With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.
One of the more frustrating aspects of home care cleaning is when you have to repeat the same tasks regularly. We expect to clean floors, polish and more as part of our cleaning regimes, but hard water makes cleaning much harder. Whether it’s crusty white residue on the plumbing fixtures, dirty soap scum in the shower or stains in the toilet, it’s a real chore to deal with. Hard water problems will not disappear until the underlying issue is fixed. So, unless you get rid of the hard water minerals you’re going to find cleaning much harder than it needs to be.
What is Hard Water?
This is a common question; hard water is naturally occurring and it contains elevated levels of dissolved mineral content, including calcium, magnesium and iron. Most water contains minerals because water is a solvent and it dissolves materials it passes through. But, if you live in an area with certain mineral deposits you will receive harder water. This is pretty common, most homes receive hard water from private wells or municipal water treatment plants. The only way to remove the minerals that cause hard water is with a water softener system. For more effective cleaning, here are six tips that should help until you get a water softener.
1. Cleaning Stained Plumbing Fixtures
Plumbing fixtures in homes with hard water issues tend to have stains and scale buildup. This chalky residue can be hard to scrub away with pure elbow grease, but you can make the task a little easier. If you soak some paper towels with white vinegar and wrap them round the fixture for around an hour it will loosen the material. When the time is up, remove the towels, clean and rinse with water.
2. Make a Soap Scum Cleaner
Soap scum is unsightly and hard to remove, but it’s also a breeding ground for bacteria and you should remove it from your shower, tubs and sinks. You can make your own soap scum cleaner with an equal mix of white vinegar and distilled water. To make this solution easier to apply, pour it into a clean spray bottle. When you’re ready to clean, spray the affected areas and let the solution sit for several minutes. Then you can wipe down the shower, squeegee the glass doors and clean the areas as normal. The acidity of the vinegar should nullify the alkaline mineral content in the soap scum to make it easier to clean. But, the soap scum will return unless the hard water problem is fixed with a professionally installed water softener.
3. Make a Paste for Stubborn Stains
Hard water can create some very stubborn stains on ceramic tiles and the grout that lies between them. Spraying this area is less effective because the vinegar solution drips down and contact is not maintained for long enough. The best way to deal with this problem is to create a cleaning paste with a mix of white vinegar and baking soda or Borax if you have it. When you mix the paste, you can’t have an equal part mix, you need less vinegar and more powder to create a paste that spreads and sticks. Apply your DIY cleaning paste and leave it in-place for at least 15 minutes. Then, scrub it away, clean the tiles as normal and the surfaces should be cleaner.
4. Clearing Showerhead Clogs
If you can’t get the water pressure that you need when you take a shower, don’t call the plumber just yet. Take a closer look at the showerhead for signs of chalky mineral deposits that are clogging the holes. This material is hard to remove with scrubbing and you need a smarter approach. Remove the showerhead and soak it in a container filled with white vinegar. Let the showerhead sit for a couple of hours and then scrub it clean with a brush. If you don’t want to remove the showerhead, mix equal parts baking soda and white vinegar and place the mixture in a plastic bag. Then wrap the bag around the showerhead and hold it in place with a rubber band.
5. Remove Hard Water Toilet Stains
Toilets can accumulate hard water spots that look unsightly and they are virtually impossible to clean with elbow grease alone. A better method is to pour a mix of baking soda or Borax and baking soda together inside the toilet bowl. When white vinegar is mixed with either powder a chemical reaction takes place and you will see the water fizz. The best ratios are a cup of white vinegar and a cup of baking soda. If you want to use Borax, use a quarter cup and mix that with a cup of vinegar. The fizzing helps you to clean the toilet with the toilet brush and you don’t need to wait to get started.
6. A Lemon Juice Spray
If you don’t have any white vinegar available and you can’t wait, you can use lemon juice instead. It isn’t as effective, but lemon juice sprayed on faucets, fixtures and shower doors can remove some hard water stains. As an added bonus, you get a fresh lemon smell when you’ve finished cleaning!
A More Permanent Solution to Hard Water Problems
As you can see, cleaning hard water stains and spots is pretty hard work even if you do use the DIY cleaning methods in this article. This doesn’t have to be the case and it is possible to make your cleaning more effective and efficient. Removing the mineral content that makes the water hard is the best way to prevent all your hard water problems. The most effective method is an ion-exchange system which removes the mineral ions and replaces them with sodium (salt) or potassium (also a salt) ions. This makes the water easier to use and it’s far kinder on your entire home.
If you want to install a water softener in your home, contact your local water treatment specialist today.