What Is Limescale & How Can You Get Rid Of It?

What Is Limescale & How Can You Get Rid Of It

Anthony Barnes

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Have you ever wondered why your sink or bathtub looks dirty even after cleaning it thoroughly? This is because of lime scale build-up.

Lime scale is calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that forms on surfaces where water has evaporated. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems such as kidney stones.

Limescale is also known as calcite, which is a common mineral found in nature. It’s formed from the reaction between dissolved CO2 and HCO3- ions present in tap water.

The presence of these minerals makes the water cloudy and causes deposits to form on pipes, taps, shower heads, toilets, sinks, etc.

To prevent lime scale buildup, you should regularly clean your bathroom fixtures. Here are some ways to remove lime scale from your bathroom.

What Is Hard Water?

What Is Hard Water

Hard water is usually defined as having high levels of dissolved solids like Ca+2 and Mg+2.

These elements react with other chemicals in the water to produce various salts and compounds that can deposit on surfaces.

The most common hard water compound is Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3). It is called limescale when it forms on plumbing fixtures.

What Is Soft Water?

What Is Soft Water

Soft water is typically defined by its low concentration of dissolved solids.

Low concentrations of these chemicals mean less precipitation will occur over time. As a result, there will be fewer deposits forming on surfaces.

Calcium and magnesium are the two main components of soft water. They do not precipitate out of solution as easily as sodium does.

When they do, they tend to create smaller particles that are easier to filter out.

What Is Limescale?

What Is Limescale 

Lime scale is made up of calcium carbonate (CaC03). Calcium carbonate is a naturally occurring mineral that is often used in building materials like concrete and mortar.

It’s also found in many foods including milk, cheese, yogurt, and orange juice. In fact, most people have enough calcium carbonate in their bodies to make one small stone!

Calcium carbonate is formed when carbon dioxide reacts with water containing certain types of bicarbonates.

Bicarbonates are compounds that contain two carbon atoms bonded together by oxygen.

They include sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3), ammonium bicarbonate (NH4HCO3), and magnesium bicarbonate (Mg(HCO3)).

When carbon dioxide dissolves into water, it combines with the bicarbonate ion to produce carbonic acid. The resulting solution contains both carbonic acid and bicarbonate ions.

Calcium carbonate is insoluble at normal pH levels. However, if the pH level drops below 7, then the calcium carbonate will dissolve.

As a result, it becomes very easy for calcium carbonate to accumulate in areas where there is low or no circulation of water.

These areas include faucets, showers, tubs, toilets, drains, and other plumbing fixtures.

What Does Limescale Look Like? 

Lime scale is a common household problem. It stains everything it touches and often looks like rust.

It builds up quickly and needs to be removed by hand. While this may seem like an insurmountable task, it doesn’t need to take hours of scrubbing.

Limescale has the appearance of white powdery crystals. It’s usually found around the drain area of a toilet, tub, or shower. It also tends to collect in corners and crevices.

How Does Limescale Form?

The formation of lime scale begins when water evaporates out of its container. Water evaporates through cracks and crevices in the surface of the container.

As this happens, the air around the container gets saturated with moisture. Once the humidity reaches 100%, the water vapor condenses onto the cooler surface of the container.

The condensed water droplets become tiny particles called aerosols. Aerosols are suspended in the air until they come in contact with something else.

For example, aerosols may fall back down to the surface of an object and collect there.

When water evaporates from the surface of a pipe, it leaves behind a thin layer of calcium carbonate.

Over time, more and more water evaporates from the pipe, leaving behind a thicker layer of calcium carbonate on the inside wall of the pipe. Eventually, the calcium carbonate builds up to form a hard crusty deposit.

This process is similar to how salt crystals grow on a window sill. Salt crystals form when rainwater drips off the roof and collects on the sill.

If the window is left open, the crystallized salt slowly drips down and accumulates on the sill.

How Does Hard Water Affect Your Bathroom Fixtures? 

