Limescale on your taps can be a big, ugly problem, especially when left untreated over an extended period of time. In fact, those chalky, scaly limescale deposits can get everywhere, from kettle elements to shower screens and harder-to-reach places like the inside of pipes and your washing machine.
It not only looks dirty, but it can damage your appliances and even make them less energy efficient. However, with the help of one or two non-toxic household remedies you can quickly get it under control. Here’s our guide to how to keep your taps clean and clear of limescale.
What is limescale?
Scientifically speaking, limescale is mostly calcium carbonate and magnesium, which builds up as a hard, chalky deposit on your taps and elsewhere. Calcium carbonate is created when calcium ions in hard water react with carbonate ions. It’s usually left behind in your pipes by hard water (water with a high mineral count) when it evaporates – and we live on a particularly chalky, limestone-rich little island here in the UK. If you live in the South or East of the UK, your water supply is most definitely mineral-rich and classed as ‘very hard water’.
In most cases, you’ll find limescale gathering on bathroom and kitchen taps, inside kettles, hot water boilers, and pipes because limescale is typically found wherever water is heated or left standing.
If you have limescale building up on taps, it could be because your tap is dripping or you need to replace the cartridge or the whole tap. If you suspect this is the case, here’s how to fix a dripping tap and how to change a kitchen tap. Either measure will help you in the battle against limescale.
What does limescale look like?
Limescale can look different in different places, it typically looks like an off-white deposit when it appears on surfaces like chrome taps or coloured plastic. However, on white surfaces like the inside of a toilet, it can look green/blue or yellow.
Is Limescale harmful?
Limescale can cause problems in your home because it builds up. If left unchecked, it can actually build up to the extent that, in extreme cases, it can block pipes, radiators, and even boilers. In fact, an average family home can create approximately 70 kg of limescale in a year!
If you don’t regularly clean limescale away, it will start to restrict the flow of water you receive from your taps and showers, and reduce the efficiency of your hot and cold water system, which could impact your utility bills.
Is limescale dangerous?
No. Limescale doesn’t compromise your health. Limescale is in essence a build-up of the essential minerals calcium and magnesium, which are contained in mineral water. Calcium carbonate is also the main component of eggshells. The worst limescale can do is potentially dry out your skin if you live in a hard water area, but it’s not harmful.
This means that running a tap or shower through a limescale build-up is not unsafe or harmful to you or your family. However, what limescale does do is cause blockages and cracks in pipes – check out the image below to see how bad it can get!
Is limescale costly?
Unfortunately, yes. Limescale build-up is detrimental to your water flow, appliances, pipework, taps and showers. And that means it can cost each household tens or even hundreds of pounds a year in higher heating bills, appliance maintenance and replacement costs. Here are a couple of independently run studies to back that up:
- British Water calculated that for every 1.6mm of limescale that builds up in a typical central heating system, there’s a 12% loss in heating efficiency
- The Carbon Trust reports that a 1mm layer of limescale causes a 7% increase in energy input to a household boiler to get the same heating result as a limescale-free system
In this case, it’s easy to see that limescale build-up could increase the average household’s energy costs by around £200 per year.
Does limescale look bad?
The other issue with visible limescale on the outside of appliances, pipes and taps is that it can make your bathroom and kitchen look dirty and old. We know that you take pride in the way your home looks, so the last thing you want after spending thousands on a new bathroom, kitchen or utility room is for it to start to look dilapidated.
How to clean limescale
Limescale is easier to clean than you may think – and you can get the job done with tried and trusted natural, homemade solutions.
What you need to remove limescale
As the following natural ingredients are drying, you’ll need to wear washing-up gloves.
- Real lemon juice from cut-up lemons
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Bathroom cleaner
- Elastic bands
- Cotton wool
- Old and clean cloths
- Spray bottle
How to remove limescale from taps
White vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and lemon are your best bets for removing limescale from taps. Use lemon juice if your limescale is thick and stubborn-looking.
