How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Glass

Hard water stains on glass surfaces like shower doors, windows, drinking glasses, and mirrors can be annoying. Not only are they unsightly, but they can also be difficult to remove if left for too long. With some effort and using the right techniques, you can learn how to remove hard water stains from glass and restore it to a spotless shine.

What Causes Hard Water Stains on Glass?

Hard water contains a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium. When hard water evaporates, it leaves behind white residue or spots on surfaces. On a glass surface, these minerals bind tightly and can etch into the glass over time, leaving unsightly stains and affecting clarity.

The main culprits that cause hard water stains on glass are:

  • Calcium carbonate – This mineral makes up limescale deposits.
  • Magnesium – High magnesium content in hard water contributes to stains.
  • Silicates – Silica in hard water also leaves marks on glass.
  • Other trace minerals – Iron, manganese, zinc, and copper in water can also stain.

Areas with hard water are more prone to glass staining problems. The hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg) or parts per million (ppm) of calcium carbonate. Typically:

  • 0-3 gpg is considered soft water.
  • 3-6 gpg is moderately hard water.
  • 6-9 gpg is hard water.
  • 9-12 gpg is very hard water.

The higher the gpg, the more minerals deposit on glass surfaces when the water evaporates.

How to Remove Light Hard Water Stains from Glass

For light hard water stains that have accumulated over a short period, you can use simple homemade remedies to remove them:

White Vinegar

White vinegar is mildly acidic and helps dissolve mineral deposits.

How to use:

  • Spray undiluted white vinegar directly onto the glass surface.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the vinegar to work on the stains.
  • Wipe off with a microfiber cloth or scrub with a non-scratch scouring pad.
  • Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth.

Repeat if needed for stubborn stains. The acetic acid in vinegar easily removes water spots without streaking.

Lemon Juice

Like vinegar, lemon juice contains citric acid that removes light hard water stains.

How to use:

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice directly onto the stained area. You can also mix equal parts lemon juice and water.
  • Let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
  • Wipe clean with a soft cloth and rinse.

Use lemon slices to rub off stubborn spots. Rinse and dry well afterwards. The natural acidity in lemon lifts off the mineral deposits easily.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a mild abrasive that scrubs off the stains without scratching.

How to use:

  • Make a paste of baking soda and water.
  • Apply the paste onto the stained glass surface with a soft cloth.
  • Gently rub in circular motions to lift the hard water marks.
  • Rinse with water and dry with a microfiber towel.

For tough stains, let the paste sit for some time before scrubbing to loosen the deposits. Baking soda dissolves the minerals without damaging the glass.

Dish Soap

Regular dish soap combined with some water can help get rid of light etching and stains from glass.

How to:

  • Mix a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid in warm water.
  • Using a soft sponge, gently scrub the solution onto the stained area.
  • Wipe off with a clean microfiber towel and rinse thoroughly.

The surfactants in the dish soap will lift up the minerals so you can wash them away easily.

Removing Stubborn Hard Water Stains from Glass

For more stubborn stains that persist longer, try these methods:


A borax solution helps dissolve tough mineral deposits. It acts as a cleansing booster.

How to use:

  • Make a paste with 1 tablespoon borax powder and 1 cup warm water.
  • Apply the paste onto stained areas and let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Scrub with a soft bristle brush, wipe clean and rinse thoroughly.

For extrastubborn stains, rub with borax powder before making the paste to help lift the stain. Rinse well after cleaning.

Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is stronger than regular vinegar for removing stubborn etching and calcium deposits.

How to:

  • Fill a spray bottle with undiluted distilled white vinegar.
  • Liberally spray onto the stained glass surface.
  • Allow 10-15 minutes for the vinegar to work before wiping off.
  • Scrub gently with a non-abrasive sponge if needed.
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry using a lint free cloth.

Repeat for very old hard water stains. The high acidity in distilled vinegar dissolves the mineral buildup.

CLR Cleaner

CLR or other calcium, lime, and rust removers are formulated to dissolve tough mineral deposits.

How to use:

  • Spray the CLR cleaner directly onto the stained glass surface.
  • Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
  • Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Check the label instructions for optimal use. The powerful formula helps remove even old etched-in hard water stains.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

You can combine baking soda and vinegar for a fizzing effect that breaks down stubborn stains faster.

How to:

  • Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to the stain.
  • Spray undiluted white vinegar over it. The acidity in vinegar reacts with alkaline baking soda to fizz away the stain.
  • Let the fizzing action sit for a few minutes before wiping clean with a soft cloth.
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry.

The combined effect of abrasion and acidity helps dissolve tough mineral buildup on glass.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Shower Doors

Shower doors with hard water stains can look permanently etched and foggy. With some scrubbing, the glass can be restored to a crystal clear look.

Use a Hard Water Stain Remover

Specialized hard water stain removers are formulated to dissolve and loosen mineral deposits from shower doors.

How to:

  • Apply the remover onto stained glass and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes.
  • Scrub with a non-scratching sponge or brush.
  • Wipe off using a squeegee or soft cloth.
  • Rinse thoroughly.

Don’t let the remover dry on the glass. Wipe in sections and rinse well after cleaning.

Clean with White Vinegar

The acetic acid in vinegar eats away at the hard water deposits on shower doors.


  • In a spray bottle, mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water.
  • Liberally spray onto the glass door and let soak for 15 minutes.
  • Scrub with a plastic bristle brush or sponge using circular motions.
  • Squeeze or wipe off the vinegar. Rinse thoroughly.

For better results, fill a bucket with the vinegar solution and use a sponge to scrub off the stains.

Use Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

The combined acidity of lemon juice and abrasion from baking soda helps scrub the glass clean.

