Hard water deposits not only look bad, but they can also mar your surfaces permanently. These stains are located in tubs, toilets, sinks, coffee machines, cookware and anything else that comes in regular contact with water.
Understanding Hard Water
Hard water refers to a water source with a high concentration of minerals. Most city and municipal water suppliers have filtering and purification processes that remove many minerals from the water supply, but people who use well water often have hard water issues. They can add a water softener to their water supply to help minimize the effects of calcium, magnesium and iron.
Hard water deposits minerals on glass, porcelain, enamel, fiberglass, stainless steel and tiles, which in turn produces a cloudy layer of film. This film is called lime scale and is the result of calcium and magnesium. If you've ever tried to clean a shower door -- or even a drinking glass -- with hard water "spots," you know that it does not come off easily. These minerals bond to the surface and if they are not removed, they will actually become etched into the surface of the material and will become permanent. On top of white film, lime deposits make soap stains worse because they prevent the soap from breaking down correctly.
Other unsightly hard water deposits include brownish toilet rings, brown or black and blue or green stains near the water source or water line in the tub or sink. These are caused by iron, brass and copper in the water. If let go for too long, they also can become impossible to remove.
Here are some methods of removal:
You might have what you need to clean hard water deposits right in your pantry. You can remove lime scale with white vinegar or a lemon (just cut it in half and rub it on the stain). If the stain is covered by layers of soap scum, it may require a lot of elbow grease or something stronger.
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office offers a few more suggestions:
- Make a paste of white vinegar and baking soda, let it sit and then rinse.
- Mix 2-4 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate (okay, you might have to buy this one) in a gallon of water, scrub and rinse well.
The second recipe is also good for rust stains. Vinegar is commonly used to get stains out of coffee machines and can even be put into the rinse cycle compartment of a dishwasher to help eliminate and prevent spots on dishes. Don't use acids on marble or granite, as they can etch the surface of natural stone.
If homemade recipes are not tough enough to remove the hard water deposits in your home, a trip to the local hardware store might help. Products such as CLR, Lime Away and Zep Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover are formulated to remove tough mineral stains. Always follow manufacturer directions when using these products. Be sure to open a window and/or turn on a fan to ventilate the area well; wear gloves. Also, always be sure the product is compatible with the surface you plan to use it on.
A visit to an online forum about the topic revealed many products which people claimed removed their hard water deposits. Some of the most common suggestions (other than lemon and vinegar) include: CLR, The Simple Cleaning Solution, Orange Hand Cleaner with pumice and Bounce dryer sheets.
Call a Pro
If all else fails, call professionals, like a maid service. They may be able to remove a tough stain with something in their cleaning arsenal that includes phosphoric or sulfuric acid. They will also be able to tell you if it's too late to remove the stain. Remember, the longer you leave hard water deposits, the less likely it will be able to be removed.
Installation of a water softening system can prevent most future problems. If that isn't an option, keep areas that get stained as dry as possible. Keep a squeegee and a spray bottle with lemon juice in the shower. Squeegee after every shower. Spray the shower walls and head with lemon juice and wash with a damp sponge once a week. Dry basins and faucets after use.
Once you clean off those nasty hard water deposits, it's best to clean them well and often. Otherwise, you will have to exert a lot of energy -- or resort to harsh chemicals -- to get them clean again!