How To Remove And Prevent Hard Water Stains

Those hard water stains are really cramping your bathroom’s style. It’s time to do something about that.

We all have them. No, not stretch marks (although, yes, of course we do); in this case, we’re talking about hard water stains. Yep. Most people have to deal with hard water, and the unfortunate reality is that it leaves behind unsightly white, cloudy marks all over your tub, faucets, counters ... you name it.

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Luckily, there are some tried-and-true methods for combatting hard water stains, and we’re here to walk you through them. Read on for our step-by-step advice on removing hard water spots, no matter where you find them!

What causes hard water spots?

So what even causes hard water stains? Essentially, hard water stains are caused by minerals in your water. When water gets on a surface and then evaporates, it leaves these minerals behind. Over time, they build up and create what we know as hard water stains (or spots).

Okay, good to know. But more importantly, how do you get rid of them? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there, too, with step-by-step instructions for removing hard water stains from any kind of surface: from your tub to your toilet to your counters (and everything in between).

How to remove hard water stains from showers + bathtubs

We’re betting that there’s a pretty good chance that some of your biggest areas of concern when it comes to hard water stains are your shower and bathtub.

It makes perfect sense. After all, your shower and bathtub see a lot of water. And if your water is leaving behind hard water stains (like most water does), then your shower and tub probably have a lot of hard water stains, too. So how do you tackle hard water spots in these areas? Easy: with the following steps!

  1. Did someone say distilled white vinegar? (Yes. Always.) If it’s not already your cleaning bestie, it should be. Vinegar’s talent and abilities know no bounds. Truly. If vinegar were a high school student, she’d be at the top of her class and also class president and the treasurer of the community service club (and also, like, really nice). So get yourself some vinegar. Seriously. And then use it to clean all those hard water stains in your shower and bathtub (and a bunch of other things, too, if you’re feeling motivated).

How? Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water, and spray the solution all over your shower and tub. Pay particular attention to the worst of your hard water stains. Let the solution sit for 10–15 minutes so it has a chance to really work on them. Then, using a rag, wipe away the solution. Ta-da! A stain-free tub and shower, courtesy of your new best friend, vinegar.

  1. If you need a little extra boost, combine vinegar with baking soda. Baking soda is your other new cleaning bestie. If vinegar is your insanely kind, conscientious, and studious class president, baking soda is the whip-smart star forward of the soccer team who’s just flat-out too cool to be a high school student (and maybe rides a motorcycle). And when you put vinegar and baking soda together in the same room? They’re an unstoppable duo.

Translation: mixing vinegar and baking soda into a paste is a really great way to tackle particularly tough and stubborn hard water stains. If you find that vinegar alone isn’t quite getting all the hard water spots out, make a vinegar and baking soda paste and scrub.

Those stains never stood a chance.

  1. For shower glass, try a store-bought or homemade glass cleaner first. For tougher stains, use the vinegar and baking soda paste described above. Whichever you end up using, go a bit gentler on your shower glass than you did on your shower walls and tub; as frustrating as hard water stains are, scratched or damaged glass is worse.

Done? Take a step back and admire your handiwork. You deserve it.

How to remove hard water stains on showerheads + faucets

What about hard water stains on your showerheads and faucets? You have a couple options, many of which you’ll recognize from your fight against hard water stains in your shower and bathtub.

  1. Break out your trusty distilled white vinegar. Mix up a vinegar solution as you did above (with equal parts vinegar and water). If you can remove your metal fixtures, do so, and then soak them in a big bowl of the vinegar solution for 10–15 minutes or so. Make sure they’re totally submerged. When you remove them, give them a scrub. Alternatively you can thoroughly spray your metal fixtures with the vinegar solution, let the solution sit for 10–15 minutes, and then go to town with a scrub brush, old toothbrush or rag.

  2. Use a vinegar and baking soda paste to scrub. If you want a little extra oomph (and don’t we all?), make a vinegar and baking soda paste as you might have already for your shower and tub, and use a scrub brush, old toothbrush or rag to scrub your fixtures. They’ll be gleaming by the time you’re done.

  3. For really tough hard water stains, try scrubbing with some hydrogen peroxide. Yep, the same stuff you have in your first aid kit. Hydrogen peroxide plus some elbow grease should banish even the most stubborn of hard water spots from your metal fixtures.

That’s it! Check out how those faucets glisten.

How to get rid of hard water stains in toilets

Yes, your toilet can get hard water stains (and no, you’re not obsessive for wanting them gone). The main thing to remember when tackling hard water stains in your toilet is that you need to use something that won’t damage ceramic. To that end, we suggest the following.

  1. Start with a ceramic-safe all-purpose bathroom cleaner, like 9 Elements Bathroom Cleaner. Spray the inside of your toilet (and the outside, too, because why not give it all a good once-over while you’re at it?), and then let the cleaner sit for 10–15 minutes while you go for a short walk, make a cup a coffee or take a power nap; when you come back, scrub the inside of your toilet with a toilet brush, and flush! (And don’t forget to wipe away the cleaner you sprayed onto the outside of the toilet.) That might just do it!

  2. If you need some more power, mix up some (say it with us now) vinegar solution. You know the drill by now: equal parts vinegar and water, spray thoroughly and let it sit for 10–15 minutes. Then scrub the inside of your toilet with a toilet brush, and flush.

  3. And as always, a vinegar and baking soda paste will help you tackle tough stains. Because together, they’re simply unstoppable.

Didn’t know your toilet could sparkle that much, did you?

How to remove hard water stains on granite + marble

Granite and marble. They’re gorgeous, what can we say? But when they’re covered in hard water stains? Not so much.

When you tackle hard water stains on granite or marble, you want to avoid many of the above solutions, which can actually damage stone surfaces (yikes). Instead, opt for a cleaner specifically formulated for natural stone. Doing so will get rid of those hard water spots without creating an even bigger problem.

How to prevent hard water stains

Now that you’ve tackled all your existing hard water stains, we’re guessing you’d like to keep your surfaces hard-water-stain-free! While we can’t promise you’ll never have to deal with hard water stains again, we do have a few tips to give you to help prevent them and minimize the frequency and effort required to keep them at bay.

  1. Wipe up any water left behind right after you turn off a faucet. No water means no mineral deposits means no hard water stains. Capiche?

  2. Do a daily light cleaning of any surfaces where hard water stains typically form using your good ol’ vinegar solution or 9 Elements Bathroom Cleaner (or natural stone cleaner for granite or marble). We know, we know: daily? But doing this really will help keep hard water stains under control. (Help is the operative word here; while regular cleaning will reduce how often, and how hard, you have to scrub hard water stains, even a daily misting of your favorite cleaner can’t entirely prevent them.)

  3. If you’re at the end of your rope and just cannot anymore, consider installing a water softener. A water softener is exactly what it sounds like: it turns hard water into ... well, soft water (meaning water that doesn’t have all the minerals present in hard water). By removing minerals from your water before it travels through your pipes, a water softener actually prevents hard water stains from forming. In addition to the aesthetic benefits (goodbye chalky faucets!), a water softener also combats other problems hard water can cause, including clogged faucets and showerheads, disappointing water heater performance and skin irritation. (And doesn’t that sound nice!)

Now go take a celebratory soak in your hard-water-stain-free tub. (And maybe even light a scented candle.) You’ve earned it.

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