For those living in hard water areas, the problem of limescale, hard water stains and mineral deposits is a familiar one.
From your kettle to your fish tank, we look at how this problem affects your home and take you through a guide to limescale removal for different appliances and areas of your home.
Is Limescale Harmful?
Limescale comes from water that is considered ‘hard’. This means that it contains a lot of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The deposit of limescale can be most easily seen on the element in your kettle or as a white build up on your taps or shower.
Ingesting limescale is not harmful and will not adversely affect your health. It may be unpleasant, but it certainly will not make you sick.
In fact, the minerals that commonly cause limescale are essential to human health. Not that we’re advocating getting these through the deposit of limescale in your kettle, there are far more pleasant ways of taking your mineral supplements.
Any damage from limescale is typically done to your kettle or boiler element and the surfaces around your home that are regularly exposed to hard water. This includes your shower, taps, and toilet. Even worktops and aquariums can be affected.
So, let’s examine how to clean limescale from your household appliances and surfaces.
Removing Kettle Limescale
If you live in a hard water area, don’t have a water softener or don’t filter your water then it is likely that you will find limescale forming on the interior of your kettle. This is from the insoluble calcium carbonate that is left behind after the water has boiled.
There are proprietary chemicals that you can buy to clean limescale from the element and interior of your kettle. However, many people prefer not to use harsh chemicals, which will end up in the water supply after you have used them.
For a more environmentally friendly way to clean limescale from your kettle, follow the steps below:
- Fill the kettle with equal amounts of water and either lemon juice or white vinegar
- Leave to soak for up to one hour
- Boil the mixed solution
- Throw the water away and rinse well
- You may need to repeat the process if the limescale is not all removed the first time
It is also possible to use baking soda using the same method. A good way to prevent limescale building up again too quickly is to always completely empty the kettle after it has boiled. Standing water adds to the incidence of limescale formation in your kettle.
How To Remove Hard Water Stains From A Sink
Another common area to encounter limescale build up is on your kitchen or bathroom sink. These are two of the most frequently used facilities in your home, so it is not surprising that they should suffer from limescale build up.
Stainless Steel Sink Limescale Removal
Stainless steel unfortunately really shows up the stains of limescale deposits. At first the stainless steel will start to dull and then a visible white residue will begin to appear. If it is left for too long, this residue will harden and become very difficult to remove.
So the key is to remove the limescale on a regular basis. But how do you do this? Well, again you can use chemical limescale removers or a gentler but equally effective method using household products.
To clean limescale off a stainless steel sink:
- Mix five parts water with one part white vinegar
- Using a sponge or soft cloth, clean the stain with the solution
- Rinse with clean water
- Dry and polish the sink
Removing limescale from a stainless steel kitchen sink should never be done with abrasive cleaners as these will scratch the surface permanently.
Porcelain Sink Limescale Removal
Your bathroom sink will likely be made from porcelain. To clean limescale off a porcelain sink:
- Clean off any dirt or soap scum with hot soapy water
- Mix one part of white vinegar with two parts of bicarbonate of soda to form a paste
- Rub this paste over the limescale deposits
- Wait for the solution to start softening the limescale, 5-15 minutes depending on the extent of the problem
- Gently rub the limescale stains with a sponge
- Rinse the area with clean water
- Dry and polish the sink
Removing Limescale From Taps
Obviously, if your sinks are getting coated with limescale, chances are your taps are too. For cleaning your taps, there are different methods for different materials.
Stainless Steel Taps
To clean limescale from stainless steel taps, follow these steps:
- Mix one part white vinegar with two parts bicarbonate of soda into a thick paste
- Apply the paste to the taps, covering all the limescale
- Leave to work for half an hour
- Rinse the paste off
- Dry, and then polish the taps
Chrome taps can be damaged permanently if limescale is left in place. To clean limescale from your chrome taps, do the following:
- Mix equal amounts of white vinegar and water
- Soak a soft cloth or towel in the solution
- Wrap this cloth around the taps, covering all the stained areas
- When the cloth is in place, pour the remaining solution over it
- Leave for a couple of hours and then use the cloth to remove any stubborn stains
- Rinse the taps with clean water
Brass Or Copper Taps
For brass or copper taps, the above method for chrome taps can be used. It is important to dilute the vinegar before soaking the cloth, as the vinegar is too acidic on its own and may damage the surface of the taps.
