How to remove limescale from a bathroom

Limescale is an unfortunate by-product in bathrooms that looks unsightly and unhygienic, so how do you clean it?

The main reason people choose to remove limescale is that it can look terrible, especially if left and neglected for a long time, resulting in heavily stained appliances.

We've made this guide to help you understand what limescale is, whether it’s dangerous, and how to remove it.

Read on to find out how to clean limescale from your bathroom and what you can do to prevent it from building up in future...

What is limescale?

The scientific answer is that limescale is a build-up of a hard deposit with a chalk-like appearance which mainly consists of calcium carbonate. It is usually left behind by hard water when it evaporates - water that has a high mineral count.

In most cases, you’ll find limescale inside kettles, hot water boilers, and pipes. Traditionally, it is found wherever there is warm water. When it comes to bathrooms, this will include taps, shower heads, and plugs.

The harder the water in your area, the more likely you are to find limescale.

You can also have a build-up of limescale from soap suds not being cleaned away. This means basins, mirrors, and tiles can be at risk, but also your toilet.

Is limescale dangerous?

Limescale can cause various amounts of damage to your home, from minor issues to major problems - such as pipe blockages or cracks.

On a smaller scale, limescale deposits can build-up on any surfaces that hard water is in contact with and can accumulate quickly. This includes your taps and shower heads. The limescale, if not cleaned away, restricts the flow of water from them and reduces their efficiency.

Restricted water flow could force you to use appliances for longer than necessary, increasing utility bills.

A restriction in water flow means that your appliances won’t function as normal, such as your toilet potentially not flushing properly. This could affect the hygiene of your home. In short, it’s not the limescale that is dangerous, it’s what it can lead to that’s dangerous.

How to clean limescale

There are various ways to remove limescale, these involve specially-made products or home-made solutions. So, if you don’t want to smell chemicals or want to be kinder to the environment, you can still remove limescale easily.

As you are often cleaning yourself in your bathroom, you may need to consider using natural products to remove limescale, such as vinegar or lemon.

What will I need to remove limescale?

As always when cleaning your bathroom, you’ll need gloves, but you may also need the following:

  • Lemon juice or full lemons
  • White vinegar
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Elastic bands
  • Cotton wool
  • Old and clean cloths
  • Cup
  • Baking soda
  • Spray bottle

When using lemon juice, always wear gloves as it is citric acid.

Wherever the limescale is located in your bathroom - in sight or not - it is easier to clean than you may think…

How to remove limescale from your pipes

Just because the limescale is not within sight, and you can’t reach it, doesn’t mean it can’t be cleaned.

Like you would with unclogging a drain, you will need to set aside time for this job - make the bathroom off-limits.

To get rid of limescale build-up in your pipes, you can use ready-made cleaning products available from most shops. An alternative, however, is to use a vinegar and baking soda solution. This is chemical-free, which is particularly useful if you have pets or children around, or even if you have certain allergies.

For this, you will need to mix eight litres of white vinegar with one cup of baking soda per drain - you can also use this on your basin and bath. Empty the pipes before using the solution, making sure they’re as clear as possible from the most recent use of the bathroom.

First, put the baking soda into each drain - if you can remove the plug from your basin, this will be much easier. Then, slowly pour in the vinegar and leave it for 3-4 hours. Just to be sure, and to remove any grease, soap or leftover calcium, pour boiling water quickly down the drain afterwards.

How to remove limescale from taps

When it comes to cleaning taps to remove limescale, vinegar or lemon work best outside of a chemical cleaner.

Removing limescale from taps comes in two parts - the levers and body as well as the water outlet. These are the areas most likely to see limescale form. For each one, they need to be in constant contact with a cleaner.

To remove limescale from the water outlet or spout, fill a cap with lemon juice or vinegar and position it over the spout. Ensure the outlet is submerged in it completely and fix the cap in place with either tape or an elastic band - then leave it overnight. 

Lemon juice is best for tackling thicker, more stubborn limescale. 

For the upper parts of your tap, soak cotton wool or a cloth in either white vinegar or lemon juice and wrap it around the taps. If you want to be sure, secure it in place with an elastic band. Leave it for a couple of hours or overnight, depending on the amount of limescale. 

You may need to lightly scrub the taps afterwards to remove all the residue.

When using vinegar or lemon juice, bear in mind the type of tap you have. For plated taps - such as chrome or gold - don’t use vinegar as it can damage the finish.

A handy trick is to cut a lemon in half and attach it to the tap spout - it could even stick in place on its own. Once you’re done with the cleaning, rub the taps down with a clean cloth for extra shine.

How to remove limescale from the toilet

There are mainstream methods for removing limescale from your toilet with chemical cleaners, however, vinegar works just as well.

If you use a commercial cleaner, remember that these are bleach-based, so you will need to have plenty of ventilation when using them. Also, avoid getting any on your skin. A commercial cleaner can be handy for cleaning under the rim, with many featuring shaped bottles to access this area. These cleaners will normally need 30 minutes to work.

To remove limescale stains from the toilet bowl with vinegar, you can do this in a number of ways - depending on the thickness or amount of limescale. For smaller areas of limescale, mix vinegar with water in a spray bottle, spraying the mixture onto the built-up stain and brushing it away.

For a more heavy-duty approach, you can pour an entire bottle of white vinegar over and around the bowl, remembering to cover all of it. Then, leave the vinegar to work for a few hours or overnight. Use your toilet brush to scrub any leftover limescale deposits away the next day. For the rim, spray the mixture onto it and rub with a brush.

If there are stubborn areas of limescale on the bowl, use sandpaper to remove or wear-down the stain. Don’t press too hard with the paper as you may damage the bowl. Flush any residue away and then clean it as you would above.

How to remove limescale from a shower head

You will know that your shower handset is clogged with limescale as the water squirts out in every direction but down. You can clean your shower with homemade solutions of vinegar or lemon juice.

Read more: The Best Ways to Clean Any Shower

To clean your shower with either vinegar or lemon juice, you will need to remove the shower head from the shower installation and place it in a bowl, bucket or pan. Then, fill it with warm water - enough to submerge the shower head.

Make a solution of water with vinegar or lemon juice in the container - preferably from freshly squeezed lemons rather than store-bought juice. Place the shower head in the container and leave it to soak for 20-30 minutes. Lemon will be stronger and require less time than vinegar. Vinegar may need multiple 30-minute stints of soaking.

Remove the shower head and rinse it in water, brushing off any leftover limescale. Your shower head should now be completely clean. As with taps, lemon juice will work best with a chrome shower handset.

When it comes to cleaning other bathroom surfaces, such as tiles, shower screens and bathtubs, pour vinegar or lemon juice into a bottle, mix it with warm water, and spray the affected area. A ratio of 1:3 of vinegar to water is best. 

Leave it for up to 30 minutes and scrub the residue off and wipe the surface with a soft cloth.

How to prevent limescale from forming

The above cleaning methods are all preventative measures that will stop limescale from forming, so regular cleaning may mean deposits don’t come back.

Since limescale forms in a hard water environment, one step you could take is to add a water softener to your water supply.

You can buy a limescale preventer from Plumbworld which stops the build-up of limescale through hot and cold water systems.

An easier alternative to prevent limescale from building up is to wipe surfaces down when wet, with a cloth or shower squeegee just as you would to prevent mould. On glass surfaces, like glass shower screens, wipe them completely dry after showering.

If you found this article useful, you might also be interested in - How to remove & replace grout from tiles - Four natural cleaning methods for a sparkling bathroom - How to Clean Chrome Taps.

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