1. Soak the spout in lemon juice or vinegar overnight
a) Find a large enough container like a bottle top or cap to fill with lemon juice or vinegar.
b) Position the cap around the spout so it’s submerged in the liquid.
c) Use tape or an elastic band to fix the cap in place, then leave it overnight.
2. Wrap vinegar/lemon juice-soaked cotton wool around the upper parts of your tap
a) Soak cotton wool or cloth in either white vinegar or lemon juice.
b) Wrap the cotton wool or cloth around your taps.
c) Secure it in place with an elastic band and leave for a couple of hours or overnight, depending on the amount of limescale there is.
How to remove limescale from your pipes or drains
As you might expect, this task will take a little longer than cleaning the taps because the limescale in your pipes isn’t within your sight, so you’ll need to devote more time to it.
1. Mix 8 litres of white vinegar with 1 cup of baking soda per drain – this could be your kitchen, bath, or basin drain.
2. Empty your pipes – do this by turning off your mains water at the stopcock (usually under the kitchen sink) and then running all your taps dry.
3. If you have a pop-up waste plug, remove it for now.
4. Put the baking soda into each drain.
5. Now slowly pour in the vinegar.
6. Leave it for 3-4 hours.
7. Pour boiling water quickly down the drain afterwards to remove any grease, soap or leftover limescale.
How to remove limescale from the toilet
We recommend you use vinegar to remove limescale stains from the toilet bowl. There are a number of ways to do it:
For small or light areas of limescale:
1. Mix vinegar with water 50/50 in a spray bottle
2. Spray the mixture onto the built-up stain
3. Now brush it away
If your limescale coverage is thicker:
1. Get an entire bottle of white vinegar and pour it over and around the bowl
2. Leave it to work overnight.
3. In the morning, scrub any leftover limescale deposits away with your toilet brush.
4. Spray the mixture onto the rim and scrub with your brush.
5. If you have super-thick patches of limescale on the bowl, people have been known to use sandpaper. But DON’T press down too hard with the paper as you may damage the bowl.
Top tip: 2 litres of cola
For harder-to-reach limescale, you can also use any brand of Cola. It contains phosphoric acid which naturally breaks down limescale.
1. Pour a 2-litre bottle of cola into the toilet.
2. Leave for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.
3. Clean and flush your toilet and it should be sparkling clean.
How to remove limescale from a showerhead
A tell-tale sign that your shower handset is clogged with limescale is all the tiny water jets going in different directions. Lemon juice works best to sort out shower heads, particularly if you have a chrome shower handset:
1. Remove the shower head from the plumbing and place it in a washing-up bowl, or a similar-sized bucket or pan.
2. Now fill the bowl with warm water – enough to submerge the shower head.
3. Mix a solution of 1 part water with 1 part lemon juice – make sure it’s freshly squeezed lemons for maximum effectiveness.
4. Place the shower head in the bowl and leave it to soak for 20-30 minutes.
5. Now take out the shower head and rinse it under the tap, using a small brush to slough off any stubborn limescale.
What to do if you have a fixed showerhead
Don’t worry – you can put the lemon solution in a small plastic bag and tie it around the showerhead with an elastic band, making sure it’s immersed.
How to stop limescale from building up
The No.1 best thing you can do is to clean and dry taps and surfaces after each use to prevent a build-up. This makes it difficult for limescale to gather.
We’re on our way
If you have a problem with your pipes, drains, radiators or central heating system, our nationwide team of professionals is ready to help you by repairing it, even if it’s just a one-off. We also offer plumbing and drainage cover, so any pipe bursts, cracks or damage to drains won’t get in the way of your smooth-running household.
Limescale removal FAQs
How do you remove limescale from chrome taps?
Soak your chrome taps in lemon juice. Be careful not to use vinegar if you have chrome or gold-plated taps because it can damage the finish.
How do you get rid of thick limescale?
Lemon juice is best for getting rid of thick, crusted limescale as it’s the strongest natural remedy.
Does cola remove limescale?
Cola contains phosphoric acid which naturally breaks down limescale. Pour a 2-litre bottle of any brand of cola (but not diet cola) that’s deep in a toilet bowl and leave overnight.