If your home has hard water, then you understand how it may as well be called “hard to clean water.” Over time, the residue it leaves behind can build up and become unsightly and unpleasant.
“Hard water stains occur when minerals found in water build up on surfaces such as shower doors, toilets, bathtubs, glass, and fixtures,” explains Katie Dills, Senior Vice President, The Cleaning Authority. “Common signs of hard water include cloudy spots on dishes, mineral buildup and soap scum deposited on faucets, limescale, and brown, pink, or reddish stains on toilets and shower floors.” In other words, it’s not pretty, and it often shows up in some of the busiest parts of your home.
To help you tackle the mineral deposits that result from hard water, we’ve researched some of the best cleaners available to determine top picks in a variety of categories. Whether you want to scrub the stains away yourself or use an easy spray that takes a few minutes to do the trick, there's an option for you.
Bio-Clean Hard Water Stain Remover
Works extremely well
Light, pleasant scent
Seals surfaces and limits needs for future cleaning
Elbow grease (or powered brush) recommended
When "Hard Water Stain Remover" is in the name of the product, you're definitely allowed to have high expectations. In the case of Bio-Clean's beloved cleaner, it definitely lives up to the hype. When we tested it at home, it proved to be efficient and effective, working on a variety of surfaces, including glass, tile, and grout. It also leaves a sealant behind that helps limit your need for future scrubbing sessions. And, yes, it does require scrubbing—this is a mild abrasive, so elbow grease is part of the equation.
When we tested it, we tried it with cloth, bristle brushes, and a paper towel, and slight adjustments to our technique were helpful for each. A drill was used with the brush, and that made it super simple to apply the necessary pressure quickly and easily. It's also worth mentioning that there's a subtle yet pleasant mint scent to Bio-Clean, too, which feels consistent with the creamy green color. If you already have hard water stains, and you're looking to limit future reoccurrences, you'd be hard-pressed (pun intended) to find a better overall hard water stain remover.
Price at time of publish: $30
Application: Cream | Amount: 20.3 ounces | Scent: Minty
CLR Multi-Use Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover
Formulated for minerals frequently found in hard water deposits
Readily available at lots of retailers
Versatile; can be used throughout home
Part of EPA's Safer Choice Program
Directions vary based on usage
CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover is another cleaner with a name that takes some of the guesswork out. In this case, it's a great pick because calcium and limescale are frequent offenders in hard water deposits. The brand has appeared in many round-ups on The Spruce, thanks to their effective formulas and overall versatility. You can use it on a variety of household surfaces and products, from showers and sinks to tea kettles and coffee pots. Be warned, however, that instructions can vary based on where and how you're using it, so you'll always want to double-check your process before you begin.
Along with its wallet-friendly price point, you can typically find CLR from a variety of retailers, making it a convenient choice, too. Plus, if you're partial to environmentally-friendly products, you'll be pleased to know that CLR is part of the EPA's Safer Choice Program, which demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and to formulating products that prove safe for people and the planet.
Price at time of publish: $7
Application: Liquid | Amount: 28 ounces | Scent: Unscented
Aunt Fannie's All Purpose 6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar
Versatile cleaning agent, can be used on multiple surfaces
Ingredients are just vinegar and water
Aroma may be displeasing to some
Package shape appears larger
Here's a classic: "Vinegar is a great environmentally responsible cleaner to eliminate hard water buildup because of its natural acidity," says Katie Dills, Senior Vice President, The Cleaning Authority. We like to recommend cleaning vinegar because it has 6 percent acidity (compared to distilled white vinegar's 5 percent). You can use it to soak a cloth or rag, which you'll then lay directly on your hard water deposits, and then scrub them away with your sponge or scrubber of choice (note that the process may need to be repeated a few times). Some elbow grease is required, but that's common with hard water stain removers.
Now, with Aunt Fannie's in particular, the package shape looks like it would rival a gallon jug or even a bulk container of laundry detergent. You're getting 33 ounces of liquid in the bottle which, while still useful supply, isn't necessarily close to a gallon. On the other hand, it's easier to use and pour this way, which we like.
