How to Remove Hard Water Stains from a Bathtub

Banish that limescale and make your tub shine.

Dealing with the limescale left by hard water can be a never-ending task. That hard white, scaly residue around the water level on your bathtub can be unsightly. Cleaning your tub every time you bathe can help, but what do you do when hard water stains won’t budge?

Luckily, there are natural and commercial solutions you can use. Learning how to remove hard water stains from your bathtub will have it shining like new again.

What Causes Hard Water Stains on a Bathtub?

Hard water contains minerals that can react with soap, namely calcium and magnesium. This leaves behind the scum that you see floating on your bathwater, and ultimately, the stains on your bathtub (1). If you live in an area that also has ferrous iron in the water, 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). If you think back to chemistry lessons in school, you might remember that acid can neutralize a base. This means that acid can help break down the alkaline deposits left by hard water (4).

You don’t need strong acids either; mild ones that you can find around the home can do the trick, for example 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 tackling your hard water stains, give your tub a clean to remove any dirt. Use your usual bathroom cleaner and rinse well once you’re finished. You should now be able to see any limescale that’s left behind, staining your bathtub.

2. Ventilate Your Bathroom

Vinegar has quite a strong smell, so it’s a good idea to open some windows to let the air circulate.

3. Dilute Your Chosen Cleaner

While vinegar or lemon juice can be used at full strength, start off using a 50:50 dilution with water. This might be enough to loosen the deposits. The application will be easier if you do this in your spray bottle, but remember to give it a good shake to mix.

Top Tip

If you don’t have lemon juice, you can buy citric acid, like this powder from Milliard. Dilute it in water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Soak and Let it Sit

Spray the whole area where the hard water stains are, then let it sit and do its work. This could take anything from 15 minutes up to several hours, depending on how much buildup you have. Respray the area every 20 minutes or so to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Try This

If the stains are on the sides of your bathtub, soak some paper towels with your water and acid solution. Hold it against the side until it sticks, refreshing it with spray frequently to keep it wet.

5. Start Scrubbing

Once your solution has had time to dissolve and loosen the limescale, it’s time for some elbow grease. Pop on rubber gloves to protect your skin, then take a soft cloth or your scrubbing brush. Using a little pressure, scrub away the buildup.

Good Idea

A magic eraser sponge, like these from Oh My Clean could make life easier. They’re slightly abrasive, so check they’re suitable for your tub and be gentle. You can always test in an inconspicuous area to make sure they don’t damage the finish.

6. Rinse and Repeat (If Necessary)

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

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For More Stubborn Stains

If you’ve left the stains on your tub for a while, then home solutions might not work. A commercial cleaner such as CLR or Viakal could do the trick. Make sure you test them first to make sure they won’t damage the surface of your tub and as always, follow the instructions carefully.

You can use the paper towel method we mentioned above to soak stains away with these cleaners. Be sure to rinse the tub thoroughly after cleaning to remove product residue.

More Tips and Tricks

1. Steam Clean

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

2. Clean and Dry Regularly

You can prevent stains by cleaning your tub after every use. As an extra measure, spray it down with an acid and water solution once a week to prevent limescale buildup.

Stains and limescale build-up are caused by water. Even after cleaning and rinsing, the minerals will remain as a residue. If you dry your tub after use and cleaning, then the moisture is removed, helping you prevent limescale formation.

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3. Don’t Mix Cleaners

Don’t ever mix any cleaning products. The fumes they give off can be toxic, causing breathing difficulties, burns and, at high enough levels, can even be life-threatening (6).

Time to Shine

After bathing, all relaxed and chilled, the last thing you want to do is some cleaning. Nevertheless, taking a few minutes to do so could save you lots of time (and scrubbing) in the future.

Consider using a home solution as we’ve described before resorting to chemicals. Despite the power of chemical products, natural solutions are cheaper and a lot safer.

Now you know how to remove hard water stains from a bathtub, yours will be gleaming all the time, won’t it?

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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.