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What is Limescale and How Do You Remove It?

March 10, 2020

Limescale is a white crust that forms inside a kettle or on your tap in areas that have hard water. Limescale residue happens when hard water is left to stand and evaporate, leaving the impurities behind. Soft water doesn't have as much impurities as hard water as it runs through granite or slate, while hard water runs through porous rock like chalk and limestone, picking up the minerals in the stones on its way to your water pipes. When hard water is heated or when it evaporates, these minerals then solidify to form limescale.

Those deposits can be ugly to look at, and can build up quickly on your kitchen and bathroom taps, as well as on pipes and certain appliances that are constantly in contact with hard water. It may also build up in uncommon places, such as inside your kettle, in a boiler, or in a washing machine or dishwasher. If you find these white flakes constantly in these areas of your home, then don't delay! Read on to find out how to effectively remove limescale from your home.

Why You Should Remove Limescale

Almost all water contains different impurities and minerals, most commonly things such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. "Hard" water is water that contains a higher concentration of dissolved magnesium and calcium ions, and this is what limescale is made out of. The residue that's left behind when hard water evaporates is actually composed almost entirely of calcium and magnesium carbonates, and these can build up and gather on all sorts of areas in your home. When left for a while, they can be hard to remove.

Appliances and kitchen items that operate with hard water and heat it up, such as your kettle, your washing machine, your dishwasher, your coffee maker, and even your pots and pans are all prime victims of limescale buildup. If you have a shower heater installed in your bathroom, then chances are your shower head has a limescale buildup as well. 

Limescale also settles on a variety of other surfaces that are in daily contact with hard water, such as your kitchen tap or your water pipes. The limescale buildup on these surfaces are much slower though, as evaporation takes longer when the water isn't heated.

While limescale isn't necessarily dangerous for your health—after all, we do DRINK hard water—the visible limescale buildup is ugly to look at, and makes a home feel unclean and neglected. If ignored over time, the limescale buildup in your electrical appliances can be detrimental to the efficiency of your machines, causing them to work harder for the same amount of work, resulting in higher energy consumption and sky-high electricity bills. The limescale buildup will also decrease the lifespan of your household equipment, making you spend more money on repairs or a new appliance altogether. Not to mention, the slow buildup of limescale in your water pipes can cause blockages in your water system, which will be expensive and hard to deal with and remove.

How to Remove Limescale from Your Home

While limescale can be stubborn to remove, it's nothing that a little elbow grease can't fix. You'll be glad to know that there are a whole bunch of effective household remedies that are great for successfully removing limescale without destroying your home items or kitchen appliances.

Also, while you can buy limescale remover in hardware or grocery stores, in general you can remove limescale (or calcium carbonate, if you want to sound fancy) with acidic liquids such as lemon juice or white vinegar. Limescale dissolves in acid, so all you need to do is soak the item in lemon juice or vinegar overnight or until the limescale dissolves completely. Not only is this more economical, it's more environmentally friendly too!

If you're looking for methods specific to your household items, then read on to find out how to get limescale off pretty much anything in your home:

1. Cookware and Glassware

You can get rid of limescale deposits from glassware and cookware using the same ingredients we mentioned above. Just mix your acid of choice with water and soak the tarnished items in the solution overnight before rinsing it well the next morning. If you want to be extra clean, you can also boil the acid-water solution and add the item into the hot water to simmer for 15 minutes. This will bring the luster and shine back to whatever kitchen item was crusted with limescale!

2. Taps and Bathroom Fittings

Fill a spray bottle with half your acid of choice and half water, and keep in your bathroom or kitchen to spray regularly on your bathroom taps and fittings to keep the limescale at bay. Don't forget to rinse the area thoroughly after letting the solution sit for a few minutes—otherwise you may have a bathroom that smells strongly of vinegar!

For a limescale build-up, soak an old towel in the solution and wrap it around the tap, then leave that to sit overnight. Once the limescale has softened in the morning, you can easily scrub the leftovers out with an old toothbrush. If the limescale is persistent, you may need to mix lemon juice with baking soda and rub the paste-like mixture onto the tap, scrubbing away with an old toothbrush.

Just be sure not to use this method on plated taps, especially if your taps are plated in gold. The acid in the solution will damage the finish.

3. Kettles and Coffee Machines

Fill your kettle with a 1:1 ratio of water and white vinegar, let it boil for a couple minutes, and leave it in there overnight. The limescale should come right off in the morning, though you'll need to rinse your kettle thoroughly to prevent your morning tea or coffee from tasting like vinegar.

4. Washing Machines and Dishwashers

Place a cup of vinegar or lemon juice in the washer and run the machine empty on a regular wash cycle, preferably with hot water. If you're cleaning your dishwasher, just pour your acid of choice into the base of the machine.

To prevent more limescale buildup in your washing machines, you may want to purchase a non-precipitating softener tablet. This will prevent limescale buildup from blocking the piping in your washing machine, and it'll also help the appliance clean your clothes more efficiently.

5. Showers

Detach your showerhead and soak it overnight in a solution of half hot water and half white vinegar or lemon juice. Rinse it out with plain water after soaking and use an old toothbrush to scrub out any remaining calcium carbonate buildup that's left.

If there's limescale on your shower screen, you'll want to use a spray bottle filled half with water and half with vinegar instead. Polish off the screen with an old toothbrush or a relatively abrasive sponge to get some of the limescale off first, before spraying the cleaning solution onto the screen. Let that solution sit there for an hour before wiping down the screen with a microfiber cloth.

6. Toilets

Probably the only method that doesn't require white vinegar or lemon, you can remove limescale deposits from your toilet by pouring a bottle of Coca-Cola down the toilet bowl and leaving it there overnight. Yes, you read that right—Coca-Cola. Coke has a high level of phosphoric acid, which turns out to be effective against the calcium carbonate buildup from hard water. If you have hard, encrusted limescale deposits gathering on your toilet bowl still, you'll need to use elbow grease and an old toothbrush to remove them.

7. Tiles and Grout

For discolored tiles and grout surfaces, as well sinks, shower bases, and bathtubs, you'll need the 50-50 spray mixture of water and your acid of choice to remove the limescale. Spray it onto the surface and let the solution sit before rinsing or scrubbing the dissolved limescale deposits away. For limescale deposits in grout, you may need to scrub in a baking soda and lemon paste into the grout to remove the limescale completely.

Keeping Your Home Clean

Limescale removal can be a pain, as keeping your home limescale-free needs some serious discipline and persistence. While you can get rid of limescale with the cleaning tips we've listed above, a more permanent solution to limescale would be to purchase a water softener. These water softeners can be installed into your water supply, preventing limescale build-up by keeping the minerals in the water from adhering to the surfaces in your home.

However, if you've left the limescale for too long, or if you don't have the money to invest in a water softener, then it'd be best to hire a professional cleaner to help you keep your home surfaces limescale-free. At HomeFresh, our team of professional cleaners will deep clean and delime your home for you. Book us now and you may never have to know what limescale even looks like.

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