Price at time of publish: $13
Application: Liquid | Amount: 33 ounces | Scent: Vinegar
Pumie Heavy-Duty Pumice Scouring Stick
Efficient and effective
Earth-derived, no added cleaner needed
Product may be used up quicker than expected
Elbow grease required
As long as you don't mind rolling up your sleeves a bit, and—okay, and maybe putting on some rubber gloves too—then a pumice stone is tough to beat when it comes to cleaning up hard water mineral deposits. It's a hands-on process, but if you have the time and ability, it's straightforward and effective. Just wet the stone, and scrub against deposits. That's it. Once you're done, you'll want to wipe or rinse away the debris (or in the case of a toilet bowl, flush away), but you should be left with a smooth and shiny surface. Stones are suitable for ceramic and porcelain, but be warned that they can scratch so always test before you get started.
Stones don't last forever, and as you scrub, the stone will erode and will eventually be used up. But, another perk of a pumice stone is that they're inexpensive, so we think the value is definitely still there.
Price at time of publish: $6
Application: Abrasive tool | Amount: 1 stick | Scent: Unscented
Best for Glass
Clean-X Repel Glass & Surface Cleaner
Cleans and repels future water droplets
Lessens longterm cleaning needs
Works on a variety of surfaces
Cherry scent may not suit everyone
Some users report streaks and inconsistent results
We appreciate how Clean-X Repel Glass & Surface Cleaner not only helps remove already-present hard water stains, but it also coats glass surfaces to help limit future buildup, too. The formula is designed to repel (just like the name promises) water and other types of grime to keep mirrors, windows, shower doors, and more, meaning your surfaces will look shiny and streak-free. Even better, you can actually use it in other parts of your home. The brand promises that it's safe for a multitude of surfaces, including granite, stainless steel, and tile.
The application process is fairly straightforward (just spray and wipe), but there may be a learning curve for completely streak-free results. As we've noted with a number of hard water stain removers, a little elbow grease is common, so if you don't get perfect results the first time, it may take another go. The cherry scent is fairly unique for a cleaning product, too. Still, if you like the idea of cleaning and protecting your glass surfaces in one fell swoop, it's definitely worth your consideration.
Price at time of publish: $33/3-pack
Application: Spray | Amount: 3 32-ounce bottles | Scent: Cherry
Best for Showers and Tubs
Rejuvenate No Scrub Soap Scum Remover
Easy and scrub-free application
Suitable for a variety of surfaces
Comes in multiple sizes
No added fragrances, but still has a strong smell
Sometimes, it makes sense to go with a product formulated for a specific job. If it's your shower or tub that's in need of a refresh, then we recommend Rejuvenate's soap scum remover. It's packaged in an easy spray bottle, so application takes just a few seconds, and after three minutes, you simply rinse or wipe it away (a shower nozzle with a hose is especially convenient, but certainly not required), leaving you with a shiny, squeaky-clean.
Rejuvenate has made frequent appearances in cleaning-related round-ups on The Spruce, proving competitive among soap scum cleaners and general glass cleaners, too. One caveat we've found is that despite not having any added fragrances, there is still a scent to the product, so users sensitive to certain smells will want to take note. If that's not an issue for you, you'll likely be very pleased. We recommend trying out the 24-ounce bottle, and if you find that it works well for you, you can always upgrade to the 32- or 128-ounce bulk size.
Price at time of publish: $10
Application: Spray | Amount: 24 ounces | Scent: Unscented (but users report smell)
Best for Toilets
Blueland Toilet Bowl Cleaner Starter Set
Plant-based and plastic-free formula
Attractive storage tin
Pleasant lemon cedar scent
Scrubbing required for thorough cleaning
A bit on the pricey side
If you prefer to think about cleaning your toilet as little as possible (like most of us), then we recommend a toilet-specific cleaning set that allows you to comfortably keep months' worth of product on hand. Specifically, the Blueland toilet bowl cleaner starter set, which offers both a storage tin and a pack of 14 cleaning tablets so you can easily store it out in the open. Maybe this way it can almost pass as decor (it's also sold with two or three of each product too, in case you want to stock multiple bathrooms).
The tablets are a breeze to use; just drop them right into your toilet bowl so they can fizz and do their job. You'll want to have a toilet brush ready because scrubbing is necessary, but that's not uncommon for hard water stains. The tablets are sold separately if you have another storage container in mind, and Blueland also makes it easy to subscribe for future deliveries if you're so inclined.
Price at time of publish: $24
Application: Tablet | Amount: 14 | Scent: Lemon Cedar
Bio-Clean Products Home Essential Kit
Contains both cleaning products and tools
Hard water stain remover included
Products suit a variety of cleaning tasks
Buyers may not need or use all products
Drill needed for brushes
No hard water stained surface is an island, or so the saying goes. If you're looking to tackle multiple places and spaces in your home, a curated set of products is a convenient way to go. We like this set from Bio-Clean because it contains the brand's hard water stain remover (our best overall pick), as well as a toilet cleaner, drain opener, sealant, cleaning cloth, and drill brushes. In other words, enough tools and products to clean your bathroom from top to bottom, and beyond.
