How to remove hard water stains from glass

Hard water stains on glass surfaces like shower doors, windows, drinking glasses, and mirrors can be unsightly and difficult to remove. They are caused by mineral deposits that are left behind when hard water evaporates. The good news is that with some effort, you can get rid of these stubborn stains and restore the glass to its original sparkling condition.

remove hard water stains from glass

What Causes Hard Water Stains on Glass?

Hard water contains a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium. When hard water evaporates from a glass surface, it leaves behind a mineral residue. Over time, these deposits build up and become more difficult to remove.

Areas with hard tap water and low humidity see the most pronounced hard water staining on glass surfaces. The mineral deposits bond to the glass and oxidize, leaving unsightly spots, rings, streaks, and film behind.

Glass shower doors are particularly susceptible because they are exposed to steamy conditions and hard water every day. The combination of humidity and minerals leads to a buildup of stains.

Windows can also easily develop hard water stains through condensation and mineral residue left behind. Drinking glasses are stained by minerals in water left to evaporate.

Methods to Remove Hard Water Stains from Glass

There are a variety of methods that can be effective for removing hard water stains from glass surfaces:


Vinegar is a mildly acidic vinegar solution that can help dissolve mineral deposits on glass.

  • The acetic acid in vinegar works to break down and loosen the stubborn stains.
  • Simply fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar and spray liberally over the stained glass surface.
  • Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing with a damp cloth or sponge.
  • The stains should wipe away easily.
  • For tougher stains, repeat the process and let the vinegar soak in for longer.
  • Distilled white vinegar has the highest acetic acid content for maximum effectiveness.

We recommend Heinz Distilled White Vinegar available on Amazon for $14.97 per gallon.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and cleaning agent that can be used to scrub away hard water stains on glass.

  • It acts as a gentle abrasive to lift the mineral deposits without scratching the glass.
  • Make a paste by mixing 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water and apply it to the stained surface with a damp sponge or cloth.
  • Let it set for a few minutes before scrubbing in circular motions.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  • Repeat if needed for stubborn buildup.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is available at most grocery stores for around $3-$5 per pound.

CLR Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover

CLR is a commercial-grade cleaning product designed to remove mineral deposits like calcium, lime, and other water stains.

  • It uses lactic acid to break down the stains on contact.
  • For use on glass, spray CLR directly on the stained surface and let it sit for at least 5 minutes before wiping clean with a damp cloth.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • CLR is powerful on tough stains, but test in an inconspicuous spot first, as acidic cleaners can damage some surfaces.

CLR Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover can be purchased online or at most hardware stores for around $16 for a pack of 28 oz bottles.

Lemon Juice

Like vinegar, lemon juice contains acidic citric acid that works to dissolve hard water stains on glass.

  • Simply cut a lemon in half and rub the cut side directly onto the stained glass surface.
  • Let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing clean.
  • The natural acidity in lemon juice will help break down those stubborn spots and rings.
  • For larger surface areas, juice lemons into a spray bottle and spritz onto the glass before scrubbing.

Real lemons or ReaLemon 100% Lemon Juice in a bottle (available on Amazon) works well for around $3.50 per bottle.

Bar Keeper’s Friend

Bar Keeper’s Friend is a powdered cleanser that contains oxalic acid, which is effective at removing rust, mineral deposits, and other tough stains.

  • Make a paste by mixing Bar Keeper’s Friend powder with water and apply it to the glass with a soft cloth.
  • Let it set for a few minutes before scrubbing the paste over the stains.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Bar Keeper’s Friend is safe for most glass surfaces but test in an inconspicuous area first.

Bar Keeper’s Friend Cleanser can be found online and in stores for around $7 per 21 oz canister.

Distilled White Vinegar Soak

For a no-scrubbing approach, try soaking the stained glass in undiluted distilled white vinegar.

  • Place the glass in a bowl or basin filled with enough vinegar to submerge the stained area.
  • For shower doors, spray on vinegar generously and let sit.
  • Soak for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours for heavy stains.
  • The acetic acid in the vinegar will work to naturally dissolve the mineral deposits over time.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water.

Use Heinz Distilled White Vinegar for the soak method.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another mild acid that can help remove built up hard water stains on glass.

  • Dip a soft cloth into a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water and rub it onto the stained glass surface.
  • Let it bubble on the glass for 5-10 minutes before rinsing clean with warm water.
  • Be gentle when scrubbing, as hydrogen peroxide can slightly etch glass over time with excessive use.

Any household 3% hydrogen peroxide solution will work for this method.

Steam Cleaner

A steam cleaner like a handheld garment steamer can be an effective tool for removing hardened mineral deposits from glass surfaces.

  • The steam helps loosen the stains and make them easier to wipe away.
  • Apply steam directly to the glass and let it penetrate the stain for 30 seconds.
  • Wipe with a soft cloth, microfiber towel, or scrubbing pad.
  • Repeat until the stains are removed.

The Wagner Spraytech Handheld Steamer available on Amazon for $34.98 is a good appliance for steam cleaning glass.

Razor Blade Scraper

For thin hard water stain films on glass, a single edge razor blade scraper can remove the mineral residue.

  • Carefully scrape the length of the glass with the razor blade held at a 45 degree angle.
  • Continually wipe away any residue with a damp cloth as you scrape.
  • Be cautious not to apply too much pressure and scratch the glass.

Single edge Stanley razor blades available on Amazon provide an inexpensive scraper option.

Preventing Future Hard Water Stain Buildup

Once you get your glass sparkling clean again, there are steps you can take to prevent a recurrence of hard water stains in the future:

  • Install water softening systems or use water softening showerheads. This will reduce the amount of minerals in the water, limiting opportunities for them to be left behind. Products like the Culligan WSH-C125 Wall-MountFiltered Shower Head, available on Amazon for $26.99 can help.
  • Utilize a squeegee on shower doors after each use to wipe off remaining water droplets before they have a chance to dry and evaporate on the glass. The H2O HD Clear Shower Door Squeegee, available on Amazon for $12.97 is designed specifically for shower doors.
  • Improve bathroom ventilation and humidity levels. This will help control moisture and limit hard water spotting. Consider using a dehumidifier like the hOmeLabs Small Dehumidifier available on Amazon for $99.97.
  • Rinse and hand dry drinking glasses after each use. Don’t let water sit and air dry.
  • Apply a protective coating like Rain-X to glass surfaces. This will cause water to bead up and roll off the glass rather than pool and evaporate. Rain-X Original Glass Water Repellent Treatment, available on Amazon for $5.97 works well.
  • Clean glass surfaces frequently using a vinegar, lemon juice, or hydrogen peroxide solution to prevent mineral buildup.

With a little effort and the right cleaning methods, it is possible to remove unsightly hard water stains from glass surfaces. Try some of these solutions to restore your shower doors, drinking glasses, mirrors and windows to a like-new sparkling condition again. Consistent prevention habits can also help minimize recurring issues with hard water glass staining in the future.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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