When water passes through pipes and fixtures, it picks up dissolved solids. Some of those dissolved solids are beneficial for human consumption. Others, however, are harmful.

When too many of them remain dissolved in the water, they can cause damage to your body.

For example, calcium and magnesium can lead to constipation, stomach cramps, muscle spasms, and bone loss.

In addition, calcium and magnesium can combine with chlorine to make chloramines, which can irritate skin and eyes.

Chloramine can also oxidize fats and proteins in food, causing them to become rancid.

How Do I Know if My Water Has High Levels of Dissolved Solids? 

If your water contains high amounts of dissolved solids, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Stains on clothes and fabrics
  • Hair that feels dry and brittle
  • Skin that becomes rough and scaly
  • Teeth that feel gritty

If you suspect that your water might have high levels of dissolved solids, you can test it yourself at home.

You can use a simple pH meter to measure the acidity of your water. A pH level above 7 indicates an alkaline environment. Anything below 7 means your water is acidic.

You can also purchase a water hardness tester from any hardware store. Simply place the device into the faucet and read the results.

You can also buy a water softener once you know if your water is hard or not. 

How To Test Your Water

Your local water treatment store can help you figure out whether you need a water softener. Alternatively, you can ask your local community college or university about their water testing service.

They will be able to tell you more about the quality of your water than a simple water testing kit.

Water Softeners

Water softeners remove only high concentrations of calcium and magnesium from tap water, but they are still effective in helping hard water be softer.

Tap water must be treated using filtration or reverse osmosis systems to remove harmful bacteria and parasites.  

Soft water tastes more bland than hard water. Hard water has a refreshing taste due to the presence of minerals.

Descalers replace those minerals with salt. This makes the water harder, so it takes longer to rinse off dishes.

Water softeners are very important appliances in our homes. They remove minerals such as calcium and magnesium from our drinking water. These minerals cause hard water and make our skin dry.

A water softener removes these minerals and makes the water safe for us to drink.

Water softeners are very common in households. You need to choose the right kind depending on your needs. 

An ion exchange water softener is usually recommended because it’s most common, inexpensive, and effective.

However, salt-free water softeners are also pretty effective, and they stop the water tasting slightly salty. 

Is Limescale Dangerous in Kitchen Appliances?

Sometimes, you may find limescale at the bottom of your kettle, water boiler, or coffee machine.

It forms in places where water is, usually due to how hard your water is. If this happens, it’s normal.

Hard water causes scaling in kettles because it contains dissolved minerals, which cause the kettle to scale up.

As the kettle boils water, insoluble calcium carbonates will form from the water. This is presented as a lime scale which will remain in the pot until it is thoroughly cleaned out.

The best way to get rid of limescale is to regularly clean your kettle and other kitchen appliances.

You should wash them thoroughly after each use. Use a mild dishwashing liquid to clean them. 

Why Do Bathrooms Have So Much Lime Scale?

There are several reasons why bathrooms tend to be the hardest places to keep free of limescale.

First, the high humidity levels in bathrooms cause the water to evaporate quickly. This means that the area surrounding pipes can get extremely dry.

Second, the constant flow of water in the shower causes the water to move rapidly over the surfaces of the pipes.

This creates turbulence which helps the water pick up fine particulate matter.

Finally, the frequent use of soap and shampoo tends to strip away protective layers of grease and oil from the walls and floors of the bathroom.

These substances act as lubricants between the pipes and the walls and floor. Without these lubricants, the pipes can easily rust.

How To Remove Limescale From Bathroom Fixtures

How To Remove Limescale From Bathroom Fixtures

1. Use A Hard Surface Brush

Use A Hard Surface Brush

You can use a hard surface brush with bristles made out of nylon, polyester, or other materials to scrub away lime scale.

However, it’s important to make sure that you don’t get any soap residue on the bristles.

2. Mix Baking Soda And Vinegar

Mix Baking Soda And Vinegar

Baking soda contains an alkaline pH level, which helps dissolve limescale. Vinegar works as a bleaching agent, so it will help lighten the color of the lime scale.

Mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar together in a bowl. Then add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the mixture. Stir well until all ingredients have been combined.

Use this solution to wash down your bathroom fixtures and tub. Make sure to rinse off the solution completely before using it again.

3. Clean Your Shower Head With Hot Water

Clean Your Shower Head With Hot Water

When you take a shower, the hot water will soften the lime scale, making it easier for you to wipe it away. Simply run hot water through the shower head while you shampoo your hair.

4. Use Dish Soap For Sinks And Tubs

Use Dish Soap For Sinks And Tubs

Dish soap is effective at removing limescale from sinks and tubs. Just pour some dish soap into the basin and let it sit there for about 15 minutes. Rinse the basin and then dry it with a soft towel.

5. Try Using Salt Instead Of Lemon Juice

Try Using Salt Instead Of Lemon Juice

If you want to avoid buying expensive commercial products, try using salt instead of lemon juice when cleaning your bathroom fixtures.

Simply mix 2 cups of salt and 1 cup of warm water in a large bucket. Dip a sponge in the solution and rub it against the area where the lime scale has accumulated.

6. Use Vinegar As An Anti-Microbial Spray

Use Vinegar As An Anti-Microbial Spray

Vinegar is commonly used as an anti-microbial spray. It’s great for killing bacteria that may be causing odor issues in bathrooms.

7. Use White Vinegar Instead Of Brown

Use White Vinegar Instead Of Brown

Brown vinegar is acidic, which means it can damage metal fixtures. In order to protect them, you should only use white vinegar.

Can Limescale Hurt You? 

Lime scale isn’t harmful if left alone. If you notice that it’s starting to build up around your sink faucet, however, you should call a plumber immediately.

The buildup could indicate a problem with your plumbing system.

Limescale doesn’t cause any harm to humans. But if you drink too much of it, you may develop kidney stones. Limescale can be harmful to your home because it builds up on surfaces.   

Why Is It Called Limescale? 

The word “scale” comes from the Latin word “scalare,” meaning “to scratch.” This is why we say things like “the scales fell off my fish” or “he scratched his face.”

When limescale builds up on the skin, it looks like small pieces of sandpaper.

How Do I Know If My Bathroom Has Limescale? 

There are many ways to tell if your bathroom has lime scale. One way is to look at your toilet tank. If you see brown stains on the sides of the tank, that’s likely caused by lime scale.

You can also check behind your bathtub and under your sink. If you find any signs of limescale, you’ll need to clean it right away.

You can also test your tap water. If it smells musty or sour, that could mean that your pipes are clogged.

If you’re having trouble getting rid of limescale, you should contact your local plumber. They can help you remove the buildup.

How To Remove Lime Scale From A Tub: 

Here are four methods for removing lime scale from a tub:

1. Use Baking Soda + Vinegar Solution

Use Baking Soda + Vinegar Solution

Mix ¼ cup baking soda with ½ cup white vinegar until the mixture forms a paste. Apply this paste directly onto the surface of the tub. Let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing it off.

2. Use Citric Acid Solution

Use Citric Acid Solution

Citric acid is another option for removing lime scale from your tub. Mix one part citric acid with three parts water. Then apply the solution to the affected areas. Let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing.

3. Use Baking Powder + Water Solution

Use Baking Powder + Water Solution

Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, which helps break down calcium carbonate deposits.

Combine 1 teaspoon of baking powder with 1 gallon of hot water. Pour this solution into your tub. Let it sit overnight. Rinse out the tub the next morning.

4. Use Salt + Lemon Juice Solution

Use Salt + Lemon Juice Solution

This method uses lemon juice to dissolve lime scale. Mix 3 tablespoons of salt with 6 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Add 4 gallons of water to make a solution. Spray this solution directly onto the affected area of your tub. Let it dry and rinse it off later.

Final Thoughts 

These four methods will help you get rid of limescale in your tub. However, they won’t work well if there’s already a lot of lime scale present. For those cases, you’ll want to hire a professional plumber.

Thank you for reading!

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age