help! how do i remove hard water stains from a toilet?


Here’s a new one for us. Luke writes:

“I have tried everything but nothing worked. How do you remove those hard water stains inside your toilet?”

We’re not exactly sure what constitutes “everything,’ but a little online sleuthing did lead us to some forums and articles on removing those stains. Here’s a video that recommends draining the water from the toilet, then pouring in two two-liter bottles of cola and letting it sit for four hours to break down the stain, though a couple commenters say it didn’t work for them. There are also a lot of other videos that pop up at that link. Several sources, like this how-to guide at Reader’s Digest, suggest using The Works. Commenters at this Thrifty Fun forum suggest everything from spraying the bowl with Listerine to using an S.O.S. soap pad.

I confess this isn’t a problem I’ve had to deal with myself, so I don’t have personal experience to share. Readers, any tips for Luke? — Mary T.

From our partners

You can use a pumice stone to remove the stains.


I’ve had great luck with a chemical product called CLR (calcium, lime, rust removal). We have seriously hard water in our area and whatever CLR can’t take care of with a light spray and a scrub, it will manage with a soak. It’s in a gray bottle at most grocery stores.

Lissette S

I second the CLR. It’s cheap and easy to find at any hardware store and comes in a bright green bottle. I used it to clean a toilet in my hundred year old house that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in at least 90 years. Now it’s sparkling.

I second the pumice recommendation. I could get most of the stains out, but nothing could get the dark ring off my bowl but a pumice. Also, I learned that putting bleach on dark rings just makes them darker, so don’t use bleach to remove them. Once they are gone, go ahead and use bleach if you want.

Megan B.

my mother who is a professional housekeeper SWEARS by a combo of Kaboom cleaner and magic eraser, or pumice if magic eraser doesn’t cut it.

Carol W

I was staying at a cottage with major orange rust stains in the toilet bowl. I put Coke saturated toilet paper all around interior surfaces and poured remaining can of Coke in the water. I let it sit for an hour and then flushed. One treatment and most of the stain lifted.

Link Time! |

[…] prints to my home. – PoppyTalkLearn how to remove hard water stains from your toilet. – ShelterrificTry this tip for fixing a squeaky cabinet. – DIYLifeMake this pretty origami sphere. – […]


Go on line and look up Earthstone. This is truly a fantastic product. My husband worked for the company when they first started out and I am coming to the end of my earthstones! They are made from recycled glass so, unlike pumice, no strip mining is involved. They don’t scratch ceramic so you can use them on toilets and sinks if they are porcelain. I have seen them used on wood to sand with-they take on the shape of what you are sanding or cleaning so you get into crevices. I have even seen them used by an artist on her canvases. They are amazing. You can also crush them to use like cleanser on stainless steel pots and enamel pots. They make all different hardnesses for different jobs. Even one for your heels! Check them out. They wear down as you use them and so you rinse away the sediment. Awesome.


The pinkish stains are more likely from iron in the water than calcium or lime deposits which usually look gray. Iron Out is a great product to remove iron from the bowl and tank. It’s a powder that you add to the water, swirl around the bowl and in 20 minutes or so it’s white again. We have a lot of iron in our water and have also found out that bleach just makes it worse (especially when washing clothes.) Iron Out also works wonders on dingy linens.