Now, as with any pre-packaged set, not all products will be equally useful to all buyers, so we recommend double-checking the list of contents to ensure that they're all helpful. Bio-Clean does offer other sets, so if this one isn't quite right for your needs, you might choose another. And it's also worth mentioning that the included drill brushes need a—you guessed it—drill to operate, so make sure yours is charged up.
Price at time of publish: $60
Application: Varies | Amount: 6 separate products | Scent: Varies (hard water remover is minty)
For a tried and true cleaner to tackle hard water stains, we recommend Bio-Clean Hard Water Stain Remover. It's easy to use, efficient, and it smells pleasant, too. For a more budget-friendly but still effective pick, check out CLR Multi-Use Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover. We also like that it's versatile and suitable for multiple surfaces, and it's part of the EPA's Safer Choice Program.
What to Look For in a Hard Water Stain Remover
Not all cleaning products are created equally, and in the category of hard water stain removers, you'll find a variety of ingredients represented, including abrasive, chemical, and plant-based cleaners. There are pros and cons to each, and if you're wondering how to decide, consider the advice of Katie Dills, Senior Vice President at The Cleaning Authority. "When removing hard water stains, it is best to use acidic cleaners, such as vinegar." She also cautions to avoid using harsh acidic cleaners on marble or granite surfaces, and to immediately dry the area after cleaning. A cleaning vinegar like Aunt Fannie's can be a great place to start, and you can always graduate to a formulated product like Bio-Clean Hard Water Stain Remover, if and when the need arises (or if you prioritize the sealing feature).
While it can be tricky to assess cleaning time because hard water stains can vary from surface to surface and home to home, buyers should know that different types of products will require different time commitments, both in application and hands-on effort. A scrubber like a pumice stone, is going to be on the high end of the time commitment spectrum, while cleaners like Rejuvenate No Scrub Soap Scum Remover, which takes a few minutes to apply, set, and then rinse off, are going to be among the fastest. When you're shopping, consider whether you're pressed for time, or enjoy the satisfaction of using your own elbow grease,
The category of hard water stain removers has a wide variety of options, which includes sprays, foams, scrubbers, and abrasives, but the bottom line is: no matter your cleaning preferences, you'll likely be able to find a hard water stain remover that works for you. That said, if you're still growing your collection of home cleaning supplies or you're not entirely sure what works best for you, consider a set like Bio-Clean Products Home Essential Kit, which comes with a recommended cleaning and both drill brushes and a microfiber cloth.
Can you use hard water stain removers to remove mineral buildup?
Yes, you can! Hard water stains are typically comprised as mineral buildup, so the two go hand in hand. In other words, when you're removing hard water stains, you are in fact removing mineral buildup.
One item of note with hard water stains, is that, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "Regularly cleaning [surfaces] is the best way to keep hard water stains from accumulating. Keeping these areas dry and wiping away water after using the sink and shower will also help prevent further buildup," says Dills.
Do you need a professional strength stain remover?
Not necessarily, and it's important to remember that it's not always clear what constitutes "professional strength." We recommend selecting a cleaner that matches your needs, your budget, and your skill or comfort level. Hard water stains and mineral buildup can even be treated with vinegar, so you can always start with something from your local grocery store.
Can you use hard water stain removers on paint?
Yes, with one caveat: that hard water stain remover should be vinegar. If you're looking for more detail and step-by-step instructions, we've done a deep dive on removing hard water stains from your car's paint that might be helpful!
Why Trust The Spruce?
Dena Ogden is a lifestyle and commerce writer who’s been writing professionally since 2016, and with The Spruce since August 2022. She specializes in appliances, cleaning, and organization topics, and has written about everything from baskets and bins to carpet shampoos and robot vacuums. For this story, she spent hours over the course of several weeks researching and assessing hard water stain removers, with extra attention on high-performing products with proven track records. She also connected with Katie Dills, Senior Vice President, The Cleaning Authority, for advice on how to handle hard water build-up and deposits, and for advice on choosing cleaners.
When it comes to tackling hard water stains in her home life, Ogden reaches for her pumice stone first, and vinegar second!