Remove Hard Water Deposits From Your Bathtub . . . No Scrubbing Required.

cleaning hard water stains It’s known by several different names: hard water stains, lime scale, mineral deposits, mineral build-up, hard water deposits. It’s that white crusty GUNK that build ups around sink & tub faucets, shower heads, etc, etc, etc.

It forms when tap water evaporates and leaves behind minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and it becomes ROCK HARD when it’s left sitting on any surface.

My main hard water problem/nemesis is the bathtub! In particular, the whirlpool jets!

Back in October of last year I posted about my “Miracle Cleaner” working “miracles” in the bathroom. But added at the END of the post that the ONE NOT SO GOOD THING I hadn’t been able to conquer, even with the miracle cleaner, was the plaster-like hard water deposits in my bathtub and around my faucets.

Many at the time left comments touting VINEGAR as the MIRACLE CURE for hard water stains. So I tried it. I soaked some rags in straight vinegar and WRAPPED the faucet bases on my tub.

Sure enough!

Worked like magic!

cleaning hard water stains

My bathtub faucet controls.

Unfortunately, the build up in the bathtub jets were WAY too much for the vinegar soaked rags. And believe me I tried! I kept soaking the rags and putting them back in the jets and a LITTLE would come off…but nothing was budging the rock-hard build up in there.

After that setback…I put the whole project aside and tried not to think about it…but I missed using the jets in my tub!  And I was NOT going to use them with that gunk in there.

So I continued to search for an answer and FINALLY found it in a comment on a Gardening Forum of all things. :-) A comment that was left back in 2004! I could have taken care of this problem EIGHT YEARS AGO?!? ;-)  Oh well….better late than never!

cleaning hard water stains

Building on what Trinity suggested in July of 2004…here is what worked for me TODAY:

1. Fill tub with hot water to a couple inches above jets.
2. Pour in 1 cup bleach and 1/2 cup powdered dishwasher detergent (you could substitute vinegar here if you are opposed to using bleach)
3. Run the jets (wide open!) for 15 minutes, then let soak. (I left mine to soak for about an hour.)

cleaning hard water stains
4. Empty tub and refill with cold water (to just above the jets again)
5. Run jets 10 more minutes to rinse, then drain.


Here is what I discovered when the water and bubbles had receded…..


cleaning hard water stains

I kid you not!  I didn’t lay a FINGER on that jet! I thought for sure I would have to repeat the process at LEAST 2 or 3 times AND take a scrub brush to it…but NOPE…one time and all the hard water build up was completely gone!

I still had to work on some of the hard water STAINS under the jets…but those all eventually came clean too using the vinegar-soaked rags trick.

Here are a couple more before and afters:

cleaning hard water stains

cleaning hard water stains


Thanks to this “new” Miracle Cleaner, I can once again enjoy the WHIRLPOOL feature of my WHIRLPOOL tub!

Oh Happy Day!

P.S. The same vinegar-soaked rag technique can work in your TOILET too!

  • cleaning hard water stains Turn off the water to your toilet.
  • Flush it repeatedly until the bowl is empty of water.
  • Soak your rags with straight white vinegar and line the toilet bowl with them.
  • When the rags dry out, add more vinegar. Do this for several hours, or until the scale starts to dissolve.
  • When the stains start dissolving, use your toilet brush and scrub the remaining scale off.
  • Turn the water back on and rinse.

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  1. maggie says

    Another tip for shower heads, when the sprayers get clogged with minerals: unscrew them (it’s not hard) and soak them in a bowl of vinegar. (I’ve read some people put vinegar in a strong (freezer-type) quart-sized bag, then put it over the shower head so that the head is soaking in the vinegar in the bag, then use a few rubber bands to secure it. We found it just as easy to unscrew the shower head.)

    • maggie says

      I totally agree on the pumice stone mounted on the long-handled stick. I found one at Ace Hardware for a few bucks, and it gets that stuff off the toilet really easily, without damaging the porcelain.

      • Alison S. says

        the pumice stones work really well with those stains, but I’m going to try to empty the toilet, soak with the vinegar rags, then scrub with the pumice stone. It will be brilliant!

  2. says

    LOL – I read previous comments and THAT is my question – the toilet. I don’t have jets in my tub, in fact all I have is dust particles from lack of use. However, the lou is another matter… :) Looking forward to your solution to that one~ Meanwhile – WELL DONE on your jets, the outcome is really amazing!

