How to Clean Lime Scale and Calcium Build Up
We've all been there. You go to take a shower and the spray nozzle is caked with calcium and lime. The water can't even get through the holes so you have to run around in your shower just to get wet!. Or how about waking up in the morning at the crack of dark, then starting your coffee pot that refuses to work right. I kid you not, my coffee pot got so bad with build up last month that it was taking a full 2 hours to brew an entire pot!!
So what is a person to do? According to the US Geological Survey, 85% of water in the US is considered hard water and if you live in the Midwest, you are among the hardest water in the country. Aside from installing a water softener, which will help prevent hard water problems, what can you do to get rid of those pesky problems?
There are plenty of cleaners out there on the market that will get those shower heads running like new again. However, when you look at the instructions and it tells you to wear gloves and a mask, immediately you should be suspicious. Especially if you have pets or kids, do you really want to be exposing them to those chemical fumes in the house? And what are these chemicals doing to our watershed? They have to go somewhere after you wash them down the pipes!
- Lemon - One of the best ways to get rid of calcium is to use an acid. When I taught in the classroom, one of my favorite labs to do with the kids was the calcite test on rocks. In learning about the properties of rocks and minerals, we learned that several white minerals can look very similar. Scienitists in the field will often carry small bottles of dilute hydrochloric acid and use a few drops on a rock and watch for bubbles which indicates the presence of carbonate minerals such as calcite. In the classroom, we modeled this test by using a much "friendlier" acid such as lemon. Basically, it causes a chemical reaction with the calcite. Since the acid in lemon will cause that reaction, it is one of the easiest, and cheapest nontoxic ways to remove calcium or limescale build up.
- soak a rag or a few paper towels in lemon juice then wrap the faucet in the rag, secure with rubber bands and let sit for an hour
- remove the shower head and soak in a bowl of lemon juice for an hour
- cut a lemon in half and rub all over water spots on the faucet and fixtures, then wipe clean with a microfiber cloth
- Vinegar - Another cheap method of removing calcium build up which can be used with the same methods above. Vinegar works in much the same way because it, again, is just another acid. It is slightly less acidic than lemon juice, but will do the job pretty much in the same way. White vinegar is usually called for in cleaning automatic drip coffee pots.
- fill the water resevoir of the coffee pot with vinegar and run it through without a filter
- run clean water through the coffee pot two more times to remove the vinegar and calcium residue
- wipe down the entire coffee pot and any spots you can access inside with a microfiber cloth
- Soda - This is another cheap trick I found on the web that many people claim will work wonders on your toilet. In order to do so effectively, and especially if the stains in your toilet are pretty bad, you will want to let it sit for quite a while (several hours to overnight depending on how bad it is).
- turn off the water to the toilet and remove several scoops of water from the toilet
- pour the soda in the toilet enough to cover the stains and let sit for several hours (or overnight if you can)
- clean the tank with a toilet brush or if the stains are really bad you can rub a pumice stone (make sure you use the pumice stone below the water line so you don't scratch the porceline)
While all of the above methods are cheap, effective, and nontoxic, one problem I noticed with every method is the amount of time you are required to let them sit. I am a very busy mom and letting things sit for an hour means I will either a)forget about it and not get it cleaned all the way or b)decide I don't have the time and just let it go until it's really bad (seems to be my standard M.O.)
If you want a method that is both nontoxic AND does not require hours of soaking, follow this link to my Sassy Direct blog where I tell you about the best cleaner I've ever used. (That article contains information about purchasing a product from which I will recieve a commission.)
How do you deal with your calcium build up? Comment below then join the conversation in my Facebook group for more tips.