Limescale is calcium carbonate that leaves a white film over surfaces or settles inside appliances such as tea kettles and coffee pots. It’s commonly found in homes with hard water and can be stubborn to remove with regular household cleaners…but the good news is that there are items commonly found in your kitchen pantry that will take care of this nuisance lickety-split (Bonus: They’re all-natural too!). Here’s how you do it:
For taps and bathroom fixtures: Saturate paper towels or a cotton cloth with vinegar then wrap tightly around the problem area. Leave for several hours or overnight, drizzling more vinegar over the cloth if it gets too dry. After soaking, lift the cloth and scrub away the built-up crud using a toothbrush or scrubber. You’ll find more detailed info below.
For tap openings: If the opening has a buildup that is affecting water flow, fill a plastic bag with vinegar then fit over spout so the end is submerged in vinegar. Wrap the bag around the tap then secure in place by wrapping with masking tape. Allow to soak for several hours (or overnight), take off the bag then take a toothbrush and scrub up into the spout, removing the buildup.
For small appliances: Coffee pots and kettles will naturally build up limescale over time, vinegar will do the trick here too. Follow the directions on this page  (will work for both coffee pots and kettles).
For large appliances: Dishwashers and laundry washing machines can benefit from a treatment of vinegar and water, simply dump a cup or two of household vinegar into the appliance and run an empty load with hot water.
Toilet rings & stains: Lower the water inside the toilet bowl so you can lay vinegar-soaked paper towels on top of the stains, or you can use a wet pumice stone to scrub them off. You’ll find the step-by-step directions on this page .
What else works: A lemon cut in half or lemon juice (both freshly squeezed and bottled will work). Use the juice just as you would with the vinegar directions above. To use a fresh lemon, cut it in half then use the cut side to scrub surfaces such as shower doors and walls. A lemon cut in wedges can also be handy when trying to get at the crevices of shower tracks, just squeeze a bit of juice into the tracks and use the edge of the lemon wedge to get into the crevices.
Why Does This Work: The acid from the vinegar and lemon works to dissolve the calcium carbonate, doing all the heavy lifting for you while it soaks. After a few hours (or several depending on how bad the buildup is), all it takes is a light scrubbing on your part to get rid of the cruddy bits.
Tip: You may also find it helpful to sprinkle a bit of baking soda over the problem area (or over the cut lemon or damp cleaning sponge) so you have a mild abrasive to help with the scrubbing job. To use it, wait until after the vinegar or lemon juice soaking period before applying it (so the acid in the ingredients has the opportunity to work its magic).
Notes: If the first treatment brings results but doesn’t get rid of all the crud easily, repeat the process again. If you’re unsure how a surface will react to a vinegar soak, test a hidden area first.
Crusty Tap Fixtures & Shower Heads
*First published January 11, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization
Taps can accumulate hard water stains around the base and limescale crud along the back if they’re not thoroughly washed regularly. If yours have a bad buildup, here’s what you can do…
White household vinegar
- Soak paper towels thoroughly with vinegar, then pack firmly around the base of the tap fixture. If you have hard water deposits between the faucets and the base as well–pack soaked towels in there too.
- Every couple hours recheck the paper towels and if they’re dry, pour more vinegar on them. Depending on how bad the deposits are, you may have to leave them wrapped overnight to soak.
- Once the crud wipes away easily, lift off the paper towels, get out an old toothbrush and scrub away. They should clean up easily with the crud just falling away.
Give it a shot–you’ll be amazed how shiny new your taps will look!
If your shower head has a few holes clogged from hard water deposits and limescale, all you need to do is give it a good soak in a vinegar & water solution.
- Soak the show head in a pail of 50/50 vinegar and hot water for several hours. The vinegar will eat through the hard gunk and you’ll be back in business with a fully functioning, shiny shower head!
If it’s especially bad, just increase the amount of vinegar and let it soak overnight.