How to Remove Hard Water Stains in a Toilet

light and airy bathroom with toilet

The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

Hard water can quickly build up on faucets, showers, sinks, and toilets and over time can leave rust and scale stains that are very unsightly and often extremely difficult to remove. Nowhere is this more problematic than in a toilet, which sees a lot of use and holds standing water constantly. While there are many commercial cleaning products that can remove hard water stains in the toilet, several household products can be just as effective and will rid your bowl of the dreaded ring without harsh chemicals.


Watch Now: How to Remove Hard Water Stains in a Toilet

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are two of the most useful household products that can be used to clean many things, including hard water stains in the toilet.

  1. Pour about 1 cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl and swish it around with a toilet brush. Let it sit for about one minute.
  2. Add about 1 cup of baking soda to the toilet bowl, then add another 1 to 2 cups of vinegar. This will create a fizzing action. Let the solution sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Use a toilet brush to swish the solution around the bowl, making sure to get the solution onto any stains that are above the water line. Don’t flush the toilet.
  4. Let the vinegar and soda solution sit for up to 30 minutes, swishing one or two more times until the stain is gone. If any stain remains, scrub it with the toilet brush or a stiff-bristled nylon brush. Flush the toilet to rinse.


While you have the baking soda and vinegar out, use them to give the bathroom sink drain a boost with some homemade drain cleaner.

methods for removing hard water toilet stains illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Adrian Mangel

Borax and Vinegar

Borax is a great multi-purpose cleaning product that can be effectively used to clean hard water stains in the toilet and other plumbing fixtures.

  1. Pour 1/4 cup of Borax into the toilet bowl and swish it around with a toilet brush.
  2. Add 1 cup of vinegar and allow the mixture to sit in the bowl for about 20 minutes.
  3. Finish by scrubbing the bowl with a toilet brush to remove the stains. Flush the toilet to rinse.

Borax Paste

For really stubborn hard water toilet stains, try using Borax paste.

  1. Shutting off the water to the toilet at the fixture shutoff valve, then flush the toilet to drain the bowl. This is necessary so that the hard water stains are not covered by water.
  2. Make a paste by mixing 1/2 cup of Borax and enough vinegar to form a thick paste.
  3. Spread the paste immediately onto the hard water stains in the toilet so they are completely covered by the paste. The Borax will harden quickly so don’t add the vinegar until you are ready to apply the paste.
  4. Allow the paste to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the paste and stains by scrubbing with a stiff-bristled nylon brush. Flush the toilet to rinse.
scrubbing the toilet with a toilet brush
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Scrub With Sandpaper

Another option for scrubbing very stubborn hard water stains in the toilet is 0000-grade steel wool (0000 is the finest grade). Steel wool cleans by itself or with plain water, but you can also use it with household cleaners. Be sure to use 0000-grade steel wool to prevent scratches to the porcelain surface. 

Clean the Toilet Regularly

There is no need to use harsh and costly chemicals to prevent hard water toilet stains. Borax, vinegar, and baking soda do a great job of cleaning and disinfecting. Used regularly, they will prevent hard water stains from building up.

To help keep your toilet clean and free of hard water buildup, try regular cleanings with Borax, which can help to soften hard water. Just use 1/4 cup Borax with every cleaning.