How to Eliminate Hard Water Stains

By Angelica Frey

85% of homes in the United States have hard water, which means that in most households, running water contains calcium, magnesium, and other metals. When hard water evaporates, it leaves behind the mineral traces of calcium and magnesium which then solidify. This leaves behind crusty, yellow/white chalk-like stains on metal, porcelain (such as toilet bowls, tubs, and sinks), and tiles. What’s more, when iron (often present in some tap water) combines with hard water, the end result is rust stains.

For the heavy-duty water stains, cleaning products containing potent chemicals such as muriatic acid may be necessary. But before you settle on chemicals, try a white vinegar solution.

Mineral deposits are alkaline in nature (they have a pH greater than 7), so using an acidic substance (whose pH is less than 7) will help soften and, eventually, dissolve these stains.

Removing hard water stains from faucets

Before eliminating hard water stains from your faucets, gather the following materials.


  • White vinegar
  • Rag
  • Rubber bands
  • Sponge
  • Clean towel
  1. Soak one or more rags in white vinegar.
  2. Lay on or wrap said rags around the affected areas. Secure with rubber bands if necessary. Leave the rag for about an hour.
  3. After an hour, the mineral deposits will have loosened or dissolved.
  4. Scrub the any remaining stains off with a sponge (an old one will do).
  5. Wipe the surface with a clean towel.

How to remove hard water stains from a toilet bowl

This white vinegar solutions also works for toilet bowls. In this case, however, extra steps are necessary.


  • White vinegar
  • Several old rags or paper towels
  • Toilet bowl brush
  1. Turn off the water.
  2. Flush the toilet until the bowl is empty.
  3. Line the toilet bowl with vinegar-soaked rags (or paper towels), and leave them on for several hours. If the rags or paper towels dry out, pour enough vinegar on them to saturate.
  4. After removing the rags, scrub off any remaining spots with a toilet bowl brush.
  5. Turn the water on and flush to rinse.

For those especially tough stains

If a white vinegar soak isn’t removing the hard water stains, try a paste made of vinegar and baking soda, which you would smear on the affected areas with a rag and then scrub.

In the case of especially stubborn water stains, make a paste containing 3/4 cup borax and one cup white vinegar to use as a scrub on hard water–stained surfaces.

How to prevent hard water stains

If you have hard water in your home, stains will reappear if steps are not taken to prevent them.

  • Dry your newly-rinsed surfaces as soon as possible after use. Letting the water evaporate naturally will eventually take you back to square one.
  • Do some vinegar-based upkeep every two weeks—this will take care of minor mineral deposits and avoid the use of harsh chemicals altogether.
    • Make your own formula by adding equal parts of water and white vinegar and storing it in a spray bottle.
    • If you want to be even more aggressive, keep a towel and a squeegee handy so you can dry your bathtub or your sink immediately after use.

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