How To Remove Those Stubborn Hard Water Stains

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

It’s known by several different names: hard water stains, lime scale, mineral deposits, mineral build-up, hard water deposits, etc. Whatever you call it, it’s that stubborn white crusty GUNK that builds up around your faucets, shower head, and toilet. These obnoxious hard water deposits form when tap water evaporates, leaving behind minerals such as calcium and magnesium that solidify into the crusty stuff you can never seem to get rid of!

Several years ago, I wrote here on my blog about my “Kitchen Miracle Cleaner” working miracles in the bathroom. But at the time, there was one thing in the bathroom I hadn’t been able to conquer, even with the miracle cleaner – those stubborn hard water stains!

Read More: Top Ten Uses Of My Miracle Cleaner

There were mineral deposits around the faucet handles on my bathtub that just wouldn’t budge no matter what I tried. The jets in my whirlpool bathtub were in even worse shape! There was so much crusty buildup in and around the jets that I wasn’t even sure they would work properly, so I just didn’t use them.

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

At the time, I received a lot of great comments touting vinegar as the solution to my hard water stain problems. I was game to give it a try, so here’s what I did.

Check out a great cleaning tip for removing hard water deposits from your kitchen faucet in the video at the end of the post.

How To Remove Hard Water Stains

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

1. Soak one or more cleaning rags in white vinegar.

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

2. Drape or wrap the rag around the area affected by mineral deposits.

3. Leave the rags for an hour or more, adding more vinegar if necessary to keep the rags wet.

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

4. When the mineral deposits have loosened up or dissolved, remove the rags and clean the area with a clean towel or sponge.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains

And sure enough, it worked like magic! Those stubborn hard water stains had dissolved and I was able to wipe them away easily. You can use this method to clean hard water stains on shower heads, faucets, countertops…pretty much anywhere they crop up!

And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, I found out that the same vinegar-soaked rag technique can work in your toilet too! It’s pretty much the same process listed above, with a couple of added toilet-specific steps.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains

How To Clean Hard Water Stains In Your Toilet

1. Turn off the water to your toilet.

2. Flush it repeatedly until the bowl is empty of water.

3. Soak your rags with straight white vinegar and line the toilet bowl with them.

4. When the rags dry out, add more vinegar. Do this for several hours, or until the scale starts to dissolve.

5. When the stains start dissolving, use your toilet brush and scrub the remaining scale off.

6. Turn the water back on and rinse.

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

Unfortunately, the buildup inside the jets in my bathtub were way beyond the capacity of a few vinegar-soaked rags. So I continued to search for an answer and finally found the solution I was looking for (on a gardening forum, of all places!) Here is what worked for me:

How To Clean Hard Water Deposits In A Jetted Tub

1. Fill tub with hot water to a couple inches above jets.

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

2. Pour in 1 cup bleach and 1/2 cup powdered dishwasher detergent. (You could substitute vinegar here if you would rather not use bleach.)

How to Remove Hard Water from Your Bathtub

3. Run the jets for 15 minutes, then let soak for an hour or so.

4. Empty tub and refill with cold water.

5. Run jets 10 more minutes to rinse, then drain.

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

How to Remove Hard Water Stains

No kidding! I didn’t lay a FINGER on that jet! I thought for sure I would have to repeat the process a few times AND take a scrub brush to it, but nope! One “treatment” and all the hard water buildup was gone!

Thanks to this method, I have been enjoying the whirlpool feature of my tub ever since, and my hard water worries are a thing of the past. I just love a happy ending. :-)

YouTube video
If the water isn’t spraying out of your kitchen sink faucet correctly, you can use this tip to fix it.

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I used CLR on our faucet handles when the buildup was really bad. The vinegar wasn’t doing much. The label said it removes soap scum. I just sprayed it on, and it cut through all the gunk very quickly.

  • I have hard water deposits on the granite around the faucets. I’ve heard you shouldn’t use vinegar on granite. Regular granite cleaner doesn’t work, any suggestions?

    • Dorothy, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the area. Using a soft bristle brush, scrub it and rinse with water. Finally, wipe it dry with a microfiber cloth. Hope this helps. :-)

  • The best cleaning tips ever.. As a commercial property cleaning company we had this problem for ages .. Now we know what to try…. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information… keep up the good work.

  • How do I remove the built up mineral deposits on my tub in my home built in 1907? I’ve tried numerous methods….vinegar, baking soda, you name it!! Please help me. Thank you.

    • I’m in a similar position Deb – I’ve tried everything nature that I know of (with some degree of success) but since no one cared about this for several years before, I’m going to resort to muratic acid to clean away the debris in the toilets and bathtubs and then use natural methods to keep everything clean afterward.

  • I wasn’t able to get the haze off my plexiglass. The hard water etches it. It was easier and cheaper to replace it. Later we redid the whole bathroom and I will never let plexiglass enter my home again!

