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How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Stainless Steel

by Jennifer Bellini

Marketing expert, Business guru

> 2 min read

close up of a tap set set in a stainless steel sink or trough. Colourfully grungy and disgusting.

If your household has a hard water supply, this means your drinking, washing, and cleaning water contains a disproportionate amount of positively charged minerals and compounds like calcium, magnesium, sulfates, and bicarbonates. 

When this hard water flows through your appliances and out of your faucets and showerheads, it deposits some of these carbonates and sulfates in your pipes and on your stainless steel surfaces, leading to a build-up of limescale. 

Fortunately, you can use several simple yet effective hacks for removing these hard water stains from your stainless steel surfaces.


Dirty faucet with stain and limescale in bathroom

How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Stainless Steel: 4 Effective Methods

Here are four of the best methods if you want to know how to remove hard water stains from stainless steel.

Use a mixture of vinegar, baking soda, and water 

Generally speaking, you’ll find that distilled white vinegar is the best substance around when it comes to removing hard water stains from your appliances and faucets. That’s because this liquid contains acetic acid, which breaks down the minerals in the calcium and magnesium deposits that leave a nasty mark in your sinks and on your showerhead. 

There are several simple ways you can use white vinegar to clean your stainless steel. The easiest method is to mix equal parts water and vinegar in a bowl or spray bottle, letting it rest for around 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure your stainless steel appliance or faucet is completely dry, then apply some of the solution to the fixture and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the surface. 

Another simple method is to spray a slightly distilled white vinegar solution onto the surface, letting the liquid rest on the stainless steel for a few minutes before applying some baking soda to the fixture. 

You can then use a cloth to wipe the appliance using small circular movements. Make sure you’re wiping with the grain of the metal. If you clean against the grain, you can create new streaks on the steel. 

If you don’t have any white vinegar on hand, try using lemon juice instead. This liquid contains citric acids, which break down sediment deposits on your faucets or appliances. 

When you clean your stainless steel surfaces with this solution, you’ll have appliances that smell fresh and look brand new. 

Use a microfiber cloth and olive oil

Another easy way to clean the marks and grimy stains from your stainless steel appliances and fixtures is to pour a couple of drops of olive oil onto a microfiber cloth. You can then use this cloth to wipe down your faucets or showerhead.

The synthetic microfiber material contains both positively and negatively charged polyester and nylon fibers that react with positively charged magnesium and calcium ions. These ions make up the hard water stains. For that reason, the microfiber cloth is the ideal material for removing marks from stainless steel surfaces. 

Once you’ve cleaned your appliances, you should use a buffing cloth to wipe down the stainless steel and give it a shiny, polished finish. If you have any rubbing alcohol handy, pour a couple of drops of this liquid onto your microfiber cloth and use that as an antiseptic polishing agent. 

Use white vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, and lemon juice to create a paste 

If you have the ingredients readily available to you, it’s worth making an acidic paste that you can use for wiping down all of your stainless steel surfaces. Take ¼ cup of white vinegar, then add this solution to ½ cup of baking soda. You can combine this mixture with a tablespoon of olive oil and the fresh juice of ½ a lemon. Use a teaspoon or small whisk to mix these ingredients until the solution turns into a sticky, gummy-type paste. 

Put some of this paste onto your microfiber cloth, and wipe down the surface in question, taking care to scrub with the metal’s grain rather than against it. Remember that your homemade solution contains ½ a cup of baking soda, a mildly abrasive cleaning agent. Refrain from applying too much pressure to the scrubbing motion, so you don’t create any new scratches while you’re trying to get rid of residue. 

Invest in a water softener 

The most effective way to resolve the issue of hard water stains appearing on your stainless steel appliances is to address the problem of hard water in your main household supply. 

The best method for removing hard water-causing minerals in your supply is to invest in a high-quality water softener. These units have built-in resin beads that remove positively charged magnesium and calcium ions from your supply, replacing these charged particles with harmless sodium ions and softening all your household water.

Purchasing a premium-grade water softener helps prevent a build-up of limescale, scum, and mineral residue in and around your household fixtures and appliances. These models also soften your tap water supply, so you’ll be able to wash your dishes, glasses, and cast iron pots without having to worry about hard water mineral residue.  

Mistakes to Avoid 

After learning how to remove hard water stains from stainless steel, it’s useful to be aware of how not to deal with these stains. Here are a couple of things that you should never do when it comes to cleaning and preserving stainless steel surfaces.

Avoid using scouring pads 

Try to avoid using a steel wool pad or scouring implement to scrub a stainless steel surface, as this particularly abrasive material can scratch the shiny metal and ruin your appliance’s appearance.  

Don’t leave cast iron dishes to soak or drain on a stainless steel surface

You should also make sure you’re not leaving dishes to soak in your stainless steel sink or on a stainless steel surface, especially if these dishes are made from iron. If you do, the water can mix with the iron and the surrounding oxygenated air to create a rusting reaction that leaves stains on your stainless steel surfaces. If you have to wash your cast iron dishes in your stainless steel sink, clean them quickly before rinsing and drying them as soon as you’re finished.

Dirty calcified shower mixer tap, faucet with limescale on it, close up.

Maintain Your Stainless Steel Surfaces With These Methods 

Hard water can take a severe toll on the stainless steel surfaces in your home. To prevent permanent damage and discoloration, it’s critical that you perform regular maintenance to remove hard water stains from your sinks, taps, and other stainless steel fixtures. 

Whether you prefer to use natural household products to create cleaning solutions or eliminate the problem at the source with a water softener, you’ll notice the positive changes to your stainless steel surfaces, making them look new again.

Jennifer Bellini

About the Author

Jennifer Bellini is a business guru who’s spent most of her life working in her home state of Wisconsin where she still lives with her family. Her experience lends itself best to sussing out the unique problems a business may face with their water quality. She is also our lead market analyst and is the driving force behind site growth.

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