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How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Shower Tile and Glass

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Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.


Removing Hard Water Stains From Ceramic Tile

If your home uses well water, you know how annoying it is dealing with hard water stains on the shower tile and glass. Even with my water softener fully loaded with salt, the iron in my hard water still causes the hideous brown staining in the bathroom over time.

The ceramic tile in my shower is slightly porous and collects iron and mineral deposits easily, making cleaning difficult. The ground water would basically ruin my bathroom without my softener and the right cleaner to prevent stains from forming.

I've tried different products to combat the rust stains in my bathroom, including Iron Out, which did nothing, but fortunately, I found a few that work really well at removing the iron without damaging my acrylic bathtub.

1. Whink Cleaner

At one point, I thought my remodeled bathroom was permanently damaged from iron stains, but this cleaner surprised me. Whink totally restored my badly stained ceramic tile and toilet, making both look brand new again.

I use Whink Lime and Rust Remover to clean my ceramic tile and toilet. I spray the chemical onto the surface and let it eat into the pores of the tile for a good ten minutes. With a little patience, the stains wipe off after a few repeated applications, with minimal scrubbing.

There is another Whink cleaner called Rust Remover, but the Lime and Rust Remover is safe for my acrylic bathtub. The stronger acetic content of the regular Rust Remover is not recommended for a plastic bathtub.

Note: This cleaner contains sulfamic and hydroxyacetic acid that effectively dissolves mineral staining. Protective gloves are needed, although I've spilled this stuff on my skin before without a chemical burn.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar is probably the best natural alternative to chemical cleaning products. Before I resorted to Whink cleaner, I used white distilled vinegar mixed with a little lemon juice in a spray bottle. As you can imagine, cleaning shower walls with vinegar smells horrible, but it works. Vinegar also works great for removing bathroom mold and mildew.

Vinegar eats through rust and dissolves it from the surface. Depending on how badly stained your tile is, repeated applications might be necessary to remove them.

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How to Clean With Vinegar

  1. Mix a 1/2 cup of lemon juice with the vinegar to make it more effective.
  2. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray the shower walls.
  3. Leave the vinegar alone for ten minutes and scrub the surface.

In my bathroom, I had to reapply the vinegar mixture and scrub multiple times before the surface was eventually clean, but it does work.

3. Tilex

Tilex (non-bleach version) lifted some of the rust stains from my ceramic shower tile, but it worked the best for removing the rust stains from my bathtub. I have an acrylic bathtub that can only be cleaned with certain products, with Tilex being one of the products recommended by the manufacturer.

Tilex is similar to Scrubbing Bubbles. You spray it on and let it dissolve the stains before scrubbing. Other than Whink, which I use primarily for my shower tile, Tilex is the only product I've tried that effectively removes the hard water stains from my plastic bathtub.

I spray my shower walls and tub frequently with this product to prevent accumulation of mineral deposits.

4. Bar Keepers Friend for Shower Glass

In a house with hard water, keeping glass shower doors clean is difficult. After only a couple showers, the glass starts to get cloudy from the iron in the water and the salt from my water softener. If I could go back in time, I never would have installed glass shower doors in my bathroom.

I first tried cleaning my shower glass with Windex, but that didn't work at all. With glass, you have to be careful because certain cleaners can etch the glass and ruin it. Bar Keepers Friend was recommended to me by a friend who also has glass shower doors.

To remove the water staining from your shower glass with this product, simply wet the shower door with water first, apply the cleanser, wipe the surface with a non-scratch sponge and rinse.

Powder or Liquid?

Bar Keepers Friend in the powder form seems to work better than the liquid squeeze bottle. I'm not sure if the ingredients in the powder cleanser are much different than the liquid one, but that's what I've noticed after using both. Water stains come right off, no residue left behind.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matt G.

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