Easy Ways To Attack Limescale Buildup With Pantry Items

Limescale is calcium carbonate that leaves a white film on 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 solvents…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 To Get Rid Of It

For faucets 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 over the cloth if it gets too dry. After soaking, lift the cloth and scrub away the crud with a toothbrush. You’ll find more detailed info below.

For tap openings: If the opening has a buildup that is affecting flow, fill a plastic bag with vinegar then fit over spout so the end is fully submerged. Wrap the bag around the faucet then secure in place by wrapping with masking tape. Leave 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 develop limescale over time. Follow the directions on this page (for both coffee pots and kettles).

For large appliances: Dishwashers and laundry washing machines can benefit from a treatment, simply dump a cup or two of household vinegar into the appliance and run an empty load.

Toilet rings & stains: Lower the water inside the toilet bowl so you can lay vinegar-saturated paper towels on top of the stains, or you can use a wet pumice stone to scour them off. You’ll find the step-by-step directions on this page.

What else does the trick: A lemon cut in half or its juice (both freshly squeezed and bottled will work). Use the juice just as you would with the directions above. For 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 tracks, just squeeze a bit of juice into the tracks and use the edge of the wedge to get into the crevices.

Why This Works

The acid from the vinegar and lemon provides the muscle that dissolves 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 on the cut lemon or damp cleaning sponge) so you have a mild abrasive to help with the scouring job. To use it, wait until after the 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, 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…


  • Saturate paper towels thoroughly with vinegar, then pack firmly around the base of the tap fixture. If you have deposits between the faucets and the base as well–pack soaked towels in there too.
  • Every couple hours recheck the 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, take out an old toothbrush and work at it. They should clean up easily with the crud just falling away.

Give it a shot–you’ll be amazed how shiny new your faucets will look!

Shower Heads

If yours has a few holes clogged from hard deposits and limescale, all you need to do is give it a good dip in this solution.


  • Submerge the head in a pail of 50/50 vinegar and hot water for several hours. The acid 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 reduce the amount of water and leave overnight.

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    • Lynne Trammel

    I’ve lived in the country for the past 12 yrs & never really had much dealings with “that grungy crud”. I will surely try the vinegar treatment ASAP. I’ve got 2 cats in the house, so hope the curious little devils on investigate.

    I love this newsletter & site that really helps my day go better.

    Thanks for all the time & effort you put into the site & into each issue.

    • IdahoCrystal

    Nail Polish Remover will also work wonders on chrome fixtures and clogged shower heads (those without rubber or soft plastic parts) – For shower heads, fill a bowl with just enough to cover holes then pour a bit more inside, rince after 30 minutes and it should flow freely.
    = >

    • JAnet

    A slow running sink drain? 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar. Pour down drain and let sit for about 20 minutes. Then run water. Cleans all the slime and soap scum right out!

    • JAnet

    Follow the baking soda and vinegar with a little water. Whoops!

    • Nuria

    How can I used any on these methods on the shower glass door?

      • Alice

      I keep a spray bottle filled with vinegar in my bathroom. About 10 minutes before I hop into the shower, I spray the inside of my shower curtain and the fixtures. The hot water from the shower does the rest of the work. Too bad I don’t remember to do it every day, but even just a once-a-week squirt helps manage the build-up. I imagine it would work well on your shower door, too.

    • Linda

    How do you get rid of hard water marks on toilet? I have tried every over the counter product known to man. HELP!!!!!

      • Melissa

      A pumice stone, just scrub the stone over the hard water build-up. It requires a little bit of pressure but trust me those stones are the best & they last for a very long time. The pumice stones are sold at Walmart in the cleaning isle.

      • Rose

      Buy a chunk of pumice and use it on the ring. No chemicals, and it works! Hardware store should sell a pumice stone.

    • Shelley

    Hi Linda,

    I have the same problem because of the hard water where we live. I lower the amout of water on the toilet and I pour in anough Coke (yeah the drinking kind) until it covers your stains. Leave over night and in the morning flush and give it a regular clean. If you have some stains that just won’t budge I wet a pumice stone and just sand those areas a bit.

    Works great everytime!

      • Sheila Bird

      The best thing to use for toilet rims is spirit of salts the best stuff ever you won’t find anything else as good. But be careful it steams. Shut the toilet lid leave for a couple of hours or overnight fab.i have been using it for years it’s an old fashioned remedy my mum used to use it. Good luck

    • Linda

    Apply “Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner With Bleach”(I tried the dollar store brand – but it was too thin) and let sit overnight.
    Then brush; and scrub with a “Pumice Stone” (fine grit sand paper can be used – but carefully ( more lightly) so as not to damage the porcelain finish).
    I used a pumice stone and scrubbed it until the stone had almost disappeared.
    In one bathroom I had to repeat this process again.
    Needs some elbow grease – but it works.

    • Chris

    Fine sand paper will also work in toilet. My husband wont flush toilet after peeing. Says he’s saving water, well after awhile I get ring in toilet. Sand paper will take it off with no scratches. It also works on build up of hard water

    • Vivian

    i combined 1/2 c viniger with 2 lemons. Works faster. Mic lemons 30-60 sec. To squeeze more juice. Tear leftover lemons apart, lay flat in plastic container and let soak in vinegar app 1/2 hr while what you’ve already used is working. Use to rewet paper towels or store for later use. I used this on a 30 year old chrome & vinyl bathtub chair that was stored after rinsing off only. Used the paper towels to wipe down, (I hate scrubbing) now looks brand new. Going to try this solution on my porcelin tub, if works as good I’ll definitely post it.

    • Annie

    My electric kettle is still under guarantee but has stopped workng. I want to clean it of calcium deposits before taking it back to the shop. How can I do this if I can’t boil it ?

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