  • How do I clean the yucky black scum around my toilet jets? Nothing seems to help… This is how the jets were left when moving into our new home. Thank you so much for all your helpful hints.

  • Thank God I don’t have THS problem, but it’s so good to know how to remove hard water stains if I did. I know your ‘how to’s’ truly works, as it did in “how to remove rust from iron skillet”.

  • Jillee, I have fiberglass tub and shower and over the years they have turned yellow and nothing I use gets the yellow off. I want my white pristine tub and shower back. Do you have a solution for that. Would this process work?

    • Drop about a teaspoon of dish soap onto the yellowed area, top with baking soda, and use some warm water to gently scrub and make a soaping paste. Leave the soapy paste for at least an hour, then scrub! Yellowed tubs can be super hard to clean, so it might take a couple treatments. :-(

    • Oh man! Some toilets just won’t empty the bowl on their own. Instead, dump a bucketful of hot water right into the toilet bowl. I don’t know why, but it will empty the bowl in minutes!

  • I clean the faucets with vinegar, wipe off, then use a q tip to wipe off the hard to get to areas, with olive oil, veg oil, baby oil, etc…takes the scum right out

  • I have previously used the vinegar on a rag idea to remove hard water stains………..only to find that this then ruined the chrome finish on my faucet handles!! So disappointed.

  • Hi,

    I tried this, left overnight and unfortunately did not work at all. Really disappointed.

    Incidentally, tried your whitening solution 3x now and also doesn’t work well.

    Starting to think I should unfollow this site!

    • How disappointing! Sorry Jody. I have success using both of these methods many times. Were your hard water stains saturated completely? For the whitening solution, did you use very hot water?

      • Yes I did all of that. Maybe my water is just harder?
        I also use your whitening solution with boiling water for white clothes. It helps a bit but doesn’t get the stains out, and usually they are just dark from dusty floors. Anything else you recommend?

  • Bleach + Vinegar = Toxic Chlorine Gas. While the combination does create a good disinfectant, these two common cleaning agents should never be used at the same time. Why: Adding any weak acid to bleach will release toxic chlorine and chloramine vapors.Sep 26, 2013

    • Where do you see that this post recommends bleach WITH vinegar? I don’t see that anywhere. I do see…

      2. Pour in 1 cup bleach and 1/2 cup powdered dishwasher detergent. (You could substitute vinegar here if you would rather not use bleach.)

      • Where’a the bleach? Sometimes the answer is not as simple as “2+1=3”, with the “2” representing the dishwaahwr detergent. We tend to think of dishwasher detergent as one ingredient when in reality it is a combination of several materials, one of which is CHLORINE BLEACH. Most powdered dish detergents routinely contain chlorine bleach in order to prevent mildew from developing in the warm damp areas of the dishwasher and to sanitize. So, while there’s no adverse reaction to be caused by adding additional bleach, to substitute an acid like vinegar would, indeed, cause the chemical reaction releasing the chlorine gas, which is quite harmful.

      • Also, NEVER combine ammonia with dishwasher detergent because of the bleach in the dishwasher detergent AND do not combine either vinegar or ammonia with liquid dish detergents (some newer ones contain chlorine bleach also).

      • Use a paper towel and a spray bottle filled with vinegar. Simply hold the paper towel over the hard water stain, and spray it. Just spray enough to get the paper towel to stick to the glass door – don’t soak it! Let sit until the paper towels dry :-)

    • For glass doors on a stand alone shower, I use a mixture of Dawn dishsoap & white vinegar. I put 1/4 cup Dawn into a spray bottle and fill the rest up with straight white vinegar. Spray the entire glass doors until heavily saturated and the mixture starts to stream down. Let stand and work it’s magic. I usually do it in the morning after our showers and let it sit all day and night. Then the next morning when I take my shower, I rub my loofa over the doors to clean away the soap. Easy peasy and it has kept my glass doors sparkling ever since. I repeat the process about every other month or when needed. This mixture is also PERFECT for cleaning bathroom sinks and stainless steel kitchen sinks. Same method, spray down the inside of the sinks. Let stand 15-30 minutes, scrub sinks with a scrubby sponge. Removes all the hard water deposits and makes the sinks shine!!

      • I have been looking & trying so many different things to clean the hard water stains on my shower. I tried the glass cook top cleaner and it was MAGIC!! I will tell everyone!

  • Any thoughts on how the vinegar will affect aged bronze finishes? We live in a very hard water area and it’s building up, but I don’t want to damage the finish.

  • Clogged or slow running shower heads? If you have a hand-held shower head- fill a container with vinegar- let it soak overnight. If your shower head is fixed on the wall- fill a plastic bag with vinegar and put on shower head overnight. Secure bag with heavy-duty rubber band or tape. You will be surprised how much this improves your shower water pressure

  • Bar Keeper’s Friend is amazing at removing hard water stains. Sprinkle on, give a good scrub with a scrub brush or toothbrush, and rinse. I was shocked at how shiny my faucets were. Oh Yuck! cleaner is recommended for cleaning the jets on a whirlpool tub. Just some other options to try.

