How To Clean & Prevent Calcium Buildup In Toilet Bowls

Have you ever wondered why some toilet bowls have unsightly white or rust-colored streaks and rings? While they may look dirty, those nasty stains are actually naturally formed and fortunately, quite easy to clean. You can clean them with simple home solutions consisting of vinegar and baking soda.

More stubborn stains can require a more effective stain removing chemicals or toilet bowl cleaner to get rid of. You can also take preemptive steps to prevent stains from showing up in your toilet in the first place. Here is everything you need to know about calcium buildup in toilets, from what causes calcium buildup, steps on how to remove it, and some tips to help prevent the stains from returning for good.

cleaning calcium buildup

What Causes Calcium Buildup?

Everyone gets their water somewhat locally, and depending on where you live, the characteristics and quality of your water can be different. You might have heard terms like “hard water” and “soft water” used to describe the water in your area. Hard water is rich in minerals like magnesium and calcium, while soft water doesn't have these minerals or has very few.

In areas where the water is hard, like the Midwest and West Coast, it’s common for mineral buildup to accumulate at the bottom of a toilet bowl and around the water line. Calcium buildup can also occur in other porous bathroom fixtures like your shower or bathroom sink.

How to Remove Calcium Buildup in Toilet Bowls

While these nasty stains may seem like a dire problem, calcium deposits are typically easy to remove. Most stains and residue can be removed using everyday household items you probably already have at your disposal. 

Before you start cleaning, gather the supplies for the job. Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Rubber gloves
  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet plunger
  • Stiff bristle brush

These are the steps you need to follow to clean calcium buildup in your toilet:

  1. Start by locating the water supply for your toilet. Most supply knobs are directly behind or next to the toilet. Once you’ve found the knob, turn it off. 
  2. Flush the toilet to expose the stains in the toilet bowl completely. If there’s still water left in the bowl after flushing, use a toilet plunger, scoop it out, or use a wet vacuum to reduce the water level and get it all out, so you can easily access the stains.
  3. Acidic liquids like vinegar dissolve alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, and spray it heavily on the stained areas of the bowl. You might also have calcium deposits in your toilet pipes as minerals pass through the water line. At this point, it’s worth the effort to pour a cup into the toilet overflow tube.
  4. Leave the vinegar for 30 minutes to dissolve the minerals and lift the stains from the mineral deposits. Put on gloves, and scrub the stained areas with the toilet brush to remove them. 
  5. If the calcium buildup is gone, turn the toilet’s water supply back on, and flush the toilet a few times to eliminate all the vinegar. It's not good to let vinegar sit in a toilet bowl too long.  
  6. If there’s still stains and mineral deposits after the vinegar, coat the toilet brush with baking soda and continue to scrub the stains. 
  7. If there’s still staining and buildup after you’ve tried both the vinegar and baking soda, repeat cleaning steps 4 and 6 with a stronger brush instead of the toilet brush, so it scrubs the stains harder. 
  8. If the stains no longer appear, turn the water back on, flush the toilet, and clean the brush. If not, there is a more aggressive approach to try with chemical products.

While most calcium deposits can be easily removed with simple household products, more stubborn deposits that have existed for several months or years can prove more challenging to get out. 

If you have to use chemical products to remove the stains, carefully read the instructions on the product label before use. The most effective products contain hydrochloric acid, which is very dangerous to humans when concentrated. Always open windows and doors for ventilation and wear rubber gloves and eye protection when handling chemical products. Commercial cleaners are often best left for professionals to use due to the dangers.

How To Prevent Calcium Buildup

While it’s nice to know that you can remove calcium buildup in toilet bowls easily, it’s better still to prevent it from ever taking hold in your bathroom. Follow these tips to prevent buildup from happening in your toilet. 

  • Remove stains as soon as you see them. The more faint the staining is, the easier it is to remove. Calcium deposits will continue to buildup overtime, so don’t put off cleaning the toilet when you notice these stains. The longer they sit, the harder they are to eliminate.
  • Perform a deep clean on your toilet bowl twice a year. Not only does this help your bathroom look its best, but it ensures that stubborn calcium buildup is removed. Shut off the water supply to the toilet, flush it to drain the tank, and fill the tank with distilled white vinegar. Let the vinegar sit for a couple of hours before flushing. Turn the water supply back on when you’re finished, and flush several more times to remove any residual vinegar. 
  • In addition to the unsightly stains, hard water can also cause plumbing damage. Investing in a water softener is the best way to permanently eliminate these stains while improving the health of your pipes. While reverse osmosis filtration systems are most effective at removing hard water deposits, there are plenty of other water filters you can choose from.

About the author 

Ryan Thompson is a residential and commercial plumber from Miami, Florida. He has over 20+ years of plumbing experience. He is also a huge DIY enthusiast who does all types of improvement projects around the house.

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