    • deniseinark says

      Once metal is corroded, it’s done. You can get it cleaner, but it will never look smooth and shiny again. Drains and that metal ring that surrounds them are surprisingly easy to replace. Look for some videos over at the DIY network. The ring simply dropped on top of the drain and held in place by plumber’s putty, so to pull it up you wedge a screwdriver under it and pry it out. The new one goes back in with some fresh plumber’s putty under it. Check out HoDe or Lowe’s because I think you can buy a replacement for just that piece – one that matches the fixtures you already have. If you’re talking about the shower drain, those aren’t “glued” in at all- just pry it up, take it to the store to match a size, and buy a new one.

  3. Anon says

    You are wonderful, Jill! Thank you so much for researching and then solving all of our problems. And so easily and safely. I always recommend your blog to everyone! You are the best!!!

    • Dena says

      Hi Lisa. We have a 1970′s BLUE (!!!!) shower stall in our bathroom upstairs and we had that problem, too. I keep a spray bottle (a recycled windex bottle from years ago…I use vinegar to clean pretty much everything, now) full of straight white vinegar by the shower. Every time the last person to shower gets out, they wipe the shower with a towel or small squeegee to remove as much water as possible. Then they spray the vinegar all over (starting at the top) and leave it. The next time we shower, it is sparkling clean; and it stays that way if you makes this a habit.
      To get the shower to the point where you can spray and walk away, you may have to take a day to spray the vinegar on it, let it sit (“hang”, slide, run…whatever!) for a while, scrub with a cloth, and repeat several times throughout the day until that scum comes off. This can be done over a period of days, too…whatever works for you.

      • Wendy says

        Or….you can use borax. It is usually found on the laundry soap isle. Dip a wet cloth in th dry borax and just start scrubbing a previously wet wall. Then pour a container of water over to rinse. Nice and sparkly and not pickled!

    • deniseinark says

      Vertical shower surfaces are just about the hardest to deal with. If you don’t mind using some chemicals, at least temporarily, the best product I can recommend is the Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner. After MIL got sick, the shower there got out of hand. SIL bought them one and after a week’s worth of pushing the button when they got out of the shower (no joke – that was ALL of the work involved) it got the door, walls, and even the floor of their fake-marble shower clean. It was already pitted on the floor and the door looks a little filmy because the limescale etched it, but it’s sure enough clean – you can tell when you run the microfiber cloth over it.
      Even if you don’t like using chemicals, this might be an option just to get a really bad shower clean. Then take it out of the shower and start keeping it dry. If water is never allowed to evaporate on the surface, it can’t leave behind the minerals and dirt dissolved in it. The scum is only “hard as a rock” when it’s allowed to become rock!

  4. Mouskalollie says

    This is a great hint….but I live in the middle of nowhere and have a septic tank — any ideas? I use vinegar for everything but my kitchen counter tops. I have Brazilian Rainforest Marble (beautiful but a pain!) and vinegar is a no-no. And I hate, hate, hate the hard water mineral scaley stuff that is on it. Does anyone have any ideas? I would be very grateful!


    • deniseinark says

      Whatever you do, don’t soak marble or granite or stone of any kind with vinegar. It is acid enough to etch into the stone – not deeply, but it will take the shine off. When I sold kitchens at Home Depot, we had a customer who left a lemon sitting cut side down overnight on her granite and now (and forever) has a perfect little lemon slice etching in her granite. :-( If there is already a buildup on your stone, it’s probably already etched underneath, as that scale is caustic because of its high alkaline pH. There might not be any choice but to have it refinished.
      Stone is beautiful and long lasting as long as the family is diligent with its high upkeep demands. If the area isn’t wiped dry every time it gets wet, thus removing the water with the dissolved deposits still in solution, this is always going to be an issue.

  5. Jenny L says

    Another great tip. Can’t wait to try it. I use powder dishwashing detergent and bleach when I want to get tee-shirts, white clothes, tabletcloths, napkins, etc. really really white. I just put about 1/4 cup Cascade and a couple capfuls of bleach and then let the clothes soak. It turns everything white as snow.

  6. Heather Hughes says

    Do you know if you can use the vinegar trick on the faucets on my GRANITE kitchen counter?? Is vinegar bad for granite?? Can’t wait to try this everywhere else possible though:)!!

