Hard water can clog pipes, break down appliances like washing machines, and leave stains on any surface it touches. That’s because the molecules of calcium and magnesium have a tendency to stick together and cling to surfaces, leading to the formation of buildups in the shape of limescale and white, cloudy stains.
Your toilet bowl isn’t exempt from the adverse effects of hard water. If not cleaned thoroughly and regularly, your toilet bowl will have stains all over, and they won’t just go away once you flush or gently scrub them with a sponge.
In this article, we’ll provide two effective methods for removing hard water stains from toilet bowls. Additionally, we’ll offer solutions on how to permanently deal with hard water and prevent your toilet bowl from getting stained.
Two Effective Methods for Removing Hard Water Stains From Toilet
Minerals are alkaline in essence, and more often than not, to dislodge or remove them, you need to utilize acidic liquids to neutralize them.
However, most cleaning agents with acidic properties have chemicals that can be toxic through exposure. There’s one exception to that rule and one non-acidic and non-liquid cleaning instrument:
- White vinegar (an acidic liquid), when combined with baking soda (an alkali compound), makes up the safest and most effective way of removing hard water stains.
- Pumice stone is another efficient tool to remove hard water stains over sensitive surfaces like porcelain and ceramic.
Now, let’s see why these methods are effective and how you should apply them.
White Vinegar and Baking Soda
The acidic nature of white vinegar makes it one of the best things you can use to deal with the adverse effects of hard water. Its efficiency is so high that some people employ it as a water-softening liquid in their washing machines, and it’s often the preferred way to sanitize water-softening devices.
Baking soda (NaHCO₃), on the other hand, is an alkaline compound, but when combined with acids, it produces a small amount of carbon dioxide through a chemical reaction. This reaction and the carbon dioxide it produces help oxidize a portion of the mineral buildup, making them easier to clean.
The combination of white vinegar and baking soda is also non-toxic and nonabrasive, so neither you nor the sensitive surfaces of your household have anything to worry about.
Here’s how to combine the two and apply the mixture to a toilet bowl:
- Fill a cup with white vinegar and pour it inside the toilet bowl, making sure that it touches every stained spot
- Pick up your toilet brush and swish the vinegared water around
- Let the vinegar sit for about 5 minutes
- Fill a cup with baking soda and sprinkle it inside the toilet bowl
- Pour another cup of vinegar over the mixture
- Let the mixture sit and react for about 10 minutes. Don’t worry when the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda starts, it creates fizzing and foaming bubbles.
- Pick up the toilet brush and swish the mixture thoroughly, covering all the stains
- Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes
- After 20 to 30 minutes, brush the toilet bowl
- If stubborn stains are left behind, repeat the process
Pumice stone is a natural byproduct of mixing lava and water. It’s mostly used to remove dead and dry skin, but it has other, somewhat surprising uses as well. Removing hard water stains from tiles and toilet bowls is one of those uses.
Using it to remove hard water stains is even easier than creating a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda. Here’s how:
- Pour warm water over the area you want to clean.
- Rub and scrub the stains with the pumice stone.
- Similar to the reaction between vinegar and baking soda, rubbing pumice stone over minerals will create paste-like foam. Don’t worry when you see it, as it only indicates that the stone is doing its job.
- Rinse the rubbed area, or simply flush the toilet.
- Repeat the sequence above if not all the stains are gone.
How to Protect Your Toilet Bowl from Hard Water Stains
If you have hard water, scrubbing and brushing your toilet with vinegar or pumice stone won’t permanently prevent the problem. If you want to get rid of stains caused by hard water minerals for good, you need to install a water softening device, like a:
- Water softener
- Water conditioner
- Water descaler
In the water treatment niche, the term ‘water softener’ refers to traditional salt-based water softening systems. These systems come with two tanks, a resin tank, where the softening process occurs, and a brine tank, where the water softener salt ensures the system’s continuous operation goes.
The resin tank houses the negatively charged water-softening resin, which attracts and traps positively charged mineral molecules and replaces them with molecules of sodium or potassium in a process known as ion exchange. Of course, there comes a time when the trapped minerals start saturating within the resin, decreasing its effectiveness.
That’s when the brine tank shows its usefulness. In a preprogrammed process referred to as the regeneration cycle, the system automatically prepares a brine solution with either sodium or potassium salt. This solution then travels through the resin tank, flushing trapped minerals and recharging the resin with new sodium or potassium.
As these devices usually feature two tanks, they’re quite bulky. Moreover, they’re the most expensive water-softening solution, as a decent device costs about $1,500. Since you have to add new salt to the brine tank every once in a while, the costs only add up in the long run.
Still, traditional water softeners are the best way of dealing with hard water problems. If you’re in the market for one, the SpringWell SS1 Water Softener is our favorite, and you won’t find any better alternative to it anywhere.
Unlike water softeners, water conditioners don’t remove minerals, nor do they feature two tanks or need salt to operate. Instead, they utilize a technology called template-assisted crystallization (TAC) that only changes the chemical structure of mineral molecules.
What makes minerals stick to surfaces and to each other is their chemical structure. In TAC, minerals turn into microscopic crystals, which renders them unable to stick to surfaces and build up, thus eliminating stain and limescale formation.
Since this process only requires one tank, water conditioners are more compact than water softeners. They’re also more affordable, as you can find a good TAC-based for under $1,000.
TAC systems don’t need salt, so they have less long-term costs.
That said, while water softeners can reduce scale by 99%, water conditioners are a bit less efficient, with a scale reduction rate of only 90%. Still, that rate is enough to prevent hard water stains from occurring on toilet bowls.
If a water conditioner is what you’re looking for, our ultimate recommendation in this category is the Aquasana Salt-Free Water Conditioner.
Water descalers, also known as electromagnetic water softeners, are even more compact than water conditioners as they don’t feature a tank. Their only components are a small power supply and two pieces of magnetic coil that should be wrapped around the main incoming water pipe to your house.
The magnetic coil creates an electromagnetic field that breaks the bonds between mineral molecules. In the end, mineral molecules can’t stick together, so they can’t build up and create stains.
However, when it comes to scale reduction, this process is even less efficient than water conditioners. Its success rate is only 50%, so if you’re living in an area with particularly hard water, a water descaler might not be the ideal option for you.
Still, for areas with moderately hard water, a water descaler like our favorite, the Yarna Capacitive Descaler, is the most sensible choice simply because it’s the most affordable water softening solution ($299) that requires no maintenance whatsoever.
Hard water can lead to limescale formation and stains on and inside toilet bowls. To remove them, mix white vinegar and baking soda or scrub your toilet bowl rigorously with a pumice stone.
However, neither method is a permanent solution to your hard water problems. If you have hard water, we can assure you that the hard water stains will continue to plague you if you don’t install a water-softening device.
Thankfully, these devices are abundantly present on the market, so it’s easy and convenient to get a good water softener, conditioner, or descaler, depending on the hardness of the water in your supply and your particular needs.