Vinegar vs. Hard Water Deposits

My before and after!

My before and after!

Here in Phoenix, hard water is the bane of our collective existence (along with July!). Hard water, or water with a high mineral content, is famous for leaving those awful cloudy films on glasses, and a chalky white residue on shower walls and faucets.

For a long time, I felt convinced that there was simply no natural solution. I tried everything from the mundane to the inventive: commercial hard water cleaners, fabric softener sheets sprayed with window cleaner on my shower walls, Lemi-shine on my drinking glasses in the dishwasher…nothing worked.

Finally, last week in a last-ditch effort to save my drinking classes - they were SO cloudy and gunked up that I thought I was going to have to replace them - I returned to one of the best natural cleaners of all - plain white vinegar.

I filled a deep bowl with half vinegar and half hot water (I’m not sure the water needed to be hot but it felt right so I did it anyway!), and soaked the glasses two by two for 10 or 15 minutes each. Then I took them out and scrubbed them with a regular dish scrubber. Glory of glories, the chalky gunk came right off! I found out after doing some later googling that the vinegar loosens up the water deposits.

The experiment with the drinking glasses was such a raging success that I unscrewed my shower head and did the same routine, getting rid of almost three year’s worth of lime deposits in 15 minutes.

Takeaway lessons from this experiment: A good dose of vinegar will clean almost anything; and to never underestimate the power of natural cleaning products!

45 Responses to “Vinegar vs. Hard Water Deposits”

  1. I tried that myself to remove hard water stains and clogged showerheads and unfortunately it was a waste of my time. I hope others have better results than I did.

  2. For the clogs add a teaspoon of baking soda into the shower head then put straight vinegar in. It works on my drains perhaps it will work on your shower heads.

  3. Oh no Magrathea! I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. Perhaps a higher ratio of vinegar to water would have helped? I used half and half but maybe my buildup wasn’t too bad. I also did find that I had to scrub a little afterwards - it only loosened the deposits, but they weren’t totally dissolved.

  4. I’m willing to give it a try…My dad thinks vinegar is “magic” and can do almost anything…include cure a sore throat. Maybe if you come over and help…I’ll get the best results (o:
    SaraH do you ( or your readers) have any tried and true remedies for extreme soap build up on shower walls and doors from bar soaps? I see that so often in my cleaning job…and right now I resort to scraping it off with a razor blade ( TIME CONSUMING)…or applying awful chemicals.

  5. I’m going to have to try that on my glasses– they look awful. I use vinegar to clean almost everything else, but somewhow I never thought of using it on my dishes!

  6. @Joy: I’ve heard that a spray bottle of vinegar and water will do the same trick for shower walls; spray them well, let it sit, come back after 15 minutes and scrub it off. I’ve also heard that using a damp fabric softener sheet on a dry shower works like a charm, although I’ve never been able to test this theory because it doesn’t work as well on glass shower walls, which is what I’ve had!

  7. Joy, I would try making a paste of flour and vinegar and applying it to the walls and letting it sit and soak in. The flour will keep it on the wall instead of dripping down.

  8. Vinegar works the same when doing laundry. In San Diego we have notoriously hard water. I add about a cup of vinegar to the washing machine and my clothes come out soft, better than with any fabric softener. Also you don’t need to use the nasty fabric sheets in the dryer when you use vinegar in the wash!

  9. I have no idea why this didn’t work for the first person who commented on this post - It works like a charm for me. I use it for my dishes and for the last rinse in the washer instead of fabric conditioner. I agree with Joy’s father - vinegar is magic! I use it for all kinds of things around the house and rarely buy household cleaners.

  10. Thanks for the tips. Will white vinegar (diluted or undiluted) damage my granite countertops? We sealed the granite when it was installed a few months ago, and will reseal them annually. Now I just need to know how to get rid of the hard water deposits around my sink faucets.

  11. I use vinegar on my 12-yr-old granite frequently and have never had trouble. The counter top is dark and after awhile, a hard water film build up on it , which the vinegar takes right off. You should test an inconspicuous spot to be sure it doesn’t affect your color.

  12. Thankyou!!!
    THe hard water on my black granite bathroom vanity was driving me crazy. I was trying everything including scraping. But in such a tight area that was very difficult and rather ineffective (except for the heaviest build up). I rubbed in vinegar just now and left for about 1/2 hour. Wiped it off and there is not a trace of water stain left. What’s more, the finish is the same as before!

  13. I just tried the damp fabric softener sheet on my glass shower doors and the hard water spots and soap residue came off immediately. I was absolutely shocked by this. I actually liked this better than the vinegar because the texture of the sheet itself, plus whatever is in it, gave it a soapy consistency that was easy to work with. I did have to wash the film off with a sponge and dish soap though. You can’t just rinse it off. My doors look fantastic right now and I’m so happy I won’t have to use those smelly chemicals anymore.

  14. Hello! I live in Arizona, hardest water on the planet and I’m going crazy with my tile shower walls. For a few years I used Spic’n'Span powder, scrubbing like mad with a sponge, while taking a shower actually, but that began to leave the group bluish. :)

    Began thinking about vinegar…so thank you for your suggestions. I will try to stay ahead of hard deposits build-up in the shower by spraying vinegar, full strength.

    But I have a suggestion for the dishwasher and the garburator (something I can live without, but it’s in the house so…)

    For the dishwasher: once in a while do a full cycle wash (ceramic dishes, glasses and stainless steel cutlery in there is not only ok, but recommended - no silver!) - with no soap at all, just one cup of household bleach. THEN for the final rinse, pour in 1/4 vinegar and let it finish. Everything, specially the stainless steel cutlery, should sparkle.

    For the garburator: start your faucet with the hotest water possible, then reduce to a thin trickle. Start the garburator running. Now, pour a thin stream of dishwashing liquid until you see the foam building up inside the running garburator. At that point, begin adding drops of bleach, 1/4 cup will do, till it’s all used up. Finally, increase the flow of water to rinse all the soap and bleach down the drain (garburator still running). Reduce the flow of water again, but not as much as at first, and dribble in one cup of vinegar. Cleans the inside of the garburator, its drain pipe and gets rid of smells.

  15. TURTLE WAX Rubbing Compound (paste) & a green or white scotch-bright scouring pad is the only thing I have found that works to get rid of hard water buildup on shower doors. Takes a bit of “elbow grease” but actually works.

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