    • deniseinark says

      For buildup *just* on the fixtures, you could try protecting the stone around them with a good coat of wax, then I’d follow it with a heavy coat of vaseline and cover with plastic for good measure. Be sure you protect a large area around the fixtures and get all the way up to their base. Don’t ever let vinegar or any other acid sit on stone, as it will etch rather quickly.

  7. says

    Vinegar is awesome stuff, isn’t it? I have a whirlpool tub, too, and it had those nasty hard water deposits when I moved in. Wish I’d known of your trick, because I wound up chipping away at them with the tip of a chopstick, then filling the tub with hot water and adding a bottle of vinegar. Let that sit for a few days (ew, I know, right?) and drained, then was able to scrub the stuff out.

    I’ve since learned that if I fill the tub with water and add 1 cup bleach to it, then run the jets for a few minutes, it’ll flush them out AND prevent those deposits. Oh, and I keep one of those dish wands that holds soap next to the tub, and use it after every bath to get rid of the ring. Super easy way to keep that whirlpool fresh for those nights you really need it. Like tonight for me!

  8. says

    ok since you are the queen of good things i have a challenge for you! you probably dont have this problem but it seems you ferret out the solution for everything.
    we have rust stains from hard water. we just put in a new shower and even tho we squeegee after each shower, toward the bottom it already has a orangey patina. hubby has waxed the shower a number of times to help with beading but still it persists
    help please!!!!

    • Mama T says

      I feel your pain! We just moved about a month ago from city to country, nice city water to hard well water that leaves rust stains on EVERYTHING. Thankfully, my mother in law has been dealing with it for years, and she had a few tricks for me. Vinegar will clear out the deposits in the shower heads and faucets, but does nothing for rust. CLR doesn’t even help the rust here, it’s that horrible. So, the only chemical we use to clean the rust stains is called The Works. It’s less than $2 at a few stores around here, and it’s a toilet bowl cleaner, but we use it in the washer, dishwasher, toilets and tubs. It really helps to get those rust stains off, but it is very, very caustic. I’m all for natural cleaning solutions, but so far, I haven’t found a thing that will touch rust. After cleaning with The Works, I flush everything I used it on with water. My daily cleaning for showers is 1 part ammonia to two parts water and a squirt of Dawn. Spray on, wipe with cloth and rinse.

  9. Autumn says

    this is kind of unrelated but i can NOT find a solution…or a cheap one anyway :)
    My problem, I have an enameled cast iron kohler sink. White…what was I thinkin?!?! Anyway, anything that touches it leaves a scratch. They (kohler) make an abrasive type cleaner but it’s a tad expensive. I’ve tried baking soda, comet, vinegar, bleach, peroxide, just plain elbow grease and a scubby…nothing works! anyone have any ideas??? it drives me crazy!!!

  10. deniseinark says

    Hey Jillee – how about a tute on getting that disgusting hairball out of the shower (and possibly lavatory) drain? I wash the dogs in the shower and every time the drain gets slow, that fixes the problem.

    • maggie says

      There’s a fine mesh device that covers a tub/shower drain that will make your life easier. I found it at a hardware store — it’s the same gauge of mesh as a fine mesh kitchen strainer, flat around the edges and then with a little bubble-shape in the middle. You just set it on top of the drain as needed. The hair floats over the flat edge then hangs up on the raised bubble part. We use it when we wash our German Shepherd Dogs (a/k/a German Shedder Dogs) in the tub/shower, and it catches A LOT of hair.

  11. LauraK says

    I tried the vinegar trick on my bathroom spigot yesterday. The build up was terrible (actually scratched you if you touched it). WORKED LIKE A CHARM!!!

    And a bonus is that the bend in the spigot is not much so the baggie filled with vinegar dripped so now my drain is clean and drains quickly too!

  12. Susie Mercer says

    For hard water stains on toilets try “The Works”. It is sold at the dollar store and has beat my horrible hard water stains and build-up. I had tried every homemade recipe I could think of, and was considering a new toilet. And…its only $1!!

