Tips for living with hard water
August 26, 2013 6:10 AM   Subscribe

What simple, cheap things can we do to lessen the damaging effects of hard water on our fixtures and appliances? (Apart from installing a water softener which is not cheap or easy for our living situation.)

We are currently renovating our flat, starting with the ensuite bathroom, which has a shower. We live in London, which has notoriously hard water. Our other main bathroom (not yet renovated) has disgusting lime scale building up in the toilet rim and sink tap spout. I really want to avoid this fate for our lovely new loo.

What simple things can we do on a per use, daily, or weekly basis to keep the limescale at bay?

Answers do not have to be limited to the bathroom. For example we got a water filter jug and we only fill the kettle up from water out of this jug, which has kept the kettle in great condition.
posted by like_neon to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Vinegar: it's not just for chips anymore!

Keep a good supply of vinegar on hand at all times. It's ace at getting rid of limescale; run it through small appliances like coffee makers and hot water kettles, spray it on faucets and shower walls, wipe down your sink with a vinegar-saturated sponge.
posted by ladybird at 6:59 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Southern Water do a great factsheet water softening. Lime juice works better than vinegar and smells nicer. Calgon your washing machine often. If you have a dishwasher use 3 in 1 tabs plus the salt tray.
posted by BenPens at 7:05 AM on August 26, 2013

Vinegar is your friend, yes citrus juice is better, but vinegar is way cheaper, get a spray bottle of it.

Be prepared for soaking lots of things in vinegar to remove limescale. There is a brand here in the US called "The Works" they make a great shower spray and toilet cleaner that just cut through the limescale, not sure if it's in the UK though but look out for cleaners that say that they do that as it can make a difference, if not a spray bottle of vinegar works wonders too. I spray and wipe down our bathroom counters, sinks and taps every day with vinegar spray and a microfibre cloth while waiting for the shower to heat up. Spraying down shower walls every few days or so helps. Soak shower heads in vinegar by filling up a bag with vinegar and tying it around the head over night, saves taking it off and back on.

I throw a cup of vinegar in my diswasher before I run it as I find it helps as our dishwasher is ancient and doesn't have a salt thingy, and you will want to invest in a good rinse aid. You also might not be able to get away with cheap dishwashing tabs anymore.

Under sink water filter helped us in the kitchen then we didn't have to futz around with jugs. The set up cost like $35 bucks and is easy to install. While it didn't soften the water it cut out a lot of the gunk and makes coffee etc taste way better.

If the smell of vinegar bothers you then you can add some essential oils to it, but I find the smell goes within a few minutes and smells better than a lot of cleaners out there.
posted by wwax at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2013

Nothing to do with appliances, but after washing your hair, fill a quart sized container with water, dump in about 1/2 a cup of vinegar and then use it as a final rinse on your hair. It makes a huge difference it how your hair looks and behaves. Just make sure to keep your eyes closed, or it will sting.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:47 AM on August 26, 2013

We (also in London) use Bath Power as a regular bathroom cleaner and it's pretty good at preventing limescale build up - whenever we've switched away and started using other cleaners I can see the difference in a few weeks. Other brands marketed as specifically combating limescale may also be as good. Viakal is very good for getting rid of any limescale that has already built up.
posted by *becca* at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2013

For the high-powered de-scalers, try a bunch of different products. Which one is effective for you will depend on the exact chemistry of your water. (CLR worked best for me in Upstate NY, but Limeaway is what's doing the trick for me in WI.) You should not scrub at scale or stains; scrubbing will just tire you out and ruin your brushes and sponges. Spray it or sponge it on, let it sit, and if the scale or stains don't just wipe away, then try a different product. (Rinse with lots of water between products, obviously!)
posted by BrashTech at 8:57 AM on August 26, 2013

I moved to London from up north, and I was innocent to the horrors of limescale. I too use a lot of vinegar now.

Put orange peel into your bottle of vinegar, and leave to steep for a couple of weeks, and you will have orange smelling vinegar, which makes your house smell slightly less like a chippy. I've found that once the orange peel vinegar is used up, you can refill the bottle with fresh vinegar, and steep again (you can't get the peel out once it's in there).

I often put white vinegar in the conditioner section of my washing machine, especially when I'm doing towels and the cat beds. I think it helps.

To get limescale off tap spouts, soak a wadge of paper towels in vinegar, wrap them round the tap, then put a plastic bag over the whole lot to hold the towels in place. Tie it on with an elastic band or string. Leave it for a few hours or overnight and it should mostly be cleaned up. The same technique works for other things you can't easily submerge in vinegar.

But yeah, vinegar for everything. I even put a big glug of it in the mop bucket with the detergent when I'm doing the floors.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:06 AM on August 26, 2013

After every shower: squeegee all the glass, chamois everything else. No build-up.

You think London water is hard? LOL! Come try Swiss water. A real Alp dissolved in every drop! Seriously, I'm convinced, the Teutonic reputation about cleaning is entirely due to the simple fact that here, with hard water, things aren't "clean" just because you put water on it.
posted by Goofyy at 9:57 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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