Removing Hard Water Stains from a Toilet (4 Effective Ways)

Hard water might not be bad for your health, but it sure can wreak a lot of havoc around your house.

Hard water refers to water that is high in mineral content – especially calcium and magnesium.

When these minerals accumulate in your toilet, you’ll start to see white scale or yellow stains building up.

These can be difficult to remove with a typical commercial toilet cleaner, but with the tips mentioned below, you should be able to have your toilet sparkling again. Note that we’ve used all natural, non-toxic ingredients, most of which you can find in your pantry.

Hard water toilet stains
Gross hard water stains in toilet

Here are 4 ways to remove hard water stains from your toilet.

For Mild Stains: White Vinegar

White vinegar to remove hard water stains

White vinegar is a staple in most pantries and an excellent solution for hard water stains. If you’ve only got mild stains, simply using white vinegar on its own can get rid of them.

What You Need:

  • Toilet brush

This solution works best for slight or mild stains. Simply add half a cup of white vinegar into the toilet bowl and let sit for an hour or two. Afterwards, scrub with a toilet brush until the yellow stains and marks disappear. Flush the toilet and enjoy the stain free look!

For Medium to Tough Stains: Vinegar + Bicarbonate Soda

Cleaning hard water stains from toilet steps

This is a failsafe way to remove ugly stains and get a sparkling look. The combination of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (a.k.a basking soda or bicarb) creates a chemical reaction, with the hydrogen ions of the vinegar reacting with the sodium and bicarbonate ions of the baking soda. When this happens, you’re left with two new chemicals which are carbonic acid and sodium acetate, which have excellent stain removing properties.

What You Need:

Pour about 1 cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes. Next, add about 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda into the toilet bowl. The vinegar and backing soda will react, creating fizz and bubbles. This will subside in a few seconds. Allow this to sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Using a toilet brush, scrub the toilet bowl thoroughly, getting into all the hard to reach areas. If the stains are very hard, you might need to let the solution sit for another 20 to 30 minutes, before flushing.

Finally, flush the toilet to rinse out the chemicals. You’ll be surprised at how clean your toilet bowl looks.   

For Medium to Tough Stains: Vinegar + Borax

Borax, also known as sodium borate or sodium tetraborate, is a mineral and a type of salt. It used to be used as a food additive, but today is often used as a household cleaner. It’s very effective and a tough cleaning agent. You won’t find Borax in supermarkets, but you can easily find it online or in most hardware stores. Borax is natural and has no toxic ingredients. It’s much like baking soda in that regard. When mixed with vinegar, borax is an effective cleaning agent.

What You Need:

Add about 2-3 tablespoons of borax powder into the toilet bowl and swish it around to activate it. Leave it for a few minutes and then add in about half a cup of vinegar. Let the two chemicals do their thing for about 15 to 20 minutes before using the toilet brush to scrub the bowl thoroughly. Finally, flush to rinse the toilet.

For Very Tough Stains: Borax Paste

Borax is excellent for very tough stains when made into a paste with a little vinegar. However, for this, you would need to have the toilet bowl dry, so that water doesn’t dilute the power of the borax.

What You Need:

  • Borax
  • Vinegar (just enough to make a paste)
  • Stiff bristled toilet brush

Flush the toilet and turn off the valve to the cistern so that the bowl doesn’t fill up again. Use about 3 tablespoons of borax or roughly half a cup. Mix the powder with enough vinegar to create a thick paste. Remember that borax hardens very fast, so only add the vinegar once you’re ready to apply it. If you leave it sitting around, the mixture will harden to be unusable.

Apply the paste onto the hardwater stains in the toilet bowl and let it sit for about 20 to 30 minutes. Finally, scrub the toilet bowl with the toilet brush, open the water valve to fill up the cistern and flush. 

Some Tips for Effective Cleaning

Hard water stain before and after side by side

Hard water stains can range from mild rings to impenetrable accumulations. Choose the best cleaning option depending on how tough the stains are.

  • For mild stains – cleaning can take around 10 minutes, and simply using vinegar or vinegar with baking soda or borax will take care of all stains perfectly. You won’t need to use a lot of elbow grease and the result will be sparkling.
  • For medium to tough stains – you may need to leave the chemicals in the bowl for up to 30 minutes, or if you feel necessary, even overnight. The aim is to get the chemicals onto all the stains and leave them to do their work. Use a stiff-bristled brush as this will reduce the amount of scrubbing you need to do. Don’t forget to get the brush into the hard to reach nether regions of the toilet bowl to make sure all stains are gone.
  • For very tough stains – this is when you’ll need a dry toilet bowl, so that you can tackle the stains without the water sloshing around. You may need to don a pair of gloves and use steel wool to scrub extremely tough stains, if the toilet brush doesn’t do the job.

Bleach liquid and powder doesn’t seem to work effectively against hard water stains, so its best avoiding this. Additionally, you’ll find that many effective toilet cleaners don’t work well against hard water stains and can be a waste of time and money when it comes to cleaning this type of stains.

Remember prevention is better than cure. Clean the toilet regularly and don’t allow stains to build up. This will make cleaning a breeze and it’s also more hygienic.

Tackling Hard Water

Hard water isn’t just hard on your toilet, it’s negatively impacts all your appliances, like your washing machine, dishwasher, water heater and fixtures. It can cause lime and scale build-up as well as rust and corrosion.

One way to target very hard water is to treat it before it gets to your fixtures and appliances. Consider a water softening system for your home or an effective whole house filtration method that can reduce hard water to some extent. This will remove the negative impacts of hard water.

The infographic below shows the negative impact of hard water.

Negative effects of hard water
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