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How to Remove Hard Water Stains from a Bathtub: 6 Steps

Banish that limescale and make your tub shine.

Hard water stains can quickly make a new bathtub look old and unsightly. White, scaly residue around the tub is an unfortunate side effect of living in an area with hard water.

Limescale on your bathtub may be harmless but it will continue to grow if not dealt with. Fortunately, removing these marks is a straightforward process and it can be done with items that might already be in your kitchen.

In this article, we will explain how to remove hard water stains from bathtub using both natural and chemical solutions. These methods will get your bathtub looking as good as new.

Key Takeaways

  • Hard water stains are caused by high mineral content like calcium and magnesium, leaving white, scaly residue on bathtubs.
  • Natural acidic cleaners such as white vinegar or lemon juice can be used to effectively remove these stains.
  • For stubborn stains, commercial cleaners like CLR or Viakal may be necessary, but always follow the instructions and test on a small area first.
  • Prevent stains by regularly rinsing and drying your bathtub after each use, and using a weekly natural acidic cleaner spray.

What Causes Hard Water Stains on a Bathtub?

Hard water has a high mineral content, usually calcium and magnesium. When these minerals react with soap, they make the scum that you sometimes see floating in your bathwater.

Later, when you empty your bath, residual water dries and leaves behind these minerals, creating calcium buildup on your bathtub (1). If you live in an area where the water also contains ferrous iron, you might see reddish brown stains as well (2).

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How to Remove Hard Water Stains from a Bathtub

Hard water is alkaline in nature (3), making it the opposite of acidic. This means acid can neutralize alkaline material, which is why acidic cleaners are highly effective against limescale and other deposits left by hard water (4).

You don’t need strong acids to get hard water stains out of a tub. In fact, you might already have acids in your kitchen that will make highly effective cleaners, such as lemon juice or white vinegar (5).

What You Need

  • White vinegar or citric acid (lemon juice)
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Soft cloth
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Paper towels
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Magic eraser sponge (optional)

1. Clean the Area

Before attempting to clean any hard water stains, give your bathtub a quick wipe to remove any other dirt that is present. Use your usual bathroom cleaner and rinse it well once you’re finished. You should now be able to clearly see any limescale and other hard water stains left on your bathtub.

2. Ventilate Your Bathroom

Unlike chemical cleaners, vinegar isn’t dangerous, but it does have a strong smell. If it isn’t too cold outside, consider opening a window before you proceed.

3. Dilute Your Chosen Cleaner

Although white vinegar and lemon juice can both be used undiluted, try using a 50:50 mix with water first. This could be enough to loosen the mineral deposits. Applying this mix with a spray bottle will be easier but make sure you give it a good shake first to mix it thoroughly.

Lemon Alternatives

If you don’t have easy access to lemons, you can simply buy citric acid, such as this powder from Milliard. Dilute it in water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and it should clean as effectively as lemon juice.

4. Soak and Let it Sit

Spray the entire area where the hard water stains are, then leave it to its work for a while. This could take anything from 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on the severity of your buildup. If there are large mineral deposits, respray the area every 20 minutes to ensure your cleaner doesn’t dry out.

Try This

If the stains are on the sides of your bathtub, soak some paper towels with your chosen cleaner. Hold the towels against the side until they stick, keeping the mixture in contact with the deposits. Spray the towels with cleaner every 20 minutes to keep them wet.

5. Start Scrubbing

Once the solution has had time to dissolve or loosen the limescale, it’s time for some manual cleaning. Put on some rubber gloves if you like, though this isn’t necessary with natural cleaners. Then, grab a soft cloth or scrubbing brush. Apply a little pressure and rub away the buildup. Thanks to your acidic cleaner, it should come away relatively easily.

Good Idea

A magic eraser sponge, such as these from Oh My Clean, can make life easier. They are slightly abrasive, so check that they’re suitable for your tub and be gentle when cleaning. You can always test them in a rarely-seen area to ensure they won’t damage the finish.

6. Rinse and Repeat (If Necessary)

Once you have scrubbed away the stains, rinse your tub with clean water. If any limescale remains, you might need to repeat the previous steps until it’s all gone.

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For Stubborn Stains

If the stains on your bathtub have been there for a while, natural solutions might be ineffective. Instead, you might need to consider a commercial cleaner such as CLR or Viakal. Before applying them, check that they won’t damage the surface of your tub and read the instructions carefully to use them safely.

You can use the same paper towel method we described in the natural cleaner section to soak stains away with these cleaners. Be sure to rinse the tub thoroughly after cleaning, as chemical cleaners can damage bathtubs if left on for too long.

