How to Clean Stainless Steel Sink Hard Water Stains

It’s time to clean the sink again, but there’s a problem. No matter how hard I wipe, it’s impossible to get rid of soap scum and water spots. I keep scrubbing and scrubbing, and the film reappears like disappearing ink.

The more soap I apply, the worse it seems to get. Has this ever happened to you?

If it has, then you know how annoying hard water can be. It is a formidable opponent, but you can prevail with a few everyday household items and some old fashion elbow grease.

Follow these tips to keep your stainless steel sink sparkly clean.

What is Hard Water?

I know what you are thinking, and no, hard water is not ice. When groundwater passes through limestone, it picks up calcium and mineral deposits along the way. Hard water refers to water that contains a high concentration of minerals.

Minerals aren’t all bad, they are even good for your health, but they can put a real damper on your cleaning efforts.

Three common symptoms of hard water are:

  • Soap Scum – hard water reacts with soap to produce a white film on the dishes and around the sink and faucet.
  • Limescale – like soap scum, it makes glassware look foggy and even filthy. Over time limescale can make your sink permanently cloudy.
  • Chemical Stains – iron is also commonly found in hard water. Have you ever noticed reddish-brown stains in your sink? That’s rust from hard water.       

Will Baking Soda and Vinegar Remove Hard Water Stains?

Will Baking Soda And Vinegar Remove Hard Water Stains

Removing hard water stains is easy as long as you don’t wait too long. If you do, corrosion will occur, causing permanent damage. All you need is one or two non-toxic cleaners to get the job done.

You can use natural cleaning agents like lemon, baking soda, and white vinegar to break up any buildup and remove water marks. Here are some tips on how to fight hard water.

Before you get started, you will need:

  • White Vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean Soft Cloth
  • Toothbrush or bottle brush

Let it Soak and Wipe Away

Vinegar can be used to clean any area of your home except hardwood surfaces. Start with a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar and spray the area you want to clean. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes to penetrate the mineral deposits.

After it is done soaking, use a brush to scrub everything loose. If you are worried about scratching the surface of the sink, you can use a non-abrasive sponge. After you have thoroughly scrubbed everything away, use a damp cloth to wipe down the surface.

How to Clean Stubborn Hard Water Stains

For stubborn hard watermarks, you may have to call in reinforcements to remove the stains completely. Here are a few suggestions that will help make your sink shine again.

Use more acid – a stronger stain requires a stronger solution. Try using 3 parts warm water to 1 part vinegar. You can also use cleaning vinegar, which has a higher acidity rate than regular white vinegar. Another way to kick up the acidity is to use lemon juice.

Let it soak for longer – increase the soaking time to loosen up the grime (yes, that rhymes). Try letting it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. If you have a lot of buildup on hard to reach areas like the body of the faucet, try submerging a t-shirt in vinegar and placing it over the faucet.

Add Baking Soda – baking soda will also help dissolve hard water stains. Mix it with a small amount of vinegar to make a paste for scrubbing.

Get a Stainless Steel Sink Cleaner – you can find a stainless steel sink cleaner like CLR at your local hardware or grocery store. The products are usually advertised as calcium, lime, and rust removers. These products are cheap and abundant, so you won’t have any trouble finding one.

How to Prevent Water Stains on Stainless Steel Sinks

One of the most tried and true methods of protecting your stainless steel sink from hard water is to clean it regularly. This removes hard water stains and stops corrosion before they ruin your sink. Here are some other ways to protect your sink.

Get a Stainless Steel Sink Water Repellant

You can buy a stainless steel polish that also doubles as a cleaner to keep your sink in pristine condition. These products protect steel against soiling, rust, and water spots. They create an invisible water barrier that causes water to bead up, preventing it from leaving deposits on the surface of your sink. It also makes future cleaning easier.

Soften Your Water

The best way to avoid hard water stains is to soften the water with a filter. You may have to purchase 1 or more filters to soften the water of the entire home. There are many different ways to soften water; here are some of the most popular methods.

Salt-Based (Ion-Exchange)

This is the most popular kind of water softening system. A process called ion exchange attracts hard minerals and replaces them with sodium ions. Typically you will have to change the bag once a week. Salt-based systems are very reliable, and they last a long time.


Salt-free systems do not remove magnesium and calcium deposits from the water. Instead, they change the way that the minerals react so they won’t stick to surfaces. This type of system is more expensive than a salt-based softener, but it doesn’t take as much maintenance.

Reverse Osmosis

These systems are used for removing mineral deposits as well as the purification of drinking water. Reverse osmosis uses high pressure to strip the water of minerals and chemicals, leaving behind 90-99% pure H2O. 


Magnetic water softeners are relatively new compared to the previous options. People like them because they are effective and cheap. Magnets are wrapped around the main water pipe, where the magnetic fields condition the water. These are often used to supplement other water softening methods.

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