Cleaning & Maintenance

Learn How to Remove Hard Water Stains from your Bathroom Tiles

Learn How to Remove Hard Water Stains from your Bathroom Tiles

Bathrooms are small but intricate parts of a home. Surprising!! According to a research article by The Scotsman, we spend one year seven months in the bathroom.

For some of us, its the only place to escape the world: to catch some gossip or trendy fashion from one of the magazines in the stacks.

Tiles are part of a bathroom's interior that brings this mojo. Especially the popular porcelain or ceramic tiles that have a fairly low absorption rating.

They create a stunning-spacious feel that's bright and comfortable. But just how do we remove hard water stains from bathroom tiles, and keep them ever so appealing.

Acidic, alkaline/basic and neutral cleaning agents suffice depending on the type of tile and extent and depth of water scale.

Hard water has high mineral concentration. Water in contact with limestone or chalk get traces of calcium and magnesium, biggest culprits in hard water staining, although iron residue from rusting pipes is not entirely impossible.

Water scale deposits are indicators of hard water with slightly hard water having at 1.0 - 3.5 grains/gallon and very hard water more than 10.5 grains/gallon.

Let's view a step by step guide to removing that filthy stubborn white patch on your shower tiling.

Removing Hard Water Stains Explained

Before you start the cleaning process its advisable to be sure the ideal pH of the cleaning agent to use. Some agents can be overly harsh to the tiling especially on unglazed or decorated tiles.

They will easily fade the tile: leave it with unevenly colored patches.

Bleach and other strong acid based cleaner are not highly recommended especially if you are dealing with a few mild stains.

Use natural oxidants cleaning agents like white vinegar perfect for few and recent stains. For larger and older stains you may require to use strong cleaners like bleach and muric acid or alkaline cleaners with a pH higher than 7.

The Process

  1. Remove loose debris e.g dust, preferably by sweeping or vacuuming. Ensure the floor is completely dry, this will safeguard the cleaning concentrate getting to the tile from excessive dilution for maximum efficiency.
  2. Spread the cleaning agent (white vinegar) across the tile surface. You can opt to use a spray bottle, rug or sponge. If you choose to use a spray bottle to ensure even and wholesome distribution. A spray bottle can be used together with abrasive cleaning pads for an even spread. When you opt for a wet rug, be sure to use one with low liquid retention. The maximum amount of cleaner should sip through to the tile from the fabric.
  3. Wait for up to eight hours to ensure an even spread. Clean the residue with cotton wool, ensuring you get every part of the bathroom tiling. If you are time constrained opt to wipe the floor after 15-30 minutes and later scrub with baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate). While scrubbing with baking soda use a plastic bristle brush, remember!! the bristles should not be tough, this reduces the risk of scratching the tile however unlikely.
  4. Rinse off the residue with clean water. "Ironic??, especially if all the water in your home is from the same hard water source"."But you can never keep water out of the bathroom right??" Use distilled water if possible. Rinse completely: when the result is not appealing enough you can repeat the whole process for a better outcome. For old hard water stains, you might have to scrub (repeat the process three to four times).
  5. Allow the tiling to dry while maintaining the clean. Activity on the tiles while we will obviously get it back to the former dirty state. The clean dry floor is now ready for a fresh seal coat.
  6. Use sealer on your tiles. Before buying the sealer be sure what type is best for particular tiles. Although sealing is not compulsory, its highly recommended for unglazed, porous tiles.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles. perform well with no sealer, but it good for a nice extra shine. Tiles should be unsealed and resealed at least once every few years.

However, this process is not clear-cut for all kind of tiles. Different tiles have unique cleaning agents and cleaning methods. See how to clean specific tiles and what cleaners are appropriate.

Recommended Cleaners & Cleaning Process for Your Type of Tiles

Ceramic Tiles

To remove hard water stains from a ceramic tile depends on the extent.

Most glazed tiles including ceramics ones are fairly stain resistant. Sealed ceramic tiles with minimal staining can easily be cleaned using clean water and mild detergent. Mops and rugs are common but sponge cleaners are not recommended.

For unsealed bathroom tiles scrub with a plastic bristle brush. If hard water stains are deep use vinegar and baking soda solution to clean the tiles. Mix the ingredients in the following proportions

  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup liquid soap
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Add liquid soap to baking soda, stir up the solution and dilute with water and vinegar.

Wipe the area with the solution and let it soak for a few minutes. Wipe the tile with warm water, scrub gently and rinse. Wipe with a clean rug.

As a last resort, especially with rust, bleach, comes in handy.

Take the necessary precaution when using strong acid based cleaning agents. At times bleach may not completely clean deep hard water stains.

Hydrogen peroxide is frequently mentioned as a lasting solution for hard water stains, Its worth trying if every alternative fails or is unavailable.

Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain tiles are fairly similar to ceramic tiles. They are both glazed with a fairly low absorption rate of 5% or less. Cleaning porcelain tiles with water and detergent will suffice.

While trying to remove hard water stains use vinegar, lemon solutions or other mild acid cleaners. Strong acids are not recommended. Same with ceramic tiles they are not initial options.

Some pundits completely don't recommend using acid-based detergents for porcelain tiles. To determine what cleaner to use depends on whether the tiles are polished, textured or bare.

For polished tiles warm water and liquid soap solutions works. While cleaning any kind of porcelain tile use a soft nylon brush. You can also use a toothbrush especially to reach the corner area.

Interestingly the cleaning process of ceramic and porcelain bathroom tiles is the same.

They are the same, both made from clay and naturally occurring material. The only difference is porcelain is tougher and more refined.

Vinyl floor tiles

Being able to remove water stains from vinyl floor tiles is essential. Vinyl flooring is common in bathrooms because it is warm and less slippery compared to ceramic and porcelain tiles.

To remove water stains from vinyl bathroom tiles use bleach and warm- water solutions. Scrub with an abrasive sponge for a while, if done correctly this should remove about 70%-100% of the stain.

If the water stain is recent, warm water and a little scrubbing should do the trick.

For deep stains, mix

  1. One-part bleach
  2. part warm water (never hot water)

Wet a clean white rug with the solution and make a seal with a plastic wrap on the tile.

Let it sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours remove the seal and the rug and rinse the floor with mineral spirit.

Consider using scouring powder on the water stains which is fairly appropriate.

Marble Tiles

Cleaning marble tiles can be a little daunting. Marble tiles are softer than granite and porcelain. Even cleaning agents with mild acidity risk damaging the tiling.

Acid cleaners eat away the polish. Marble is a calcite and any chemical reaction from contact acidic cleaners will definitely lead to etching.

With nearly all cleaners being too harsh for marble cleaning, the closest you get to a neutral cleaner the better.

Cleaning marble should be at best a soft and smooth affair. To remove hard water stained bathroom tiling use soap and water solution.

Using a white rag; wet with soap and baking flour solution, seal the hard water stain on the marble tiles and let it sit for 24 hours.

Once you remove the rug, rinse the floor with dish- soap and water solution.

Always use a soft clean white rug for marble floors. Don't scrub marble tiles: especially not with bristle brushes.

Lastly be sure not to wet marble floors too much (Marble tiles are fairly porous). Too much water will sip into the tile and cause dampness under the tile which exposes it to deep and stubborn hard water stains or efflorescence.

Granite Tiles

If you have granite bathroom tiles it's fairly easy to remove hard water stains. One advantage with granite tiling is the toughness. You, therefore, should not shy away from using a razor to gently remove any hard water stains from the tiling.

Granite will withstand gentle razor scrabs with little to no damage.

After cleaning the stain use steel wool to remove the residue before rinsing.

If not content with scrubbing the stain with a razor and steel wool, you can sparingly use vinegar. Be sure to use very little amounts because granite is fairly porous.

Spray vinegar on a piece of cotton wool and gently remove any stain on the granite tile. Specialists discourage use of bleach, acid & strong base cleaners on granite tiles.


Spilled liquids and dried debris are very easy to clean from a quartz countertop. Simply wipe the countertop down with a household vinegar and water solution to clean it.

Alternatively, use a non-abrasive cleaning pad and a non-abrasive household cleaner, followed by a rinse with water, this is a perfect way to scrub food and hard water stains from quartz countertops.

Any tough dried-on food can be gently scraped away with a putty knife and steel wool.

After cleaning, dry the countertops with a paper towel or a soft cloth.


Limestone is inherently porous. It’s like a sponge with liquids and will require sealing to minimize staining.

Limestone is a calcium based rock. By nature, it will react with most acids.

Wine, fruit juice, lemons, and vinegar will all react with limestone tiling and can etch the surface.

Like marble, cleaning limestone tiles requires non-acidic cleaners. Most times water and soap is the only sure way to clean. You can alternatively use natural stone neutral cleaners but water scale and rust can easily cause permanent stains on limestone.

Restricting cleaning to neutral cleaners could be the closest you'll ever get.

With this basic hacks, you are on the way to a stun & glam bathroom tiles finish.

Given the statistics, do not be surprised if millennials turn your little fancy room into a makeshift "photobooth".

Weird, right?


See, bathroom mirror selfie are a huge thing right now. In fact, Cyberlink revealed in a research that more than half (51%) of Americans have taken a bathroom selfie.

I just thought you should know!!!!

Learn more on How to Clean and Maintain Your Limestone Floor, Countertops