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How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Tiles

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Hard water molecules, particularly molecules of calcium and magnesium, tend to stick together and cause mineral buildup in pipes and appliances.

These molecules also stick to surfaces, such as bathroom tiles, so when the water withdraws or evaporates, all you have left are mostly white, cloudy stains that make your bathroom feel dirty.

Unless you remove those stains in time, the buildup will attract more molecules, making it more difficult to remove them later.

Because of this, we made this guide that’ll help you remove these stains. We’re also going to provide you with solutions that will prevent recurrences of hard water stains.

Hard Water Stains on Tiles
Hard Water Stains on Tiles

2 Efficient Methods for Removing Hard Water Stains from Tiles

Although you can use detergents that feature a variety of heavy chemicals to remove hard water stains from your bathroom tiles, we can7’t recommend those. That’s simply because exposure to such chemicals in gas form might be threatening to your health and also because the two methods we’re going to recommend are nontoxic and maybe even more efficient than detergents.

Two efficient methods for removing hard water stains from tiles include:

  1. White vinegar solution
  2. Pumice stone

Now, let’s see in detail why these are effective methods and how you should use these to remove mineral buildup from your tiles.

White Vinegar Solution

White Vinegar Solution
White Vinegar Solution

Minerals are naturally alkaline, and the best way to fight alkali is with acid. Fortunately, white vinegar is one of the rare acidic liquids that’s also nontoxic and safe to use on tiles.

White vinegar is also one of the most common methods used to sanitize water softening devices to eliminate mineral buildup within the system. Moreover, there are lots of people who use this acidic liquid as a water softener for their washing machine because they don’t want to expose their clothes to the chemicals in water softening tablets or liquids.

So, how do you apply a white vinegar solution to your tiles? Here’s one suggestion:

  1. Mix two cups of white vinegar with one cup of warm water and a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent
  2. Put the mixture you made in a bottle that has a spraying function
  3. Spray the solution directly onto the hard water stains and wait for it to react with mineral molecules for about 10 to 15 minutes
  4. After you’ve allowed enough time for the mixture to decrease the hold of molecules on the surface, grab a sponge and scrub the stained surface
  5. If the stains don’t disappear on your first try, spray and scrub, and repeat the sequence until they’re all gone

Pumice Stone

Pumice Stone
Pumice Stone

Pumice stone is a 100% natural mixture of water and lava. Although it’s most commonly used for removing dry and dead skin from the human body, especially from feet, it has a wide variety of other uses, including removing stubborn stains like mineral buildup from surfaces like tiles.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Wet the surface you want to clean with warm water. Pumice stone is an abrasive cleaner. If the surface isn’t wet, it might damage your tiles.
  2. Rub the stained parts of the surface gently with the pumice stone
  3. Don’t worry when you see a foamy, paste-like substance forming. That simply indicates that the stone is doing its job.
  4. Rinse the surface clean with enough water
  5. If you’re not happy with the stain reduction, repeat the process

How to Protect Your Tiles from Hard Water Stains

The methods we described above will remove water stains from your tiles, but they won’t solve your problem for good. If you don’t find a solution that will address the root cause of the issue, the stains are likely to come back.

So, what can you do to prevent your tiles from staining in the future? Well, you can install one of the three water treatment devices that neutralize the effects of hard water:

  • Salt-based water softeners
  • Salt-free water conditioners
  • Electromagnetic water descalers

Salt-Based Water Softeners

Salt-Based Water Softeners
Salt-Based Water Softeners

Salt-based water softeners feature an ion exchange resin that attracts and traps hard water minerals, namely calcium and magnesium, and replaces them with sodium or potassium. As a result, the water that’s coming out of your faucets has no minerals that can cause buildup in your appliances or on your tiles.

For salt-based softeners to continue operating efficiently, the resin needs to be cleaned of its mineral content every once in a while and recharged to be able to exchange ions. This particular aspect is ensured by a brine solution prepared in a separate tank and takes place weekly in a pre-programmed regeneration cycle.

Despite significant strides in water technologies, the effectiveness of these traditional devices for softening water is still uncontested, as they’re simply the most efficient method for dealing with minerals. However, they’re bulky devices that come with two tanks (a resin tank and a brine tank), they’re expensive, and the fact that you need to add new salt to them on a bimonthly basis only adds to their long-term costs.

Still, if they sound like a worthwhile investment for you, the SpringWell SS1 Water Softener is one of the best water-softening devices you can ever find.

Salt-Free Water Conditioners

Salt-Free Water Softener
Salt-Free Water Conditioners

Salt-free water conditioners employ a technology referred to as template-assisted crystallization (TAC). TAC, unlike salt-based systems, doesn’t remove minerals; rather, it just changes their chemical structure by crystallizing them. When mineral molecules become microscopic crystals, they can’t adhere to surfaces, so they can’t cause stains.

Since these devices don’t rely on salt to keep operating, they’re more compact than salt-based devices with only one tank. And since you don’t need to add new salt to the system regularly, their long-term costs are significantly lower than traditional devices.

However, their scale/mineral reduction rate is not as efficient as salt-based devices. Whereas the latter can reduce scale with 99% effectiveness, the former can do it only with 90% success.

If that doesn’t present a problem for you, and if you want a salt-free conditioner, we encourage you to purchase the Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner, which is the best item in its category.

Electromagnetic Water Descalers

Water Descalers
Electromagnetic Water Descalers

Similar to TAC-based conditioners, magnetic descalers don’t remove minerals but just alter their chemical structure. Unlike TAC-based conditioners, descalers achieve this with a magnetic coil wrapped around the pipe rather than a tank that the water passes through.

This magnetic coil sends electromagnetic pulses to the water as the water passes through the pipe. In the end, it breaks the bonds between the mineral molecules, rendering them unable to stick together or stick to surfaces.

As descalers don’t need a tank, they’re even more compact than water conditioners. Even better, they need no maintenance whatsoever, they provide an unlimited flow rate, and they are the most affordable device that can soften hard water. However, their efficiency is even lower than salt-free water conditioners, with only a 50% scale reduction rate.

Yet, if you’re not living in an area with very hard water, the Yarna Capacitive Descaler should be enough to prevent hard water stains from giving your tiles an unappealing look.


Hard water can cause stains on your bathroom tiles, giving them a dirty look. To remove these stubborn stains, you can either make a white vinegar mixture or use a pumice stone.

However, cleaning the tiles won’t fix the problem permanently. Unless you soften your water before it enters your house, these stains are likely to return.

What will fix your problem for good is installing a water softening system like a traditional salt-based softener, salt-free conditioner, or electromagnetic descaler.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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