            1. Toilet stone cleaning method

              Sometimes, despite your best efforts, hard water deposits still settle inside the toilets, especially along the water line. For those hard-to-remove stains, try a toilet cleaning stone, such as Clorox Toilet and Bath Cleaning Stone. Made from crushed and compressed glass, these stones remove deposits without scratching porcelain fixtures. Simply wet the stone and the bowl, then Gently rub the line of hard water deposits to loosen and wipe them off. The stones can be used over and over again and gradually wear out over time.

              How to avoid hard water spots

              To combat those cloudy spots in the first place, it is important to keep fixtures dry. Simply wipe down glassware, faucets, sinks, and shower doors with a soft cloth after use to prevent water from drying on the surface and leaving minerals behind. As for your toilet, it is useful to clean the toilet regularly (although even with frequent cleaning, hard water stains can still appear in the toilet).

              But the easiest way to avoid hard water stains all over your house is to get rid of the problem completely by installing an entire house. water softener, which requires professional installation on your home’s water pipes. Most water softeners work with salt – which needs to be replenished – to filter the water and remove the calcium and magnesium minerals, preventing stains from occurring in the first place.

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