  13. Andrea in Long Beach says

    I’ve never met anyone, nor do I personally have a jacuzzi style bathtub. I have been sitting on a cleaning tip for some time. A couple of years ago I was watching “How Clean is Your House?” a cleaning program on BBC America. The hosts go into a home and show the homeowners, who really need help and tips, how to clean quick and easy, and generally with a natural, chemical-free method. To make a long story short, (I know, I’m long winded) they went into a home that had a jacuzzi style tub. Grimy beyond belief. Even the homeowners wouldn’t touch it. So they filled the bathtub up with water and dropped in a couple of denture tablets I believe. Turned the jets on and let it run. Now, I am not entirely certain it was denture tablets, about 90% sure, but they were quite fond of using those little tablets. In the end, the tub did not need any scrubbing, and it was sparkling white. Free of any detritus and grimy dirtiness. I hope this helps. Maybe you could try it out.

  14. D says

    bad toilets need bad chemicals – Muratic Acid. If your toilet is very stained, drain all the water out – all! wear gloves, masks and protective clothing DO NOT BREATH IN FUMES, follow precautions & directions on label then pour in enough Muractic Acid to get to the stain, . Close the lid and RUN!! Wait 30 mins, turn water back on and flush! Sparkily!!

  15. Msalm says

    When you mix vinegar and chlorine bleach, you make chlorine gas…..nazis used it to exterminate millions of jews” While it’s true full-strength household chlorine bleach plus full-strength household vinegar does produce chlorine gas, there are several things wrong with this answer. As a general precaution: Don’t mix full-strength household vinegar with full-strength household chlorine bleach.

    Read more:

  16. Ethel says

    I have an irrigation system that in the past was hitting a dining room window. The window has a cloudy look that I cannot get rid of. I have tried CLR, a mixture of vinegar, alcohol and dish detergent and Magic Eraser. Does anyone have a solution to well water deposits?

  17. Trixie says

    My family moved into a rental house a little over a year ago and the home owner does not now, nor apparently has EVER, spent any money on this home. It is about 17 years old and all of the fixtures, appliances, etc. are the original builder grade stuff. The kitchen faucet leaks something terrible but when we informed her about it, she said, oh, it’s ok, just wipe off the water. SMH! Seriously, so there was probably at least 15 YEARS worth of hard water/lime build-up around the base of this faucet and I’d tried everything I could think of and it wouldn’t budge. Last night, before bed, I soaked a wash cloth in plain white vinegar and wrapped it around the base of the faucet. This morning, when I removed the cloth, I dried the area with a paper towel and except for still leaking – this looks like a brand new faucet!!!! Thank you so much Jillee. You’re the bomb!

  18. julieann says

    I now have toilet rings that appear more than ever and now hard to get rid of. A while back I used a pumice stone many times. Apparently I have scratched the surface one too many times and now I cannot get rid of those stains. What to suggest now?

  19. M J says

    I have the exact same buildup problem but it is in my shower drain (floor). Anyone know if I can use the bleach and detergent safely in there to get rid of it? Drano etc. haven’t worked!

  20. S P says

    Kristina, she doesn’t need to delete her post. You need to delete yours because you have to read properly before accusing Jillee. Nowhere in her recipe, she says use both vinegar and bleach. She said use either one.

  21. Jessica says

    Hi Jillee I love your blog!!!! Been reading a while now. I have a question re hard water stains. I saw your PS in the post above but my problem lies under the toilet rim. It is a rock like build up and collects germs so now
    It stinks because of build up under the rim. HELP!!! Any ideas for me?
    Many thanks

    Ps anything for cigarette burn Marks on a sink? Previous owner apparently didn’t care.

  22. Comet says

    To get ALL the water out of the toilet before using any of the cleaning methods get a cheepo TURKEY BASTER at the 1$ store or similar and when you get down to those last few ounces–that will of course be right where you NEED to clean or scrub—use the baster to suck out the water. Make sure you mark this and keep it OUT of the kitchen tho! Also works if you need to open the “U” bend of your drains to unclog or repair and I bet it would come in handy if you needed it to help get the car radiator or it’s hose empty to remove or repair.

    For under the rim try draining the water and then drying the rim underside–I know but hang on!!!!—try using a spray bottle or even a wad of old cloth to work a cleaner—vinegar or whatever—to get as much of the stuff on there as you can—would work like the thick stuff Lysol or Clorox sells for this purpose.

