The TDS level of water at our place ranges from 600-900 ppm. So, we inevitably have to learn to deal with hard water stains on taps, glass, tiles, granites, sinks and more.
Over a period of time, we have tried and tested many methods to find out the best way out. In addition, we searched the internet to find which are the other highly recommended options. We put them all to test to find out which is the winner.
Take our quiz on hard water stains at the end of the article
How To Remove Hard Water Stains From Taps?
Method 1: Using Vinegar
I may be a bit biased towards this method because this is my go-to option. Hard water stains are basically limescale deposits from dissolved salts like calcium and magnesium in the water. They are alkaline in nature. Vinegar being acidic, cuts through the limescale and dissolves it. Moreover, being mild, it won’t corrode the stainless steel.
To try this method, I took some vinegar in a bowl and soaked a cloth in it. Then, I wrapped it around the tap for 30 minutes. You have to ensure that every part of the tap is covered with the rag. If there is excess vinegar left in the bowl, pour it over the cloth wrapped tap so that it is completely immersed.
Note that the vinegar I used has just 4% acetic acid. If what you have is more concentrated, you may want to dilute it with water, else it may corrode your tap.
Results: The limescale deposits was almost gone when I took off the soaked rag. With slight scrubbing, I was able to remove some stubborn spots. There was hardly any damage to the tap from using vinegar. And it did not require much elbow grease.
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Method 2: Using Salt
This is a method recommended by Get Set Clean. They say salt helps to break down the hard water stains and eliminate germs from the surface.
The instructions say to liberally sprinkle salt and allow it to sit for 3-4 hours. Then, scrub it and wash it with warm water.
Results: First of all, this method risks the chance of causing scratches on the metal surface of the tap. You have to first wet the tap, else salt won’t sit on the tap. Further, it is a bit difficult to apply along the vertical sides of the body as the salt would slip down. So, we made a paste of salt and applied it all over the tap. After resting for about 30 minutes, we scrubbed it with a sponge.
It did remove some of the hard water stains. As I didn’t scrub aggressively, there weren’t many scratches. However, a few stubborn hard water stains persisted.
From what we can understand, salt doesn’t dissolve the limescale deposits. Rather, it is the abrasive nature of salt that removes the deposits. Overall, it isn’t as effective as vinegar when it comes to removing hard water stains.
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Method 3: Using Lime
Lime being acidic will cut through the hard water stains. Being milder than vinegar, you run a lower risk of corroding the stainless steel.
To try this method, we cut a lime in half and applied it all over the tap. We also scrubbed a bit using the lime peel to ensure that every nook and cranny was covered. Then, we let it sit for 30 minutes after which, we washed it with plain water and wiped it off with a dry cloth.
Results: Lime works pretty much similarly to vinegar. As it is milder, it requires a bit more effort to scrub the nook and cranny with the lime peel. But, it does work. The results are satisfactory as it removes even tough hard water stains.
We would rate it just below vinegar as it takes a bit more effort. So, if you have run out of vinegar, you could use lime for equally good results.
Method 4: Using dish soap
This again is a method recommended by a few home maintenance websites.
We dipped a sponge in some dishwashing liquid and scrubbed the tap. Then, washed it in plain water and wiped it with a dry cloth.
Results: Though we tried this method, we felt that it did not make much sense. Hard water deposits hardly budge with surfactants. Soap may remove dirt. But, not so much for hard water stains. So let us please help save you time. This simply doesn’t work. In fact, the soap scum makes it appear worse!
Method 5: Using Harpic
Now, this is a method I have used several times. But, it isn’t recommended by Harpic or stainless steel tap manufacturers. There is a high risk that the stainless steel could corrode. However, I find it really useful to clean stubborn hard water stains that won’t budge.
The red Harpic which is used for bathroom cleaning doesn’t provide similar results as it is bleach-based, while blue Harpic is acid-based.
Results: We tried this on the tap after trying to clean it with dishwashing soap ( method 2). After taking the picture, I was worried I had damaged the tap using the dish soap. Fortunately, the scum and hard water stains were coming off. Then, I scrubbed it with a sponge and diluted Harpic. And of course, it worked. You have to be thorough and being diluted, you have to scrub with some effort. And Harpic does a wonderful job. But leave it too long or if you use concentrated Hapic, you end up damaging the stainless steel.
Does it work? Hell yeah! Do we recommend it? No way!
Method 6: Using Baking Soda
Baking soda nowadays is used more for cleaning rather than baking. Being alkaline, it cuts through the grease and cleans well in many cases. But does it work for hard water stains?
Many websites recommend making a paste of baking soda and applying it on the tap. Let it rest for 15-30 minutes and then scrub it with an old toothbrush or sponge. We tried it and here is what we found.
Results: Baking soda may appear to be the magic potion that cleans all stains. But, hard water deposits aren’t one of them. The reason baking soda works is because it is slightly alkaline. But hard water stains need an acidic cleaner. Just like dishwashing soap, baking soda too doesn’t help. Most of the hard water stains remained.
As expected, the winner is vinegar, followed by lime. Their acidic nature dissolves hard water stains and deposits effectively. Owing to its mild nature, damage to stainless steel is also negligible.
Diluted Blue Harpic is effective. But it is not recommended as it may corrode the stainless steel if not used correctly.
Your water tap is stain free!
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#1. True or False: Hard water stains appear only on stainless steel taps.
Hard water stains can appear almost on every surface- Tiles, glass, ceramic and so on!
#2. Hard water is contaminated.
Hard water is caused by salt deposits. It needn’t necessarily be contaminated.
#3. Which of the following DOESN'T make water hard?
Zinc is acidic in nature and doesn’t cause hard water stains!
#4. Hard water stains are acidic in nature.
Hard water stains are caused by calcium, magnesium and their carbonates and bicarbonates which are all alkaline in nature
#5. Which of the following can remove hard water stains?
Vinegar is the best option to remove hard water stains. Options like dishwashing soap and mineral oil don’t work. Caustic soda can corrode the metal.