How to:

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto stained areas.
  • Sprinkle baking soda onto the lemon juice.
  • Let the mixture fizz for 2-3 minutes.
  • Scrub with a soft sponge or brush.
  • Rinse and squeegee dry.

The citric acid and abrasive action remove soap scum and water stains from shower doors.

Try Magic Eraser

Melamine foam magic erasers are mildly abrasive and lift off hard water stains with minimal scrubbing.

How to:

  • Wet the stained glass surface.
  • Gently rub a magic eraser sponge on the stains.
  • Wipe off residue and rinse well.
  • Dry with a squeegee or lint-free cloth.

Take care not to rub too hard as melamine can lightly scratch glass. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Removing Hard Water Spots from Windows

Windows exposed to hard water will eventually get etched and stained. Here’s how to get rid of the stubborn spots:

Clean with Vinegar

Full strength white vinegar easily dissolves the mineral deposits on windows.


  • Fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar.
  • Liberally spray over the stained window glass.
  • Allow to soak for 10 minutes before wiping off with a microfiber cloth.
  • Scrub gently with a plastic bristle brush for tough stains.
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry using a lint-free cloth.

Repeat for heavily stained windows or mineral deposits that have built up for years.

Use Lemon Juice

The citric acid in lemon juice cuts through the limescale and calcium on windows.

How to:

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice into a spray bottle diluted with some water.
  • Mist the solution onto the stained glass and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Wipe off with a soft cloth.
  • For stubborn stains, use lemon slices to rub on the spots before scrubbing and rinsing.

The natural bleaching effect of lemon also cleans grime and residue from windows.

Make a Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda gently scrubs off hard water stains without damaging the glass.

To use:

  • Make a paste of baking soda and water.
  • Using a soft cloth, rub the paste onto the stained window. Let it sit briefly.
  • Wipe in circular motions to remove the water spots and residue.
  • Rinse and dry the window well.

For better results, dry buff the glass after cleaning to restore clarity.

Try Commercial Glass Cleaners

Look for commercial window and glass cleaners that are specifically formulated to remove tough mineral deposits and stains.

How to:

  • Apply the cleaner directly onto stained windows.
  • Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes. This allows the active ingredients to work on the deposits.
  • Wipe off with a lint-free microfiber cloth.
  • Follow up by rinsing thoroughly to prevent streaks.

Check the product label for proper use on glass and windows.

Removing Hard Water Stains from Drinking Glasses

Over time, drinking glasses exposed to hard water will develop stubborn staining and etching. Use these methods to make them look crystal clear again:

Clean with Vinegar

The mildly acidic white vinegar easily removes stains from drinking glasses.

How to:

  • Fill glasses with undiluted white vinegar and let soak for 30 minutes to an hour. For tough stains, soak overnight.
  • Swirl the vinegar around to dissolve deposits.
  • Wash as normal in warm soapy water.

The vinegar soak followed by washing makes drinking glasses shine.

Use Denture Cleaners

Denture cleaning tablets contain an effervescent cleansing agent that breaks down mineral deposits.

How to:

  • Fill drinking glasses with water and add 1-2 denture cleaning tablets.
  • Let the glasses soak overnight allowing the solution to work.
  • Drain out the solution in the morning and rinse thoroughly.
  • Wash glasses normally with dish soap.

The extended soak time ensures all hard water stains are removed.

Make a Baking Soda Paste

The gentle abrasive effect of baking soda removes etching from glassware.


  • Add some warm water to baking soda to make a spreadable paste.
  • Using a soft cloth or sponge, rub the paste all over the stained drinking glass.
  • Let it sit briefly before rinsing and washing the glass normally.

For tough stains, dry buff the paste over the glass to maximize abrasion before rinsing.

Use Cream of Tartar

The acidity in cream of tartar cuts through mineral deposits on glass.

How to:

  • Make a paste using 2 tbsp cream of tartar and some water.
  • Apply the paste onto drinking glasses using a soft cloth.
  • Let it soak for 10-15 minutes before rinsing and washing the glasses.

For extra action against tough stains, scrub gently after letting the paste soak in.

Tips for Preventing Hard Water Stains on Glass

Once you clean the glass and remove the stains, follow these tips to prevent a recurrence:

  • Use a water softener to reduce mineral content if you live in a hard water area.
  • Dry glass surfaces immediately after use to avoid water evaporation stains.
  • Use a squeegee on shower doors after bathing to wipe off residual water.
  • Add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar in the rinse water when hand washing glassware. This prevents spotting.
  • Avoid using harsh cleaners that contain bleach, ammonia or abrasives. Stick to gentle cleaning methods.
  • Polish glass occasionally with a commercial glass cleaner or vinegar solution. This helps prevent mineral buildup.
  • Install water filtration systems on showerheads and faucets to minimize exposure to hard water minerals.

How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Glass: Summary

Hard water stains on glass like shower doors, mirrors, windows and drinking glasses can look permanently etched. However, with some scrubbing using natural acids like vinegar or lemon juice combined with mild abrasives like baking soda, the glass can be restored to a sparkling finish. For really tough mineral deposits, let cleaners like CLR or borax sit to dissolve the stains before scrubbing and rinsing.

The key steps are:

  • Identify the stained glass surface – shower doors, windows, mirrors or drinking glasses.
  • Inspect severity of the hard water stain etching.
  • Choose a suitable cleaning method based on stain intensity.
  • Soak in vinegar, lemon juice or cleaning solutions to dissolve deposits.
  • Scrub gently with non-abrasive pads or soft cloth.
  • Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
  • Repeat cleaning if necessary for stubborn stains.
  • Prevent recurrence by drying glass well and using water softening solutions.

With some perseverance and using the right stain removal techniques, the stubborn hard water spots can be removed from glass surfaces, restoring their clarity and shine.