Hard water contains high concentrations of calcium and magnesium that deposit on bathtubs, shower doors, sinks and dishes to form lime scale. Faucets and showerheads clog with lime scale, which can slow or even stop the flow of water. Lime scale will make your tub feel gritty and your coffee taste bitter.
Don't spend money on expensive lime scale removers. The white vinegar you keep under your kitchen sink and the baking soda you keep in your cupboard act to dissolve and scrub away lime scale without introducing dangerous chemicals into your home. Just don't combine them.
Clogged Faucets and Showerheads
You need an acidic cleaner to remove mineral deposits. Vinegar is only one such cleaner, and because it's common in household kitchen cabinets, it's the one most people reach for. However, Filter Water Direct mentions several alternatives, including lemon juice and commercial cleaners containing tartaric acid or phosphoric acid.
When using vinegar, a common misconception is that combining it with baking soda makes it more effective, but as a cleaner for mineral deposits, the opposite is true, says Good Housekeeping. The two chemicals neutralize each other and produce sodium acetate and carbon dioxide, which have no cleaning power.
Step 1: Soak in Vinegar
Fill a small plastic bag with white vinegar. Tie the bag to the showerhead so it's completely immersed and wait for the deposits to dissolve. As a much easier alternative, unscrew the showerhead and immerse it in a bowl filled with vinegar.
If you have a clogged faucet, it's usually just the aerator that needs cleaning. Unscrew it and soak it in vinegar. If that doesn't help, turn off the water, disassemble the faucet, remove the valve and soak it in vinegar. Soak the faucet aerator or valve, or the showerhead, for two to five hours.
Step 2: Scrub With Abrasive Cleaning Powder
Dip a toothbrush in the vinegar and then into some chlorine-free scouring powder. Scrub the faucet or showerhead to remove any lime buildup. Reapply baking soda and vinegar to the toothbrush as needed.
Step 3: Rinse Faucet Parts Well
Rinse the faucet parts or the showerhead in clean water when you're done soaking and cleaning it.
Bathtub and Shower Door
Step 1: Wet Surface With Vinegar
Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and thoroughly wet the surface. Allow the vinegar to soak in for five minutes.
Step 2: Scrub With Scouring Powder
Dip a scouring pad or brush into vinegar and then baking soda. Scrub the surface to remove any lime buildup. Reapply the baking soda and vinegar to the scouring pad as necessary.
Step 3: Rinse With Clean Water
Rinse with running water, when possible, or with a clean washcloth soaked in water.
Dishes and Difficult Areas
Step 1: Make a Paste
Mix a paste of a neutral cleaning powder, such as borax or scouring powder, and white vinegar in a bowl.
Step 2: Rub It On
Dip a washcloth into the paste and rub it on the metallic surfaces. Coat the surfaces thickly. This method will allow you to get into tight spaces around faucets and inside coffee pots.
Step 3: Let Dry and Scrub Away
Allow the paste to dry, then scrub it away the paste with another washcloth soaked in white vinegar.
Step 4: Wash Off With Running Water
Rinse with running water, when possible, or with a clean cloth soaked in water.
Transplanted Yankee Erin Watson-Price lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has been writing freelance articles since 1997. She worked as writer/co-editor for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue's newsletter, "The Long and the Short of It." In 2007 she obtained a certification as a copy editor. Watson-Price holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.