Alternatively, you can make up the paste and apply as in the stainless steel tap method.
Removing Hard Water Stains From Work Surfaces
Kettles, sinks and taps are not the only victims of hard water stains and mineral deposits. Any surface that is close to your sink or taps will inevitably get water splashed onto them, and this can lead to stains and limescale.
Countertops can be cleaned with store bought limescale removers, but you may want to use something more gentle.
Laminate is a thin covering over a particle board surface to protect the material underneath and give a decorative finish to your countertop. You should be careful not to let water sit on the work surface for any period of time.
Not only will this stain the laminate, but could cause it to detach from the surface under it. To clean limescale deposits from laminate countertops, follow these steps:
- Clean any dirt or grease from the laminate surface
- Make up a paste of three parts bicarbonate of soda with one part water
- Cover the stains with the paste
- Wait for thirty minutes then wipe the surface, scrubbing gently if necessary
- Rinse with a clean damp cloth and dry thoroughly
If you are lucky enough to have granite work surfaces in your kitchen, then you will want to preserve their beauty. Although granite is very hard wearing, it can still fall foul of mineral deposits and hard water stains.
To clean a granite surface, do the following:
- Wash the surface with warm soapy water to remove any dirt or grease
- Make up the paste as for the laminate countertops
- Leave in place until the stains start to come away easily
- Clean the stains away
- Rinse and wipe the granite surface dry
Removing Limescale From A Toilet
One of the most used amenities in any home is the toilet, so it is inevitable that it too will experience a build of limescale in hard water areas. You can use limescale remover products or a home remedy that is not as harsh on the environment.
For a more gentle but effective way to clean limescale from your toilet, follow these steps:
- While wearing gloves, push as much water as possible out of the toilet down the u bend with a toilet brush
- Pour undiluted white vinegar into the toilet bowl, making sure you cover all the limescale deposits
- Leave overnight or at least for a few hours
- Scrub the bowl with a toilet brush and flush
Removing Limescale From Glass
Hard water stains on your glass can spoil the effect of a beautiful shower screen, your fish tank or even your drinking glasses. So how can you remove these mineral deposits safely?
For lightly stained shower doors, fill a spray bottle with equal amounts of white vinegar and water. Spray onto your shower door, leave for a few minutes and then wipe with a cloth or sponge.
For heavier deposits, make up a paste of one part bicarbonate of soda and three parts vinegar. Rub over the shower door glass and leave to work for around 15 minutes. Lightly rub more stubborn stains, then rinse off.
Limescale is not harmful to fish, but it can make a beautiful fish tank look unattractive. You should never use harsh chemicals to clean limescale from an aquarium, as it could harm the fish.
Proprietary aquarium cleaners are probably the safest solution, but if you want, you can use diluted white vinegar. Follow these steps to clean limescale from your aquarium:
- Take the fish out and put into a temporary container
- Remove all the decorations and plants, then empty the aquarium
- Spray or wipe a vinegar solution onto the glass and leave it to work
- Rinse the aquarium, replace the decorations and refill it
- You may want to check the pH level, as the vinegar is acidic and may have altered it slightly. Add a pH balancer if necessary
- Return the fish to their nice, clean aquarium
To remove hard water stains from glasses that look cloudy, soak them in white vinegar for 15 minutes. Then wash in warm soapy water, rinse, dry and polish.
Limescale, hard water stains and mineral deposits are an unfortunate fact of life for those living in hard water areas. But as we have seen, there are ways to clean most things in your home.
You also don’t need to rely on store bought, harsh chemicals for this and can use household products to keep your home limescale free.