Informational Guide

How To Remove Hard Water Buildup From Faucets

Many of us struggle with hard water, so what is the best method for removing buildup from a faucet?

by Holly Curell

Hard water can cause many problems in our daily lives. Mineral buildup can slow water flow and damage fixtures like faucets and showerheads and impact daily life activities such as cleaning, bathing, and laundry.

Fortunately, mineral buildup caused by hard water isn't too tricky to remove, and this guide offers easy steps to counteract hard water effects and prevent them from happening in the future.

Water is a solvent, which means it's very easy for it to pick up other elements and impurities on its journey to your tap. One type of impurity that is common in water is mineral deposits.

These are found in the soil and are collected as the water passes by. Water high in mineral deposits such as calcium and magnesium is known as hard water. Different places will experience different levels of hard or soft water, as the mineral content in the soil varies from place to place.

Drinking hard water isn't harmful to your health - we need magnesium and calcium as part of a healthy diet, so small traces in our water could actually help. Unfortunately, it's not as healthy for our pipes, faucets, washing machines, and other appliances. Mineral deposits can build up inside pipes and on taps, slowing water flow and damaging our water system.

How To Remove Calcium From Faucet

Common Signs that You Have Hard Water

  1. 1
    Faucets and shower heads clogged with hard white calcium and limescale
  2. 2
    Slow water flow
  3. 3
    Appliances like washing machines and dishwashers becoming less efficient and worn out faster
  4. 4
    Water has a strange odor or taste
  5. 5
    Irritations such as dry or itchy skin
  6. 6
    Hair feels dull and looks less shiny after being washed
  7. 7
    Brown water stains on the side of your toilets
  8. 8
    Presence of rust around faucets, showers, and other water fixtures
  9. 9
    Regular soap scum in sinks and showers
  10. 10
    Clothes become more easily worn and do not feel as clean as they should be
  11. 11
    Clothes may also look dull and feel rough and scratchy
  12. 12
    Water spots on glassware and crockery
  13. 13
    Water spots or films left on bathroom surfaces such as shower doors

How to Remove Hard Water Buildup (Calcium) from Faucets

Some items you may need include:

  • An acidic cleaner such as white vinegar, citric acid, or CLR cleaner
  • Strong acids such as phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, or muriatic acid (for especially tough calcium deposit buildup)
  • A non-abrasive sponge or an old toothbrush
  • Protective eyewear and gloves (PVC or neoprene)
  • Pliers
  • Old towel or rags
  • Plastic bag and rubber band

Removing hard water from the faucet exterior

Calcium buildup on faucets and other water fixtures can look very unattractive. While it may be possible to remove some of the cloudy hard water stains and light mineral buildup with a standard cleaner, older stains and stubborn areas will require something stronger.

Acidic liquids are excellent weapons when removing calcium deposits from faucets, as they eat through calcium and other minerals. Common household items such as white vinegar and lemon or lime juice (which contains citric acid) may be a handy and inexpensive starting place.

To clean the exterior of your faucet, soak an old towel in vinegar or citric acid and place it over the tap. Leave this to soak for a few hours before removing and wiping down the faucet surface. If your faucet is chrome, it’s best not to leave it soaking for longer than 30 minutes, as it may damage the finish.

Alternatively, attach a plastic bag filled with equal parts vinegar and water to the tap. When cleaning the faucet and scrubbing stubborn areas to remove corrosion, do not use an abrasive brush or scourer as this may scuff or scratch the exterior of the faucet.

Should this prove ineffective against your calcium buildup, you may require a stronger cleaner, such as CLR cleaner, which is made to tackle calcium, limescale and rust, phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, or muriatic acid. Muriatic acid is particularly strong and should be used with care.

If you require this kind of cleaners, take care to read all instructions, use in a well-ventilated area, and wear protective eyewear and gloves. Some cleaners may be unsuitable for certain surfaces and require specific dilutions when used.

Removing and thoroughly cleaning the faucet aerator

While fixing the external appearance of calcium buildup on faucets is useful, cleaning the damage done by hard water on the inside is also essential. By removing and cleaning the faucet aerator, you can improve your water flow and prevent future buildup.

To remove the aerator from the head of the tap, turn in an anti-clockwise direction. You may need pliers to help you remove it easily. Keep track of all parts when you have removed it so you’ll be able to easily reattach after removing the hard water buildup.

The same cleaners can be used on the aerator as were suggested for the outside of the faucet. Mix the correct dilution of your acidic cleaner in a bowl, then place the aerator inside. Soak for as long as the cleaner directs, before thoroughly scrubbing and rinsing in running water.

You can now reattach your squeaky clean faucet aerator!

hands

Permanent Hard Water Treatment Solutions

While dealing with mineral deposits on your faucets may be a straight-forward process, a more effective solution to tackling the effects of hard water on your plumbing is a water softener or filter.

Whole House Water Filters

If hard water is a persistent problem in your area, a whole house water filter could be your best option. These are an improvement on point-of-use filters, which are attached to your faucets and only really counteract external calcium buildup.

Whole house filters are attached right at your house’s water source, protecting the internal plumbing and filtering contaminants. Several models offer multiple levels of filtering, counteracting iron, calcium, and other traces of minerals, along with bacteria, viruses, and man-made chemicals.

These kind of filters may require occasional maintenance and can be expensive to install, but they can also save a great deal of cleaning and repair work.

Under Sink Water Filters

If a whole house filter is too expensive, a more accessible type could be an under sink water filter. This can protect your main faucets but may not offer as much protection for your plumbing and appliances as a whole house filter.

Some models are also tricky to install and could result in a high level of waste to water ratio.

You could also consider a dedicated faucet water filter, which is ideal for less used areas.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Does WD 40 remove calcium deposits?

Yes. WD 40 can be effective in removing calcium deposits, limescale, and hard water stains.

Does Coke remove limescale?

Yes - Coke contains phosphoric acid, which is great at eating limescale and calcium buildup. We wouldn’t recommend this as your first go-to, though.

How do I get rid of hard water stains on glass?

You can use a solution of equal parts of vinegar and water to tackle hard water stains on glass. Scrub stubborn areas with a toothbrush.

Does boiling water remove calcium?

Boiling water will remove any harmful bacteria but will not remove the minerals like calcium that affect its hardness. More permanent water treatment solutions are needed, such as whole house water filters.


Conclusion

Removing hard water deposits from a faucet isn’t impossible, but it may prove a frustrating chore, as without a permanent solution, they will continue to appear. Water is crucial to our well-being, health, and hygiene, so it only makes sense to ensure we use the cleanest water possible.

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.

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