Have you ever noticed a white stain on the body of a faucet, inside your toilet bowl, on your countertop, glass shower door or your car hood after water droplets from your plumbing system evaporate? Perhaps you've seen a white crusty mineral buildup on the tip of a faucet or shower head. In all likelihood, it's a hard water stain.
Hard water stains are simply very tiny crystals of rock. This is why they can be tough to remove. All water that comes from wells and municipal water systems contains dissolved minerals. When the water evaporates, the minerals can't float into the air, so they stay behind, coating things in your home.
These deposits, if allowed to build up over time, can be hard to remove. It's best to tackle them as soon as you see them. The deposits are all alkaline in nature, which means you can dissolve them and put them back into water by attacking
Put away all abrasive cleaners, metal scrapers and abrasive cleaning pads that can scratch the finished surfaces in your home. You don't need any of these things to remove hard water stains, even heavy buildup.
Purchase a gallon of white vinegar at a grocery store. White vinegar is a very weak solution of acetic acid. You can use any vinegar to clean hard water deposits if you have some in your pantry. White vinegar is often the least expensive and most readily available in larger bottles.
Do a quick experiment to ensure the deposits are from hard water. Select a stain that's on the body of a faucet or glossy countertop about the size of a dime or penny. Use a cotton swab to put a few drops of the vinegar on top of the stain. Allow the vinegar to sit on the surface for about 10 minutes.
If the countertop is polished or buffed marble or limestone, do not use vinegar. The vinegar will start to dissolve the alkaline minerals in the top, leaving a dull spot. If the marble or limestone is a dull honed finish, you can test to see if the vinegar will change the appearance of the stone. On any finished or painted surface, always test in an inconspicuous area to see if the vinegar will harm the object.
After the 10-minute waiting period, wipe away the vinegar with a damp wash cloth and immediately dry the surface. If the white stain is gone, you know the vinegar will work all over the surface. Apply the vinegar with a small spray bottle to saturate any and all hard water deposits.
If the buildup is heavy, at the end of the 10 minutes, use an old toothbrush and lightly scrub the stain. Wipe away the vinegar and dry to check for results.
If, after scrubbing with the toothbrush, the stain is still apparent but diminished, repeat the cleaning process.
To clean vertical surfaces, saturate paper towels or thin cotton rags with the vinegar and apply the rags or paper towels to the surface much like wallpaper. Allow the vinegar to work as you would on a horizontal surface.
For heavy deposits on faucet aerators, shower heads and faucet handles, remove these items from the plumbing fixture and soak them in a hot bath of vinegar. Heat up the vinegar in a sauce pan or microwave and pour it into a plastic bowl where the items can soak for hours or overnight. Never place metal objects in a microwave oven.
If vinegar is taking too long to do the job, a more powerful acid can be used. Muriatic acid will rapidly remove heavy hard water deposits, but the fumes are toxic and the acid can burn skin and clothing, and can discolor metal. It's very dangerous to use. Muriatic acid does a great job of cleaning the heavy buildup of hard water deposits on china surfaces such as toilets.