  • I love these, tips, however, I always have shower curtains because I live in a hard water area and I’m just sick of the minerals. So shower curtains are the perfect answer for me. When I’m tired of them, new ones are a nice change of decor and I just have to wipe down my tile wall with a squeegee or towel. Easy Peezey.

  • If your water is really hard and/or the deposits have been there a long time, try this product: Earthstone Bathstone Cleaning Block. They are sold on Amazon and at Bed Bath and Beyond. This product, which is made from recycled glass, is the only thing that got the hard water rings out of the toilets in my last two houses in Santa Fe NM. The vinegar soaked rags made no difference. This bathstone will remove the buildup without scratching the porcelain. I promise you’ll be shocked at how well this works.

  • Hello,
    I was hoping you might have a suggestion on how to get hard water stains off shower glass doors? I have tried many things such as using vinegar, lemon juice, bar keepers friend, toothpaste and even a dryer sheet (I read that on a gardening forum) and nothing has worked. Any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank You,

    • Try the Mr. Clean magic erasers with your vinegar and water based cleaners. It may take multiple cleaning sessions and it may not ever go away completely if the water is very hard and there were multiple exposures (like by a previous owner of the house). I have a couple shower doors that previous owners of my house did not wipe down or squeegee and there were horrible hard water spots when we moved in. By using vinegar or citric acid and the Mr Clean magic erasers and religiously squeegeeing or toweling dry after each use, the marks are fading.

    • A couple of years ago I spent a couple of hours a day for a few days scraping the buildup off with a razor blade. Now I keep two wash clothes by the shower and wipe the doors down after every shower.

    • Try the Mr. Clean magic erasers with your vinegar and water based cleaners. It may take multiple cleaning sessions and it may not ever go away completely if the water is very hard and there were multiple exposures (like by a previous owner of the house). I have a couple shower doors that previous owners of my house did not wipe down or squeegee and there were horrible hard water spots when we moved in. By using vinegar or citric acid and the Mr Clean magic erasers and religiously squeegeeing or toweling dry after each use, the marks are fading.

    • Get an Earthstone Bathstone cleaning block from Amazon or Bed Bath and Beyond and try it very carefully in a hidden area. This product is made of recycled glass and does not etch porcelain. I have not tried it on granite. It comes in a couple shapes, maybe try the Kitchen one if that shape might work better. You don’t need to add any cleaning product to get a result from this cleaning block.

      • I was so sick of my water spotted and mineral stained shower doors that I literally took them COMPLETELY apart – trim, rubber, everything. After I’d scrubbed them clean (don’t remember how I did it) and put them back together again I bought a shower curtain. I chose a heavy duty CLEAR plastic curtain and hung it inside the shower doors. I hung it from a tension rod that is hidden behind the top rim/panel of the door. The shower curtains I’m using are a bit pricey so I recently bought a much less expensive one on Amazon to try. Because the shower door is closed during a shower, I’m hoping that will take care of any movement on the curtain. The shower curtain has been GREAT, not very noticeable, and I’m happy. Hope this helps.

  • I have this horrible build up in my entire shower and tub. I was so frustrated with it once that I took a razor blade to it all. That lasted about a week. Any suggestions on getting all this white crap off?

    • Inside a tub or shower I wonder if part of the buildup is soap scum in addition to hard water buildup? Have you tried a soap scum remover like the Tilex spray one and a Mr. Clean Magic eraser? That did the trick for me. Once you get it clean, no matter how you do it, you will be able to keep it clean longer if you ALWAYS dry the walls and tub after each use with a towel. I’d rather wash towels more often than face cleaning those tiles.

  • Just bought a house that the master bathroom shower door is so crusted. Do you think the vinegar will work for cleaning it?
    I also have a tip for you:-)
    After you have cleaned the toilet bowl and it is dry, polish it with Mothers Car paste Wax. I have used it on shower doors, faucets and toilets for years. Saves lots of scrubbing time and especially on shower doors.

  • I have a beautiful crystal vase that is hiding in a cabinet because of water stains. I can’t wait to try this on it so I can enjoy it again. It’ll be a good excuse to treat myself to fresh flowers!

  • Dear Jillee, thank you for your lovely and useful posts. Talking about stains, i bought an electric device online that had light black grease mark. Is there a way to clean it ?

  • I’m going to have to try the vinegar soaked rags in the shower door tracks! They not only have tons of hard water build-up, it’s orange looking because we have a lot of iron in our water. So yeah, orange crusty gunk! I guess my bathrooms will be getting a thorough vinegar soaking tomorrow!! Thanks for the tips!

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