  23. Leslie says

    I realize this thread is a couple months old, but I am off to try this now! Love your blog…great fun. Had to add a trick I learned on good ole Pinterest. Use dryer sheets to clean soap scum off shower doors – hardly any scrubbing. It was amazing! Seriously, I had to scrub ridiculously hard with a magic eraser, or other nasty cleaners over the years to no avail. I already use vinegar to spray shower after each use, but couldn’t get soap scrum to budge. It took a couple of wipe downs to tackle the monster, but is so easy I actually get excited to clean my shower doors! Really, I’m smiling right now thinking of it :)

  24. says

    We are using the ROG 3 tub and tile cleaner for all calcium build up the ROG 1 works great in our dish washer but the cleaner called ROG 3 DID A GREAT JOB ON OUR BATHTUB we have a cast iron villager tub in the master and a fiberglass shower in the guest room my older sons old room and it was impossible to get clean but the photos on line at convinced me to try the ROG and it worked out great.
    We had two companies gave us bids of 280.00 to 500.00 with a one year warranty to paint the tub and shower…… and we decided to get the ROG route first at……. ……. and give it a try and loved it, we recommend it to all who has build up and your tub or shower may look like it needs to be re coated but it does not. the ROG got it to its original finish, especially on the factory slip guard!

  25. janice says

    ROG is the best tub cleaner i’ve ever used it saved our 4 year old tub saving us thousands. trust me if you want to clean your bathtub or shower remove stains and clean tile and grout give ROG a try I’ve been using it for 6 months and it also leaves a great smell after the ROG1 and its one of the Only Kohler approved cleaners that maintain the finish and clean tough stains

  26. Kelly Jo says

    Wow! I just found this on pinterest – and I’m so glad I did! We thought our whirlpool tub would be pointless to use when we moved in 2 years ago. Tried all kinds of things, but nothing cleaned it well enough to use – I’m hoping this does the trick!! We have rusty stains from our well water – happens to a lot of people in this area. Barkeepers Friend is awesome on the stains in the toilet, just a quick scrub and all those orange-red stains are gone!

  27. Donn Montilla says

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  28. Sessa says

    Hello I tried CLR, I try dawn with lemon juice, I tried snowbowl toilet cleaner, I tried, on my bathtub. Well I, ruined my finish in the bathtub my husband was really upset so we just installed a brand-new Kohler bathtub, Well after one month my brand-new tub bottom got dirty again so I called the kohler company and ask them what do I do, so I don’t ruin my bathtub Again and they recommended this express ROG cleaner well let me tell you it really works it’s great no more fading of the shine more scratches I’m using what the manufacture of the kohler company told me to use.
    I only wish I never listen to all these other blogs and crazy mixtures of these weird chemicals and ruin my tub, I’ll never do it again i will always call the manufacture and ask them

  29. Stacey says

    Exactly what kind of “rag’s” are supposed to be soaked in vinegar? I tried just an old wash cloth and let it sit there for a couple hours, and a little bit came off, but nowhere near all of it. A response would be greatly appreciated.


    • says

      hey stacey, i had the same issue :( i got all excited to try it as i cleaned the bathroom yesterday but couldnt get the rings around the drains clean. i soaked a plain cheap washcloth in vinegar and piled it on the drain and left it 4-5 hours (checked it every hour) hoping it would break the grime loose but no real change

  30. says

    i have a horrible problem, i have well water and in my shower stalls they are orange, i have tried the works for shower it gets most off but is so hard to get clean, please tell me the best thing to try i dont know what else to do, thanks so much

    • AmyInNH says

      Hi Pat,

      That orange would be manganese in your water. A friend once had me perm her hair to get it out of her hair (she was a natural blond but going strawberry blond from it). Within seconds of putting on the hair perm solution, the orange started running out with the excess solution. Try picking up a cheap box of hair perm lotion for your shower.


  31. Christy says

    You said vinegar is a no no on stone. I have a stone shower floor. What can I use to get rid of hard water stain and shine it up? Also, do you know if you can use vinegar on oil rubbed bronze faucets?

  32. Jaime says

    We rent a house that’s on a well, and there is a TON of buildup inside the shower drain from hard water deposits . I’m talking almost an inch of rough, hard, white, rocky stuff inside the drain pipe. Wondering if there is a way to modify this method to work for a shower drain since it’s not possible to keep the Magic Cleaning Solution circulating through it or soaking for 15 minutes… Any ideas??


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