How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Stainless Steel

Make your stainless steel shine again.

Hard water can leave some tough stains on surfaces if left alone — this includes stainless steel. The high content of minerals can cause frustrating spots on stainless steel appliances, utensils and surfaces such as sinks.

The stains can even occur after cleaning if the water is left to air dry. As the water dries, minerals are left behind, causing white, cloudy marks. We know how annoying the marks and stains are, which is why we’re showing you how to remove hard water stains from stainless steel.

Removing hard water stains from stainless steel depends on the item you need to clean. Stainless steel is often used in appliances such as refrigerators, stovetops, and dishwashers. It’s also used in utensils, sinks, and countertops.

Hard Water Stains on Appliances

This method can be used on refrigerators, dishwashers, and stovetops. Here are the things you’ll need:

  • Vinegar.
  • Baking soda.
  • Olive oil.
  • Lemon juice.
  • Soft cloth or paper towel.

1. Make a Paste

Combine ½ a cup of baking soda with ¼ of a cup of vinegar. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and an equal amount of lemon juice, and mix well. The acidic combo will begin to form a slightly wet paste.

The texture of the paste is excellent for vertical surfaces — if it’s too runny, it won’t stick.

2. Apply

When your paste is ready, dip a cloth or paper towel into the mixture. We prefer to use paper towels to avoid staining a cloth, but both work just as fine. If you choose cloth, opt for microfiber since it won’t streak.

Rub with the grain of the steel. This is important if you want to avoid scratches. Avoid scrubbing hard — baking soda is mildly abrasive and, therefore, won’t need to be scrubbed.

Try to cover the entire area. If your appliance is large, such as a refrigerator, you might need to make another batch.

3. Wipe

Allow the paste to sit on the surface for up to 10 minutes. Use a damp cloth or towel to wipe the area and remove the mixture.

Hard Water Stains on Faucets and Sinks

For this method, you only need two items:

  • Vinegar.
  • Cloth.

1. Soak a Cloth

Soak a cloth in pure white vinegar. Vinegar is acidic, and therefore very effective against hard water stains. It’s also a natural product and not as harsh as other chemicals, so it’s perfectly safe for stainless steel (1).

2. Scrub

Begin to scrub the entire surface of the sink using small, circular motions. Use a bit of force and soak the cloth again whenever needed. Continue until all hard water stains are gone.

Pay close attention to the small spots around the faucet and the handles. You should also scrub the tap well to get rid of any buildup around it.

If the water flow is reduced due to mineral buildup, wrap a cloth soaked in vinegar around the spout. You might need to leave it overnight. Rinse by turning on the faucet and wipe the tap with a damp cloth.

Some smart homeowners like to cut a lemon in half and push the spout into one half of the lemon. Leave it for a couple of hours before rinsing and wiping the area.

3. Wipe and Dry

Rinse a cloth in clean, warm water and wring out the excess. Use the damp cloth to wipe the stainless steel surface to remove the vinegar.

Finish off by wiping the entire area with a dry cloth. Drying the sink and faucet is essential if you want to prevent any new stains developing.

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Hard Water Stains on Cookware

After pulling your stainless steel pots and pans out of the dishwasher, you might be unpleasantly surprised at how dirty they look. Dried mineral deposits can build up in the corners or soft edges of pots and pans.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to get rid of these white marks. All you need is:

  • 2 x cloths.
  • Towel.
  • Vinegar.
  1. Soak: Soak the cloth in the vinegar.
  2. Clean: Wipe the spots to remove them.
  3. Wipe: Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the vinegar away.
  4. Dry: Wipe with a towel to dry the cookware.

Getting Rid of Hard Water Stains on Utensils

Hard water stains on stainless steel utensils can make for an unpleasant eating experience. However, removing mineral deposits from utensils is as straightforward as it gets.

If the stains are only minor, you can simply wipe them with a damp cloth and then dry with a towel. If the stains are more stubborn:

  1. Mixture: Combine equal parts of vinegar and warm water. You can submerge the utensils in a bucket or spray the solution on with a spray bottle.
  2. Wait: Leave the utensils for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse: Then, rinse with clean water.
  4. Dry: Dry with a towel.


Does Vinegar Corrode Stainless Steel?

Some acids, such as sulfuric acid, can cause corrosion to stainless steel (2). However, leaving a soaked cloth on a faucet overnight won’t harm your stainless steel finish. Using diluted vinegar is also perfectly safe.

Rinsing the vinegar off thoroughly with clean water is essential to avoid minor corrosion. This goes for any cleaning product you apply unless stated otherwise on the label.

What Shouldn’t You Use on Stainless Steel?

Avoid abrasive tools such as steel wool and rough sponges. These can cause scratches and leave particles on the surface that will rust over time. Rusted particles will stain the surface, and this can be tricky to get rid of (3).

Avoid Damage

Disinfectants like chlorine bleach are generally a no-no on stainless steel. The abrasiveness of the bleach can quickly break down the top layer and increase the risk of rust (4).

When you’re cleaning stainless steel appliances, it’s essential to rub with the grain. Using circular motions can create tiny scratches on the surface.

Beating the Stains

The best way to avoid hard water stains on stainless steel is by wiping off excess water. As water is left to air dry, it can form mineral deposits in crevices. These look like white, cloudy, and sometimes grainy marks.

Vinegar is highly effective if you want to avoid harsh chemicals. The natural acid cuts through the deposits and helps to dissolve them quickly. Avoid abrasive tools and cleaners such as bleach and steel wool — these can damage the finish and cause rust.

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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.