Limescale is a chalky white mineral deposit (alkaline) which is a result of hard water. It often occurs on faucets and in tubs and appliances, such as kettles and coffeemakers, and can leave silver and chrome with a gray dullness. White vinegar contains acetic acid and is a great place to start for cleaning these pesky stains. Over time, these mineral build-ups can damage sinks, toilets, and tubs and make soap scum harder to remove.
Most of the methods below are very similar. If the item you need to clean is not listed below, try a method for one of the other items that most closely resembles your needs.
What You’ll Need
- White vinegar
- Rag or paper towel
- Rubberband or hair clip
- Baking soda
- Water softener
- Cream of tartar
- Denture cleaning tablet (optional)
- Lemon juice
- Sponge or soft cloth
- Toilet brush
- White wine (optional)
The Cleaning Process
To clean faucets
Soak a rag or paper towel in vinegar and wrap around your faucet. Secure in place with a rubberband or hair clip. Let sit for an hour before wiping the faucet clean with a soft cloth. The Ultimate Accidental Housewife by Julie Edelman also suggests creating a paste with 3-parts baking soda to 1-part water. Apply the paste to the faucet, leave it on for an hour, and wipe it clean.
To clean kettles
Use 2-tbsp. of water softener in a full kettle of water and boil the solution for 2-3 minutes. Repeat if necessary and then rinse out the kettle with clean water. You can also fill your kettle with equal parts vinegar and water, bring the solution to a boil, and leave it overnight. Don’t forget to rinse it out in the morning!
To clean aluminum percolators
Never use bleach on aluminum appliances. Fill the percolator with water and add 1/4-c. cream of tartar. Run the appliance through for one cycle and then rinse well with hot water.
To clean coffeemakers
Fill the reservoir with water and 2-tbsp. water softener. Run the appliance through for one cycle and then again with clean water. Haley’s Cleaning Tips by Rosemary and Graham Haley also recommends filling it with white vinegar, running it through once, and then running it through twice with clean water. You may also fill with hot water and one regular denture cleaning tablet. Run it through once and once again with clean water.
To clean sinks and tubs
Spray with either vinegar or lemon juice. You may also use a paste of cream of tartar and water. Let sit for 30 minutes before scrubbing clean with a sponge or soft cloth. Check out our articles on “How to Clean a Shower” and “How to Clean a Shower Head” for more detailed information.
To clean toilets
Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and borax. Drain the toilet bowl and pour solution in. Leave it in for 2 hours before scrubbing clean with a toilet brush. You can also add 3-c. of undiluted white vinegar to your full toilet bowl and scrub it clean. Keep your toilet tank clean by adding 3-c. of undiluted vinegar to it, as well.
To clean windows and shower doors
Spraying white vinegar on your windows and shower doors can remove mineral stains left from hard water. You can use leftover white wine to remove limescale from glass. If the spray dries too fast, soak a paper towel with the vinegar and press it against the limescale, then tape a piece of plastic wrap over the paper towel to hold in the moisture. Check back every 30-60 minutes to see if the limescale has softened enough to be scraped off. How long it will take to soak will depend on how much buildup is present.
To clean natural stone counters
The tips in this article should not be used on natural stone counters such as marble or granite. Most of these cleaning solutions are acidic, including the cream of tartar, which can etch or damage the surface of the stone. Instead, use the method in our guide How to Remove Mineral Deposits from Granite Countertops.
To clean a washing machine
Remove hard water stains from the inside of your washing machine by pouring in 1-gal. of white vinegar and running it on the hot water cycle without any clothes inside.
To clean a dish drainer
Soak a paper towel with undiluted white vinegar and press the paper towel onto the mineral deposits. Leave the paper towel on the stains for an hour, then scrub them off. If the drainer has two many mineral deposits for the paper towel method to be effective, you can soak the entire rack in the sink instead. Fill the sink with just enough water to cover the rack, then add a few cups of white vinegar. Let the rack soak for an hour, then scrub off the lime scale.
To clean dishes
If your dishes are coming out of the dishwasher with limescale, The Complete Household Handbook by Good Housekeeping recommends running them through the dishwasher cycle again, but adding two cups of white vinegar instead of detergent. Also, consider getting a water softener for your home to prevent this problem from reoccurring.