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How to Remove Limescale and Prevent it From Coming Back

Feb 8 2021

How to Remove Limescale and Prevent it From Coming Back

imescale forming on a bathroom faucet

You may have noticed white scales forming on your faucets and showerheads, or observed a powdery white substance on the surface of your kettle and drinking glasses. Perhaps the water flow coming out of your taps is asymmetrical. While not uncommon, these are all signs that you’re dealing with limescale buildup. 

Limescale, also known as calcium scale, is a problem faced in homes situated in places with hard water – accounting for around 85% of Canada and the United States. Hard water leaves behind deposits of calcium carbonate (or CaCO3 ), which is the primary constituent of limescale. 

If your property is older, you may notice that limescale clogs up more faucets, showerheads, and water fixtures compared to a newer home in the same area. This is because limescale takes time to build up and become more noticeable. Similar to what you observe on the outside of these fixtures, your internal plumbing system is also going through the same thing – a gradual limescale obstruction that is slowly narrowing the pipe’s diameter.

So, can limescale buildup be stopped? Definitely! In this guide, we will take a look at ways to remove limescale from the affected water fixtures as well as the next best steps if you suspect limescale in your pipes. And most importantly, we’ll show you how you can avoid limescale-related plumbing problems once and for all. 

Let’s get started!

 

Close-up of a faucet’s aerator that is covered with limescale

Determining if You Live in a Hard Water Area

As we mentioned earlier, limescale and hard water go hand in hand. Therefore, living in a hard water area is a key indicator or predictor if you have (or will have) a limescale problem in your plumbing system. Most homeowners realize that they live in a hard water area after observing the following signs:

  • White scaling on showerheads, faucets, and other water fixtures
  • Soap scum formation on tubs and sinks
  • Rough or stiff clothing after doing laundry
  • Frequent leaks and increased water bills

However, if you have a newer property, you may not notice the above signs immediately. In order to determine if you have hard water, you can try this simple test:

  1. Fill ⅓ of a clear container with water from your faucet. As a controlled variable, fill another clear container with distilled water. 
  2. Put an equal amount of pure liquid soap in the two containers (avoid any detergent soap as this will not give an accurate result).  
  3. Place a lid on the two containers and then shake them vigorously for a few seconds. 
  4. Because the container with distilled water is soft water, it will show you a good amount of suds at the top and clear water at the bottom. If the container with faucet water doesn’t have many suds (far from the amount of suds in the distilled water) and ends up looking cloudy, this is a good sign that you have hard water in your home. 

Removing Limescale from Household Water Fixtures

The advantage of faucets, showerheads, and other similar water fixtures is that they can be removed quite easily and submerged in a solution that will remove limescale and its deposits. Generally, these solutions are acids of varying strengths and therefore, the safest type of container to use with acidic solutions are those made of glass.

After you have unscrewed your faucet aerator (the tip of the faucet) and/or showerheads, place them in a glass bowl filled with the acidic solution of your choice. Do not submerge the affected fixture. You only need to fill the glass bowl up to the level that will reach the limescale deposits while leaving the remaining parts untouched. 

Here are our recommended solutions and the average it will take for them to break down limescale or calcium scale deposits:

  • Pure white vinegar – A natural solution that will take about a week of soaking.
  • CLR (Calcium Lime Rust) – A chemical treatment that requires overnight soaking.
  • Muriatic acid – A strong chemical that will remove deposits upon contact.

NOTE ABOUT MURIATIC ACID: Even if muriatic acid is fast-acting, do not hold the piece that is being partially submerged in the acid. Simply place it gently, so as not to cause the acid to splash, then let go and do not lean in too closely. 

CAUTION: When using stronger acids make sure to wear rubber gloves. Additionally, avoid pouring strong acids down your drain as these can cause damage to your pipes. The best option for disposal is to call your local recycling center and ask about how to properly dispose of such hazardous household wastes.

 

A clean faucet that no longer has limescale residues

Removing Limescale from Toilets, Bathtubs, and Sinks

Unlike detachable water fixtures, it is not recommended to use really strong acids (like muriatic acid) on toilets, bathtubs, and sinks. The wider area of these fixtures makes it more complicated to use stronger acids, hence increasing the risk of skin contact, resulting in injuries. Some sinks can also stain permanently upon contact with undiluted muriatic acid. 

It is recommended to instead use white vinegar for all three kinds of fixtures. 

Toilets

  1. Pour half a cup of white vinegar into your toilet bowl.
  2. You can use a spray bottle to target white vinegar under the rim if there is also limescale there. This would need to be resprayed every 20 minutes. 
  3. Allow the white vinegar to break down the limescale stains for the next three hours. 
  4. Scrub the toilet afterwards with a toilet brush and then flush a few times to rinse it well. 

Bathtubs and Sinks

  1. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar.
  2. Spray the vinegar generously all over the tub or sink.
  3. The white vinegar then needs to soak for the next 45 minutes. For more stubborn limescale stains, the process may need up to two hours. 
  4. Respray the white vinegar all over the tub or sink every 20 minutes. 
  5. Then, scrub the limescale stains and rinse the tub or sink thoroughly with water. 

Limescale Removal from Pipes

It’s possible for limescale deposits to form inside the pipes that supply water to your home – even if these pipes are regularly used. Unfortunately, unlike faucets, showerheads, toilets, tubs, and sinks, your piping system is a lot more difficult to access. If you’ve already cleaned your faucet aerators and showerheads but are still not getting enough water pressure, then there is a high likelihood that your pipes are obstructed with limescale deposits.

In this situation, it is advisable to call an expert plumber straight away. They will be able to locate the problem area and replace your obstructed pipes as needed. 

How Do I Prevent Limescale From Coming Back?

As long as your home is situated in a hard water area, limescale buildup is inevitable. Because of hard water’s natural calcium carbonate compound, it will keep leaving behind deposits that can clog your water fixtures and obstruct your pipes. This issue can lead to low water pressure and can even be the cause of pipe leaks and bursts. 

The only effective solution to preventing limescale buildup in the future is to have a water softener system installed by a trusted plumbing service like 1st Rooter Plumber.

Reliable Pipe Repair and Water Softening System Installation

At 1st Rooter Plumbing, we strive to give reliable solutions to various plumbing problems. If you would like to have your obstructed pipes assessed, we can locate them with pinpoint accuracy and replace them as needed. If you want to explore water softening systems that will help you say goodbye to limescale issues and other hard water problems, we can give you the best options out there and provide a seamless installation service to match. 

So contact us today and our friendly team will be more than happy to assist you!

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