Limescale and mineral deposits are incredibly common household issues, and many people struggle with figuring out how to clean these deposits off of their plumbing fixtures. The deposits often build on tiles and glass shower doors, causing them to look dirty. Limescale can also build up on and inside your faucets and showerhead and can eventually cause them to become clogged or not allow for adequate water flow if left unchecked. With this in mind, here is a handy guide to help you understand what causes limescale, how to clean it, and what you can do to prevent it.
What Causes Limescale?
Limescale is the name given to the hard, chalky mineral deposits that can build up on plumbing fixtures. It also commonly occurs inside coffee pots and can interfere with the water flow or cause them not to work at all. Limescale is primarily made up of calcium carbonate along with some other minerals. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that occurs due to so-called “hard water,” which is water that has a higher-than-normal concentration of certain minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. As water flows through the faucet or any other plumbing fixture, some of these minerals are left behind where they will eventually harden into limescale.
Hard water is perfectly safe to drink, and, in fact, it is actually good for you due to the high concentration of important minerals your body needs. That being said, hard water usually has an unpleasant taste, and there are a number of other reasons why hard water isn’t necessarily a good thing to have in your home.
Not only does it leave mineral deposits on your plumbing fixtures, but it can also dry out your skin and leave you feeling itchy. Hard water also makes it more difficult for soap to lather and for you to rinse the soap off. Washing your clothes with hard water also means that many of those mineral deposits will remain in your clothes after they are clean, and this can leave them feeling stiff and scratchy on your skin. Hard water is also the reason that your dishes may come out covered in water spots.
Cleaning Limescale and Mineral Deposits With Vinegar
If you have lots of limescale built up on your plumbing fixtures, the first thing you should do is try to clean them with distilled white vinegar. Vinegar is extremely effective at dissolving calcium carbonate and other mineral deposits as it reacts with the minerals and can quickly loosen them.
When cleaning your showerhead or other removable plumbing fixtures, the easiest thing to do is remove the fixture and then soak it in vinegar for 30 minutes to an hour. This should loosen up most of the deposits so that you can easily wash most of them away. You should then be able to take a toothbrush and scrub away any deposits still stuck on the fixture.
For faucets and other non-removable fixtures, you may need to get a bit more creative. One option is to secure a plastic bag full of vinegar to the faucet to let it soak, after which you should be able to scrub everything off. If the limescale is built up on the exterior of the faucet or shower arm, it is usually best to either spray it with vinegar or wrap it with a vinegar-soaked rag. In this case, you may need to do this several times to finally remove all of the deposits.
For limescale inside your toilet, simply add some vinegar to the bowl and let it sit before scrubbing everything away with your toilet brush. To clean mineral deposits off of tiles, glass shower doors, or other surfaces, you can try to spray everything down with vinegar and then scrub it. If this doesn’t do the trick, you can also use some baking soda on a wrap when you are scrubbing. The baking soda will react with the vinegar to better dissolve the limescale, and it also acts as a mild abrasive to increase your scrubbing power.
Limescale can also build up inside your washing machine. When this happens, simply add some vinegar to the machine and then run it through a full wash cycle on the hot setting to eliminate the majority of the mineral deposits. This same method also works to clean limescale out of your coffee pot.
Using Calcium and Lime Cleaner
If the mineral deposits are extremely hard or thick, vinegar may not be strong enough to do the trick. In this case, you will likely need to use a cleaning agent specifically designed to remove calcium, lime, and rust. These chemical products are obviously much more powerful than vinegar and will usually allow you to clean even the most stubborn deposits. This type of product works especially well for cleaning mineral deposits and water spots off of shower doors. However, you should always be careful when using them and always wear gloves as they can also burn or irritate your skin.
How a Water Softener Can Help Prevent Mineral Deposits
If you frequently experience issues with limescale and mineral deposits, it is a good sign that your home has extremely hard water. In this situation, the only real solution is to install a water softener to help remove much of the minerals from the water before it enters your plumbing system. Water softeners are highly recommended for any building with hard water problems. Not only does limescale collect on plumbing fixtures, but it can also build up inside your pipes and greatly increase the chance of clogs and other plumbing issues. Hard water can also drastically shorten the lifespan of your dishwasher, washing machine, and water heater. By installing a water softener in your home, you can instantly eliminate any issues with hard water and thus eliminate most limescale issues.
A water softener is a special type of filtration system that uses an ion exchange process to trap and remove calcium and magnesium from the water. As water flows through the system, negatively charged sodium ions attract and bond with the positively charged calcium and magnesium particles. When hard water enters the softener tank, it passes through special resin beads that contain a negatively charged sodium ion. The calcium and magnesium bond with the resin bead and are thus removed before the water exits the tank.
If you suspect that your home has issues with hard water, the professional plumbers at Green Energy Mechanical Inc are ready to help. We can first test to see how hard your water is, and we also specialize in installing, maintaining, and repairing water softeners. We are a full-service plumbing and HVAC company in Canton, MA, and we have the knowledge and skills to handle all of your home’s most important systems. We work on both traditional and tankless water heaters, sump pumps, garbage disposals, and all other plumbing equipment and fixtures. Our HVAC technicians can also install, maintain and repair all types of heating and cooling equipment. No matter what type of plumbing or HVAC service you need, give us a call today to see how we can help.