Charlie's Corner

February 22, 2021

How to Handle Hard Water Stains on Surfaces & Appliances

hard water stain on faucet charlies soap

Having a clean bathroom or sparkling load of laundry feels great. However, if you have hard water spots on your glass doors, sinks, or even in your washing machine, getting things “sparkling clean” might be a challenge. If you have hard water, spots and stains can be incredibly hard (pun intended) to remove. That’s why we’re sharing tips on how to remove and prevent hard water stains in your washer, your bathroom, and anywhere else in your home.

Where do hard water stains come from?

Hard water stains can look like dusty film, or if you have very hard water, it can even turn into harder “lines” of buildup. Those thick filmy deposits are actually made of… rock, believe it or not. Minerals like calcium and magnesium, which have dissolved into the water supply, get left behind when water dries on your shower glass or inside your washing tub. Layer by layer, they crystallize and harden, leaving residue and even a “dusty” film that’s hard to scrub off.

If you’ve wondered why your shower cleaner or a quick cleaning cycle of your washer can’t seem to scrub off those stains, it’s because it isn’t designed to. Most cleaners are formulated to break up grease and soap scum, but mineral deposits need to be dissolved. The good news is that all it takes to melt them away is a gentle, natural household staple: vinegar.

Step 1: Remove hard water stain build-up

If you’ve had hard water stains building up for some time, the first step is to cut through it. This requires a jug of white vinegar, a scrub brush, and some patience.

To dissolve that mineral scale, you’ll need an acidic product — but it doesn’t have to be industrial-powered. White vinegar is actually the best solvent for hard water stains. It’s also the go-to descaler for appliances that get major mineralization, like humidifiers, kettles, and coffee makers.

Vinegar is obviously safe to eat, but it can irritate your skin slightly if you let it soak on your hands. If vinegar bothers you, you can wear gloves while you work. If you’re using vinegar on sealed surfaces, stainless steel, etc., test it in a discreet corner to ensure it doesn’t damage the surface. A 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water can help dilute the vinegar’s strength.

Cleaning bathroom hard water stains

To begin removing the hard water stains from a shower, tub, or sink, start by spraying or sponging on a vinegar and water solution and letting it soak into the stain. Most experts recommend a 1:1 ratio because it will cover a lot more surface, but you can even use the vinegar straight on a particularly stubborn crust without fear of damaging the glass.

The soak time depends on how thick the scale is. It can take anywhere from five minutes to overnight to soften the deposit, so check a section every once in a while and add more solution if it has dried. Apply generously and let it penetrate.

Depending on how much mineral you’re trying to move, you might need a rag, a brush, a gritty microfiber cloth, or a non-scratching pot scrubber. Give it a reasonable scrub, and if there’s still scale left, give it another soak with the vinegar solution.

Cleaning washing machine hard water stains

To clean a washing machine, pour 3 to 4 cups of white vinegar in the washer’s tub, with no clothes or detergent. Select the longest and hottest wash cycle and press start. Once the cycle is over, take a sponge or gentle scrub brush to the inside of the washer. You should be able to see those scaly deposits fade away. Make sure to run the washer one more time with just water to rinse away the minerals and vinegar!

If you had hard water build-up in your machine for some time, you may also notice that your clothes feel stiff and scratchy. That’s because the detergent and minerals in the hard water are mixing — and leaving residue in your fabrics! After cleaning your machine thoroughly, run a load of your clothes with a cup of vinegar at the hottest setting that’s acceptable for your fabrics. You may need to repeat this a few times to get the fabrics back to feeling fresh!

Step 2: Keep hard water stains from coming back

Knowing that the scaly build-up comes from minerals in your water, hard water stains are likely to come back if you don’t address the root of the issue. You can set up a strong defence in a couple of ways.

Soften your water

By installing a water softener, you can not only prevent this thick, crusty build-up from accumulating on your shower doors, but you can also save other water-filled appliances like your water-dispensing refrigerator, humidifier, kettle, and coffee maker.

Another place you’ll notice a big difference is in your washing machine, where the hard water minerals tend to inhibit the cleaning action of your soap. Soft water helps your clothes get cleaner and eliminates the need for a hard water treatment for the trickiest laundry, like cloth diapers.

Don’t let water droplets evaporate

Another simple trick to keep your home free of stains and scale is to wipe away water spray after using a shower, tub, sink, washer, etc. Some people keep a squeegee in the shower to use before they step out, and others use a microfiber towel or cloth to dry surfaces. As long as the water is not sitting long enough to evaporate and leave minerals behind, there won’t be a chance to layer up the crystallized crust.

Apply a barrier

Some people swear by products that create a barrier on shower glass to prevent hard water minerals from sitting long enough to harden. From all-natural carnauba wax to synthetic blends meant for defogging mirrors and even waxing cars, these products create a waxy layer that makes water run off, so you don’t get the build up from evaporated droplets.

If you go this route, make sure you buff the wax thoroughly so you don’t end up with a greasy, foggy coating. You’ll need to repeat the waxing from time to time, so check the package directions, but it can be as seldom as twice per year.

Use a hard water booster

Hard water “boosters” are great for washing machine scale, because it prevents calcium from interacting with the detergent. When you use detergent with hard water, they can mix to create an insoluble salt, which is the scale you see in your washing tub, and what makes everything scratchy and yellow.

Charlie’s Soap Hard Water Booster gets the calcium out of the way, without that scale. You can use it with your regular Charlie’s Soap laundry detergent to ensure your clothes (and your washing machine) rinse clean.

Keep things clean

Another way to win the battle against hard water buildup is to clean your shower, tubs, washing machine, and other surfaces often, after descaling. A simple product that you just spray and wipe makes this easy, like Charlie’s Kitchen and Bath Cleaner. It will lift away soap scum and leave surfaces gleaming in just a few minutes — every 2 to 3 days.

Don’t let hard water give you a hard time

If you’re craving that crystal shine on your glass shower door or inside your washing machine, go get it. With simple vinegar and water, a little elbow grease and a strategic follow-up with Charlie’s Soap Hard Water Booster, you’ll enjoy a sparkling home and clean laundry, plus you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve conquered those hard water stains for good.