More Tips and Tricks

1. Steam Clean

A steam cleaner can help break down limescale. If you have one, try using it first as it could loosen the stain and make it easier to remove.

2. Clean and Dry Regularly

You can prevent stains by rinsing your tub and drying it after every use. To go further, you can spray it down with a natural acidic cleaner such as vinegar and water once per week to prevent limescale buildup.

Stains and limescale build-up are caused by hard water. Even after cleaning and rinsing, minerals will be left as any residual water evaporates. If you dry your tub after using it and rinsing it, the moisture containing those minerals is removed, significantly reducing the formation of limescale.

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3. Don’t Mix Cleaners

Never mix any cleaning products. The fumes created by these reactions can be toxic, burning skin and eyes, and potentially causing life threatening damage to your lungs (6).


Can Hard Water Stains Be Permanent?

If not treated quickly, stains caused by hard water might become permanent. It is in your best interest to eliminate hard water stains as soon as they become visible.

You might be tempted to leave a little stain until cleaning day, but the longer it sits in place, the harder it will be to remove.

Is CLR Good for Hard Water Stains?

CLR is good for hard water stains as it can dissolve them when used properly. In a place with adequate ventilation, combine CLR in quantity equal to that of warm water.

Apply the solution right on the stain using a sponge or a brush and allow it to soak for two minutes. Perform a spot test before you apply the solution to a wider area. Immediately rinse with cold water.

Does WD 40 Remove Calcium Deposits?

WD 40 is used for many things, but it might not be the most efficient solution to remove calcium deposits. Acids can quickly dissolve calcium carbonate into their parts.

Most of the leading descalers on the market today are quite acidic, with hydrochloric acid being a typical component.

Therefore, WD-40 is not likely to be a very efficient descaling agent if it does not contain the crucial ingredient. It may even cause difficulties because it will react with certain plastics, dissolving them.

Although some articles and videos on YouTube say that WD-40 can help remove persistent limescale stains, we strongly advise you to proceed with caution and propose that you choose a significantly less expensive and significantly more efficient solution.

The exact composition of WD-40 is a closely guarded secret, but we know that it includes petroleum-based oil and several hydrocarbons. This places it closer to the alkaline than the acidic; WD-40 states on its website that its product contains no acid.

Does Simple Green Remove Calcium Deposits?

According to their website, Simple Green can remove calcium deposits. The limescale remover from Simple Green is created to effectively dissolve these deposits, yet it does so without using usual hazardous acids. It can also be utilized in the form of extremely efficient spray foam.

Does Epsom Salt Damage Bathtubs?

Epsom salts do not damage regular bathtubs but can be detrimental to any tubs containing jets. Only use Epsom salts in jet tubs if the manufacturer states you can.

What Is the Best Cleaner for Calcium Build-ups?

The best cleaner for calcium build-up uses white vinegar and baking soda as primary ingredients. Vinegar is already used by a lot of people who are responsible for cleaning their homes.

Additionally, it is useful for removing the stains caused by hard water and calcium build-up. To moisten the area, you can use a cloth that has been dampened with vinegar. To get a nicer and cleaner finish on your faucet, use a toothbrush to get in areas that are hard to reach.

Feel free to combine water and baking soda to form a paste, which can be applied to the regions needing treatment. Remove the paste after a waiting period of ten to fifteen minutes for the best shining results.

Taking care of the problem of hard water once and for all is the most effective approach to ensure that surfaces that come in contact with water remain spotless. Before water is delivered to the faucets, harmful minerals can be removed with the assistance of a water softener.

To determine the most effective solution for the problems with the water supply and the pipes in the house, you need to have an experienced specialist conduct an evaluation.

Time to Shine

The last thing anyone wants to do after a relaxing bath is clean their bathroom. Still, taking a couple of minutes to rinse and dry your bathtub will help you avoid a tougher battle with limescale and hard water stains in future.

Consider using a home solution such as white vinegar or lemon juice before resorting to chemicals. Chemical cleaners are highly effective but you run the risk of damaging your bathtub’s finish if they are left on for too long, which won’t be the case with a natural cleaner.

Modern bathtubs are designed to be durable and easy to wipe clean, so getting into the habit of a quick clean after each use will ensure your tub looks pristine for many years to come.

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About the Author

Sylvia Jones

Sylvia Jones is a hands-on, DIY aficionado from Indiana. She is passionate about home improvement, gardening, and environmental conservation. In her spare time, you can find Sylvia getting involved in home improvement projects around the house with her husband, or spending quality time out in the yard.