How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Toilets

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

Hard water has an 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.

Over time, these stains can become unsightly and increasingly difficult to remove. While commercial cleaning products are available to remove hard water stains, a simple combination of a few everyday household products, like vinegar, baking soda, and borax is just as effective.

Learn how to rid your toilet bowl of stains without harsh chemicals in store-bought solutions. 

1:11

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

  • Measuring cup
  • Toilet brush

Materials

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Borax
  • Steel wool
  • Rubber gloves

Instructions

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 countless surfaces, including hard water stains in toilets.

  1. Pour the Vinegar

    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.

    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. This will create a fizzing action. Let the solution sit for about 10 minutes.

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

    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.

    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, 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.

    toilet flushing
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 

Tip

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 Borax and Vinegar

Borax is another versatile household-staple you can use to eliminate hard water stains. If you don't have baking soda to combine with vinegar, you can substitute it with borax.

  1. Pour the Borax

    Pour 1/4 cup of Borax 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 borax paste by mixing 1/2 cup of borax and 1/4 cup vinegar until thick. The borax solution will quickly harden, so don’t add the vinegar until you are ready to apply the paste.

    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.

  5. Remove the Paste

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

    person flushing the toilet to rinse
    The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 

How to Remove Hard Water Stains With Steel Wool

You may also use 0000-grade steel wool to remove hard water stains. Steel wool can be used in conjunction with plain water as well as household cleaners and homemade mixtures. Be sure to use 0000-grade steel wool (the finest available version) to prevent scratches to the toilet's porcelain. 

person scrubbing a toilet with steel wool
The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija  

Additional Tips for Handling Hard Water Stains

person wiping down a toilet seat
The Spruce /Taylor Nebrija 

Using harsh and costly chemicals to clean hard water stains in your toilet isn't necessary. Borax, vinegar, and baking soda effectively and safely remove mineral buildup in your toilet bowl and other affected surfaces. When used regularly, the homemade solution will prevent hard water stains from building up. Preventive cleaning is the best way to avoid hard water stains in your toilet. Practice regular cleanings with borax, baking soda, and vinegar to keep your toilet clean and free of mineral buildup. 

If the hard water stain persists, repeat the removal process several times. If it still won't go away, while typically unnecessary, consider contacting a professional cleaner.