The Dirty Truth
The most common place for hard water stains to develop quickly is in the bathrooms, where we run lots of water. They often begin their miserable lives as a thin, powdery looking film on plastic, glass and porcelain surfaces. This residue results from the reaction between soap and the minerals in the water. If there's also a lot of iron in your water, you may notice some slime which appears to be tinted red. Copper and brass often develop blue or green residue from acidic components present in some tap water.
Since water use isn't confined to the bathrooms, you can expect other hard water disasters in the kitchen and laundry room. Appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washing machines are subject to developing hard water stains on any of their surfaces that come into contact with hard water. These easy spot removal remedies are safe for all afflicted fixtures and appliances.
Water Spot Removal
What a lot of people just don't realize is that simple soap and water is not going to remove water spots resulting from mineral residue. In fact, soap really only serves to make the stains more difficult to remove, because it combines with those minerals to create stubborn scale.
Fortunately, you can fight back with simple household chemistry, and do it on the cheap. You likely already have everything you'll need for your water spot removal arsenal. Arm yourself with non-abrasive scrubbies, an old toothbrush, empty plastic spray bottles, lemon juice, white vinegar, salt, baking soda, shampoo, and car wax.
Spritz water spots generously with white vinegar, which contains acetic acid. This will begin to soften and loosen the hard water and soap scum buildup. Let it set for five minutes and check to make sure it hasn't dried. If it has, spritz again. Repeat after five minutes more, if need be, for a total of 15 minutes soaking in the vinegar. Now scour the spots with a non-abrasive scrubby, and use an old toothbrush to scrub hard-to reach places. Rinse thoroughly with very hot water, and dry immediately with soft towels.
If any staining remains, grab the lemon juice and repeat the process.
Should even lemon juice fail to finish the job, it's time to play hardball. Combine equal parts salt and baking soda, and add a few drops of water to make a thick paste. The baking soda will work to lighten the hard water stains, while the salt serves as a harmless, mild abrasive. Smear the paste generously onto the water spots and allow it to set for about 20 minutes. Attack vigorously with the scrubby, rinse and dry.
For simple soap scum, all you need to do is spread a light coating of shampoo over it and tackle with scrubby and toothbrush. Shampoo is great for breaking down the oils that combine with soap to create that nasty scum.
An Ounce of Prevention
Since fiberglass and plastic seem to suffer the most water spot stains, it only makes good sense to go just a little further with some preventive medicine. Good old car wax is a natural for this. All you need to do is apply a coat of your favorite wax according to the packaging instructions to your freshly cleaned and dried fixtures, and buff it off per the instructions. This simple solution borders on the miraculous for repelling a significant amount of water spots.
A quick daily maintenance touch-up will go a long way toward keeping those nasty water spots at bay. Mix equal parts distilled water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Use distilled water if at all possible, because it contains none of the minerals present in the tap water that are causing your woes to begin with. Spritz the cleaning solution onto the problem surfaces, rinse with hot water and dry completely to fend off spotting.