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.

When there are elevated concentrations of dissolved minerals in your water supply, it’s commonly referred to as “hard water.” A supply of hard water is bad for your skin and hair when you bathe, and it can lower the efficiency of your water using appliances. But, hard water can also cause other problems in your home, including hard water stains. Let’s take a closer look at hard water stains and examine some methods to get rid of them.

What are Hard Water Stains?

If you have hard water, you may see some unwelcome spots and stains in various locations in your home. Even after regular cleaning, they may be hard to shift, and they often return quickly. These stains and spots are caused when the water content of the hard water has evaporated, and only the dissolved mineral content remains. It’s is possible to remove these ugly hard water stains and spots, but they will eventually return unless the root cause is addressed. Many homeowners install a water softener to remove the dissolved minerals that cause water hardness. This makes the water easier to use, kinder to your appliances, and you can say goodbye to hard water stains.

Cleaning Glass

Removing hard water stains from glass is tricky, and you need to take extra care. Many of the products used to clean glass in this way contain a high concentration of acid that’s needed to deal with the alkaline hard water stains and spots. It’s advisable to read the instructions on acidic based cleaners very carefully and always wear gloves and some eye protection glasses. A strong acidic cleaning product shouldn’t be used in any areas where food is prepared, such as glass splash-backs or cooking pot lids. For these types of surfaces, it’s a better idea to use a gentler solution of salt water or vinegar. Both of these work very well on hard water stains and spots, but a great deal of scrubbing may be needed. The main advantage of using vinegar and salt water is that they are non-toxic and safe to use.

Cleaning Tiles

If you have hard water stains on the tiles in your bathroom or kitchen, common household vinegar can be extremely effective. Take some thick kitchen paper towels and saturate them with pure white vinegar. Then place the kitchen towels over the hard water stains for at least eight hours to allow time for the white vinegar to soak into the tiles. Later, remove the kitchen towels and rinse the area thoroughly with distilled water. Once the area is clear, you can gently scrub at the stain or spot with a non-abrasive cleaning pad. If the hard water stain is in your shower, you can skip the rinsing and scrubbing steps and just take a shower to wash the vinegar residue away.

Cleaning Marble

When you have hard water, the dissolved minerals that cause the stains and spots can really build up over time. At first, they will be hard to notice, but then they will be easily visible to anyone passing by, and the mineral deposits will continue to grow. If you run your fingers across these surfaces, you will feel bumps where the dissolved mineral deposits are at their worst. A stained marble surface is especially vulnerable to hard water stains that may hard to notice in the veins and patterns. Once you located a hard water stain or spot, it can be removed with a soft clean towel and an appropriate marble cleaning product. Another option is to use a fine steel wool; rub at the stain gently in a circular motion, and the minerals will be broken up and cleaned away. Only use a fine steel wool of grade #0000, or you may scratch your marble surface.

Cleaning Toilets

Because they contain and use water constantly, toilets are a common location for hard water stains and spots. But, most modern toilets are made from porcelain, and this is easily scratched by overly rigorous cleaning. If you want to protect your porcelain surfaces, it’s essential to be gentle when cleaning your toilets. First, put on some rubber gloves and sprinkle an all purpose cleaner such as Bar Keepers Friend on any hard water spots and stains that you can see. Then you can gently scrub at those stains using a fine grit drywall sanding screen in a circular motion. It’s extremely important to note that you should not use regular sandpaper for this task. Sandpaper of any grade will scratch and damage the porcelain so only use fine grit drywall sanding screen and only scrub just enough to shift the stain.

Cleaning Your Car

The hard water in your home can also affect other parts of your property outside and your car. If you wash your car at home or if your car is parked close enough to your lawn sprinklers to get an occasional soaking it will be coated with hard water. Again, as the water evaporates, it will leave behind a mineral residue that will grow over time. If these hard water spots or stains are ignored, they can compromise your paint surfaces, and this could lead to other problems such as corrosion. Thoroughly wash your car on a weekly basis at home and add a few extra steps to remove the hard water spots. Mix together a solution of one part distilled or soft water and one part white vinegar and decant this into a clean spray bottle. Spray this solution on every hard water spot that you can see and allow the mixture to soak in for 10 minutes. Then, re-wash the car and use a microfibre towel or foam applicator to apply a good quality paint polish. Finish by buff the area thoroughly and then repeat this process as required to keep your car free of hard water spots.

Getting Rid of Hard Water Stains for Good

As you can see, it takes a significant amount of time and effort to remove hard water stains from your home. As we mentioned above, the only sure way to remove hard water stains for good is to install a water softener in your home. This will prevent the formation of hard water stains and spots in the first place and save you time on unnecessary and labor intensive cleaning tasks.