How to Remove Hard Water Stains in Your Toilet Bowl

Methods for Removing Hard Water Stains in the Toilet

The Spruce / Adrian Mangel

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $10

Chances are, if you're running water in your house, you've encountered some hard water stains. Hard water is water with especially high mineral content, containing mainly magnesium, calcium, bicarbonates, and sulfates. Mineral buildup from dried hard water, also known as limescale, can form chalky white residue and rust-colored stains on toilets, faucets, showers, and sinks. Hard water can be found all over the the U.S. and can be concentrated in certain regions such as the Midwest.

Over time, these stains can become unsightly and increasingly difficult to remove. Fortunately, a simple combination of a few everyday household products, like vinegar, baking soda, and Bon Ami (a tried-and-true nontoxic powder cleanser) is just as effective.

How Often Should You Clean Hard Water Stains?

As with most stains, the longer they sit, the harder they are to remove. It's best to tackle hard water stains as soon as you see them. Fortunately, using the process described below, it's easy and inexpensive to remove hard water stains from your toilet.


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

Stain type   Mineral-based
Detergent   Mild
Water temperature  Room temperature

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 toilet brush


  • 1 box baking soda
  • 1 box Bon Ami
  • 1 box Borax
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • rubber gloves


How to Remove Hard Water Stains With Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are two of the most common and versatile household products. Alone or together, they can be used to clean laundry, remove pet odors, and even remove hard water stains. And the best part? They are free of toxic chemicals and harsh fragrances.

If you are sensitive to the smell of vinegar, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the bottle before pouring it in your toilet. Your whole bathroom will smell just the way you like it.

  1. Pour the Vinegar

    Pour about 2 cups of vinegar into the toilet bowl. Give the vinegar and water a good swish with the toilet brush, making sure to cover any hard water stains that you can see. Let it sit for about 1 minute.

    person pouring vinegar into the toilet

    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija  

  2. Add the Baking Soda

    Add about 1 cup of baking soda to the toilet bowl, then add another 1 to 2 cups of vinegar. You should see and hear some fizzing action—this means that it's working! Let the solution sit and fizz for about ten minutes.

    person adding baking soda to the toilet
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 
  3. Swish With a Toilet Brush

    Using a clean toilet brush, scrub the sides of the toilet with the baking soda and vinegar solution. You'll need to use some good elbow grease here, but don't go overboard, as you don't want to scratch the ceramic inside the toilet. Be sure to pay extra close attention to any stains sitting above the water line. Don't flush yet.

    person swishing baking soda around with a toilet brush
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija  
  4. Let the Solution Sit

    Let the vinegar and soda solution sit for up to 30 minutes. If there are any stains above the water line, it would be helpful to go over them with your toilet brush one or two more times. One final scrub before you flush should remove any still stuck stains. Flush to rinse.

    toilet flushing
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 


While you have the baking soda and vinegar out, use them to clean your bathroom sink with homemade drain cleaner.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains With Bon Ami and Vinegar

Invented back in 1886, Bon Ami is versatile household-staple that was originally created to replace harsh quartz-based powder cleanser. Today, it can be used for a variety of purposes around your home, and is especially effective at eliminating hard water stains. If you don't have baking soda to combine with vinegar, you can substitute it with Bon Ami.

  1. Pour the Bon Ami

    Pour 1/4 cup of Bon Ami into the toilet bowl and swish it around with a toilet brush.

    person pouring borax into the toilet
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 
  2. Add the Vinegar

    Add 1 cup of vinegar and allow the mixture to sit in the bowl for about 20 minutes.

    person pouring vinegar into the toilet
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija  
  3. Scrub the Bowl

    Finish by scrubbing the bowl with a toilet brush to remove the stains. Flush the toilet to rinse.

    person swishing ingredients with toilet brush
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 

How to Remove Hard Water Stains With Borax Paste

In the case of a very resistant stain, a homemade Borax paste may be effective. Applying the paste directly onto the stain, rather than filling the toilet bowl with a liquid mixture, is a more concentrated option for removing hard water stains.

  1. Shut Off and Flush

    Begin by shutting off the toilet's water valve, and then flush the toilet to drain the bowl. To apply the borax paste correctly, the toilet must be void of water.

    person shutting off the toilet valve
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 
  2. Make the Paste

    Once your toilet is empty, make the paste by mixing 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/4 cup vinegar until thick.

    person making a paste with borax and vinegar
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 
  3. Spread the Paste

    Once you've made the paste, spread it directly onto the hard water stains in the toilet until they are covered completely.

    closeup showing borax paste
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 
  4. Let It Sit

    Allow the paste to sit on the stains for 15 to 20 minutes.

    toilet flushing

    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 

  5. Remove the Paste

    After 15-20 minutes, remove the paste (and the stains underneath) by scrubbing with a stiff-bristled nylon brush or scrubbing sponge. Flush the toilet to rinse.

    Spreading the borax paste on the toilet bowl

    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 

Tips for Preventing and Removing Hard Water Stains in a Toilet

person wiping down a toilet seat
The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 
  • Regular maintenance will prevent extra stubborn stains. Consider deep cleaning your toilet with baking soda, vinegar, and/or Bon Ami biweekly while stains are still relatively new.
  • While it's unusual to need them, stronger chemical cleaners are available to remove hard water stains. Remember that these products are often harmful to the environment and your health, so consider all other options before rushing to buy them.
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Environmental Alternatives for the Kitchen. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

  2. Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals. American Lung Association.