If you live in an area with a hard water supply, you might have noticed an occasional mineral buildup in your toilet. This can appear as white scales, yellow stains, or even rust, depending on your toilet material and how hard your water is.
Some of these stains are harmless but nobody wants to use a dirty toilet. It is always best to address these issues as soon as possible, to prevent them from becoming worse and potentially causing more serious damage to your toilet or plumbing as a whole.
In this article, we will explain how to remove hard water stains from a toilet using three different methods. You might even be able to remove them using products that are already in your kitchen cabinets.
- Empty the toilet bowl before cleaning to ensure the cleaning product works effectively.
- Vinegar is a great natural option for removing hard water stains from toilets.
- Borax paste can be used to tackle small, tough hard water stains.
- Combining vinegar and baking soda can create a powerful cleaning solution for stubborn stains.
Before You Start
When you want to remove bowl rings or other hard water stains from a toilet, your first task is to empty the toilet bowl. This will ensure your cleaner can work properly without being washed away prematurely.
You can empty the bowl by using a toilet plunger to get rid of all the water. Once it is empty, use a cloth or paper towels to wipe down the toilet bowl. An empty toilet bowl means the cleaning product won’t become too diluted.
If you don’t have a plunger, shut off the water valve to the toilet. Flush it and the water should be removed from the bowl, leaving it empty.
Removing Hard Water Toilet Stains with Vinegar
1. Fill the Bowl
Start by filling the toilet bowl with cleaning vinegar. Cleaning vinegar is far more acidic than water (1), so it is much more effective at cutting through any scale deposits. However, if you don’t have access to cleaning vinegar, you can use ordinary white vinegar instead.
Fill the bowl until you cover the hard water stains. Try to pour it around the edges of the bowl as well, so it can clean the sides as it slides down to the bottom.
As hard water is alkaline, the best way to remove its residue is by neutralizing it with acid. At the same time, you don’t want to corrode your toilet’s finish, so vinegar is an excellent choice as it is relatively mild.
2. Spread It
Spread the vinegar around the sides of the bowl using a rag or cloth. Give special attention to the rim and the area immediately below it, as hard water stains might have formed here out of sight.
If there are also spots on the outside of the toilet, you can use the rag to spread the cleaner there as well. If you are dealing with very stubborn stains, soak a piece of toilet paper in vinegar and attach it to the stain.
Leave the bowl full of vinegar overnight to give it enough time to break up the stains and any other deposits.
Use a stiff nylon toilet brush to scrub the entire bowl. You might need to apply some old-fashioned elbow grease to the heavy stains. However, lighter spots should have dissolved completely during the vinegar soak.
If you have trouble accessing the tight spots, use a smaller brush such as a dish brush — just remember to never use the same brush on dishes. You could also use steel wool, but check whether or not this might scratch your toilet’s finish.
Consider using a pumice stone to rub the stains. These are less abrasive than steel wool and work well with a cleaner such as vinegar.
If some heavy stains remain after scrubbing the bowl, repeat the entire process. However, if the stains are only small, they might only require some more scrubbing to remove.
Removing Hard Water Toilet Stains With Borax
1. Create a Paste
To remove small, tough hard water stains from your toilet, you can create a borax paste by mixing equal amounts of borax and water.
Apply the paste onto the stain and leave it there for 20 minutes. Borax is mildly alkaline, at around 9 on the pH scale (2).
However, it is highly effective at removing mineral deposits due to its active ingredient sodium borate. Sodium borate softens water, so it also eliminates hard water stains (3).
3. Scrub and Rinse
Give the bowl a firm scrub using a nylon brush. Once you have finished scrubbing, flush the toilet to rinse it.
Using Vinegar and Baking Soda
1. Pour Vinegar Into the Bowl
Fill the bowl with vinegar by pouring it around the sides and edges. Use a toilet brush to swirl it and then leave it to sit for a minute.
2. Add Baking Soda
Sprinkle a cup of baking soda all over the bowl. Then add one or two cups of vinegar onto the baking soda. This mixture should fizz — leave it to work for about 10 minutes.
Use a toilet brush to swirl the solution around the bowl. Try to get it up the sides and under the rim. You can also use a rag or cloth to spread it.
Leave the baking soda and vinegar solution for up to 30 minutes. You should swirl it around the bowl a couple of times during that half hour but don’t flush the toilet.
The baking soda and vinegar should have dissolved most stains but, if any remain, scrub them with a toilet brush. You can also use a smaller brush or pumice stone.
When all the stains are gone, flush the toilet to rinse it.
Removing Hard Water Toilet Stains With Chemicals
1. Protect Yourself
Before you work with chemical toilet cleaners, you must protect yourself. Wear gloves and an apron (preferably plastic) to protect your skin and clothes.
You should also keep a wet cloth or rag nearby when using a chemical cleaner to remove hard water stains from a toilet. This will be very important if you accidentally spill any chemical cleaner on your floor or tiles, as you can quickly wipe it away.
2. Use Diluted Hydrochloric Acid
Hydrochloric acid is the most effective chemical to use against hard water stains. Its high acidity and abrasiveness will cut through heavy buildup.
Use a product such as ZEP Acidic Toilet Bowl Cleaner. This is a gel that can be poured straight into the bowl. Whichever chemical cleaner you choose, be sure to closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Gently scrub the bowl using a nylon brush. Try to clean under the rim to remove any hidden hard water stains. Use gentle movements to avoid flicking the solution everywhere, as this could damage the surrounding surfaces.
Once you are satisfied that you have removed the stains, flush the toilet a few times. This might seem excessive but hydrochloric acid cleaners are highly abrasive and will damage your bowl if left in them for too long.
Prevent Hard Water Stains
Ultimately, preventing hard water stains is the most reliable way to keep your toilet bowl clean. Regular cleaning will remove hard water residue before it can harden and accumulate into larger mineral deposits that are more difficult to remove. Brush your toilet daily to remove any excess water in the bowl, and keep the lid down when flushing to prevent water from splashing out of the toilet and creating more stains.
Whenever you notice any larger buildups or stains being created, you can perform a more thorough clean using one of the methods listed in this article. This should keep your toilet looking as good as new for years to come.