Get my throne shining again.
January 10, 2010 11:44 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get the calcium deposit ring off my toilet bowl?

Like many people with hard water, we have a toilet which has developed a creepy-looking ring of mineral deposits at the water line, which means the toilet never looks clean. I'd like to get this off in the easiest way possible. My mother told me she uses a big pumice stone to scratch it off, which seems like the most labor-intensive solution imaginable.

I'd obviously rather choose a course that does not involve chemicals that have the potential to damage our plumbing or bowl, but beyond that I'm open to anything. Bonus points for things that are environmentally friendly (yes, I recognize that I probably am not going to get any more environmentally friendly than scratching the gunk off with a pumice stone).
posted by crinklebat to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Cut off the water supply to the refill tank, flush, and add a gallon of white vinegar to the bowl. Go slowly, so you don't force a flush, and stop when you get to the mineral line.

Allow it to soak overnight, at least.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:50 PM on January 10, 2010

White vinegar will work.

There are spray cleaners which contain citric acid. That works a lot better than you might expect. (And it smells better than vinegar.)

The problem with using a pumice stone is that it can damage the glaze.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:54 PM on January 10, 2010

I dump a capfull of the condensed Simple Green into the bowl and let it sit for a couple minutes, and then attack the icky line with the stiffest toilet brush I could find at the store, dunking occasionally to get more Simple Green on the brush. If I've let it gunk up for too long, I'll put on a pair of rubber gloves and scrub it away with one of those steel wool pads. It really doesn't take too much muscle to get rid of it.
posted by Mizu at 11:55 PM on January 10, 2010

Pure citric acid will do the trick and is environment and septic friendly. You can get it from for a song.
posted by bizwank at 12:06 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know the pumice stone sounds labor-intensive, but seriously: try it. It's insane. I'm serious, crap just flies off with those things; I've tried using them with vinegar and even hard chemicals, but the chemicals almost always make no difference because the pumice stone is so fast.

I really can't recommend the things highly enough. I've even had deep-set stains scrub off in, like, thirty seconds. Give it a go - I know for a fact you'll be sort of amazed. And I also guarantee it'll be a hell of a lot easier than trying to use vinegar or anything like that.

I've had some nasty toilets, but I've never had to scrub with a pumice stone for more than thirty seconds in one place to get anything that would every come off to disappear. You'll find this is ridiculously satisfying, believe me. There is no end to the love I have for pumice stone.
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 AM on January 11, 2010

Also, don't use a big one - that would be a big unwieldy. I use one of these. It's seriously replaced the whole scrub-brush/Ajax thing in my toilet because it's just so much easier with the pumice stone.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 AM on January 11, 2010

Chocolate Pickle: “The problem with using a pumice stone is that it can damage the glaze.”

Not if you're using it on a toilet, and if you've chosen the proper grade of pumice stone. You can get pumice stone that's too hard for cleaning ceramic; but most pumice stones for cleaning are graded properly, and won't damage the enamel.

It's always good to test first, but I've never met a toilet that was damaged by the pumice stone I use.
posted by koeselitz at 1:05 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've recommended Kilrock-K before. It's only available in the UK to my knowledge, but you can probably find a similar formic acid based descaler (~50% concentration) from a plumbing supply place where you live. It's fairly environmentally friendly. Speed-wise it's like putting water on a wicked witch.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:03 AM on January 11, 2010

Nthing the pumice stick. I used one to remove the most horrendous toilet ring I've ever seen... this one WAS labor-intensive but it was so bad I had feared the toilet would have to be replaced, so scrubbing at it for probably close to a couple hours total felt like getting off easy.

I also used one of those limescale cleaners along with the pumice. To keep the chemical full-strength against the upper areas of the ring, I drained the bowl, soaked paper towels in the cleaner and plastered them to the sides of the bowl against the ring. Let soften for awhile, then attack with pumice. It really seemed to help, and the method would probably work using vinegar as suggested above.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:42 AM on January 11, 2010

Pumice stone works at my house. The one I use comes on a stick and cleans up the line in less than a minute.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:34 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have personal experience with it, but I've seen CLR advertised on TV.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:12 AM on January 11, 2010

Nthing pumice stone/stick. You can buy them at stores like Rite Aid, Orchard Supply Hardware, Ace Hardware, and sometimes Target (Target, I find, is spotty on stocking certain items like this; sometimes they'll carry something for months, then not stock it for a few years, then bring the exact same item back again. There's no rhyme or reason to it.). A stick should cost you less than $5.00 and last for at least half a dozen toilet cleanings, usually more.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:18 AM on January 11, 2010

Efferdent on a regular basis to keep this from recurring.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2010

Oh, and Coke. Let it sit for an hour, then scrub.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:29 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

What will work best: Anti-scaling agents like CLR.

What will also work quite well: any mild acid solution like vinegar or citric acid. Heck cola will work too (phosphoric acid, pH ~ 4), but then you've got sugar everywhere.

What will work, but make you wish it hadn't: Abrasive cleaners like Ajax cleanser and pumice pastes. Can damage the porcelain finish, require a lot of elbow grease

What won't work: degreasers like Simple Green, ammonia-based cleaners (Windex), soap

What also really won't work: basic pipe cleaners like Plumber's helper.
posted by bonehead at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

...And the other answers are completely correct: let the chemical sit in the toilet for at least a few hours, the longer the better. It takes a while, but the effort level is minimal. The occasional swish with a toilet brush doesn't hurt either.
posted by bonehead at 7:56 AM on January 11, 2010

I've never had luck on calcium with lemon/vinegar, so I typically use C-L-R which is basically hydrochloric acid. If you want to go all Homer Simpson there are more serious remedies available in any pool supply store (basically concentrated acids and scale removers) but ventilation and safety become issues here.
posted by crapmatic at 8:06 AM on January 11, 2010

You can buy food safe descaler at refrigeration supply places and probably restaurant supply places. It's used to descale ice makers and works very well while still being safe for plumbing.
posted by Mitheral at 9:59 AM on January 11, 2010

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