You work hard to maintain a clean and tidy home. You scrape and rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. You regularly spray disinfectant on your counter tops, door handles, and sinks. And you frequently dust, mop, and polish until everything seems to shine, or at least almost everything.
After hours of tidying and cleaning, you may feel a stab of disappointment and frustration whenever you see hard water spots lingering on your dishes, fixtures, and flooring. Though you dried each of these surfaces with an absorbent towel, the spots still appear within minutes of cleaning. Some items have acquired so many spots and stains that they look dull, weathered, and old beyond their years.
So what can you do to eliminate the buildup?
1. Spray Vinegar on Light Spots
Hard water contains dissolved mineral ions, primarily sodium, calcium, and magnesium. When water interacts with air, it dissolves carbon dioxide gasses from the air, and the carbon dioxide then reacts with the dissolved ions. The resulting carbonates then cling to various surfaces throughout your home and create the hard water spots you see.
Vinegar, in contrast, contains acetic acid. When you spray acetic acid on carbonates, the acid displaces the ions in the carbonates, forming water-soluble acetates and carbonic acid. These compounds easily rinse away, leaving you with spot-free surfaces.
For best results, mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray on hard water stains and let sit for a few minutes, and then wipe the mixture away with a soft cloth.
2. Scrub Stains With Lemon Peels
Vinegar works wonders on hard water stains and spots. However, not everyone can tolerate the strong sour smell for long. Although the vinegar scent will fade after a few hours, you don’t have to choose between a fresh-smelling kitchen and a clean one.
Lemon contains citric acid, which sits at a 2.2 on the pH scale compared to vinegar’s 3, making it slightly more acidic. However, lemons only contain about 5% to 6% citric acid, whereas vinegar consists entirely of acetic acid. As a result, fresh lemon juice can dissolve carbonates and remove stains, but you may need to scrub a little more to achieve the same effect.
To remove hard water stains with lemon, mix equal parts lemon juice and water in a spray bottle. Spray on spots and allow it to sit. Wipe with a damp cloth, and repeat as needed. Your stains will soon fade and your home will smell deliciously of fresh lemon.
3. Attack Stubborn Spots With Eraser Sponges
Vinegar and lemon work well for light spots and stains, especially if you clean on a daily basis. However, some stains may build up for months (or even years) before you notice them. A few squirts with water and lemon won’t be enough to dissolve minerals on their own.
If you have particularly stubborn spots in your home, invest in a few eraser sponges, or melamine foam. Melamine foam has a microscopic rough texture like sandpaper, which allows it to dig into the tiny grooves of almost any surface and scrub away sticky scum and dirt.
Spritz a little vinegar, lemon, or water on your magic eraser and then buff out the stains. Keep in mind that eraser sponges are abrasive, so do not use them on soft, scratch-able surfaces such as hardwood floors or furniture with a high-gloss finish.
Save Time on Cleaning With a Water Softener
Although the above tips and techniques can help you remove stubborn stains and spots, you can save hours and hours of cleaning with a little prevention. When you invest in a quality water softener, you can remove many of the minerals that contribute to scale buildup. Better still, soft water allows soaps to lather and dissolve dirt more effectively, so you spend even less time cleaning and more time enjoying your spotless home.