How to remove hard water stains from glass: 9 ways to make streaks disappear

If you're sick of smears and chalky spots, this is how to remove hard water stains from glass, including drinkware, shower screens, mirrors, and more

A colorful modern bathroom with blue metro tiling and terrazzo wall tile decor
(Image credit: Crosswater)

If you're spotting streaks and marks on your shower screens or heaven forbid, wine glasses... you need to know how to remove hard water stains from glass asap. 

While living in a hard water area has some benefits (ie: better-tasting, mineral-fortified H2O), calcium deposits can show up on shower screens, mirrors, vases, and drinking vessels. But, that doesn't mean you need to start throwing out, and replacing your goblets and hi-balls.

Even if the best dishwasher isn't immune to this mineral muck... So when you're unloading your appliance, don't be surprised to see that your glass containers are decorated with limescale, no matter how intensive the wash program. And don't get us started on the bathroom. From shower screens to mirrors, who'd have thought we spend nearly as much time removing lime.

Clever ways to remove hard water stains from glass

Thankfully, getting rid of these smudges is super easy. And while you can use the best cleaning supplies, there are budget-friendly, non-toxic methods that'll make these dull stripes disappear. And the good news is that you probably already have these at home, in your fridge or pantry cupboard.

These clever ways to get rid of hard water stains on glass are pretty affordable and accessible. But, if you do experience constant issues with scaled surfaces, you might want to invest in a longer-term solution like a domestic water softening system.

Equipment list

1. Microfiber cloths: a cleaning essential
2. White vinegar:
get a gallon for cleaning and cooking
3. Lemon juice: make the job easy peasy lemon squeezy
4. Table salt:
Normal sodium will do
5. A reusable spray bottle:
for making a DIY cleaner
6. Rinse aid:
speeds up the dishwasher drying process
8. Eco-friendly cleaner:
we like Method's plant-based all-purpose cleaner
9. Dish soap: we like Mrs. Meyer's in Lemon Verbena
10. Scrub Daddy (optional): use this scratch-free scourer
11. A melamine sponge: we like Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
: the big blast, multi-purpose product covers large shower screens
13. Toothpaste: try cheap 2-pack from Colgate
14. Shaving cream: this Gilette foam is super cheap
15. A scrub brush: Lift off lime with this or use an old toothbrush
16. A water softening machine (optional)

1. Vinegar and lemon juice

If you're hosting and grabbing a cold drink for a guest, no one wants to serve their friends and family dirty-looking glasses. So give your loved ones a drinking vessel that's nothing short of gleaming.

Using a diluted acetic or citric acid solution will counter the alkaline calcium on your glass cups. While these terms might sound a bit chemically, cleaning with vinegar and lemon juice is Mother Nature's cleaner to clear up those cloudy imperfections. According to industry experts, distilled malt vinegar is the one ingredient you need to shift those stubborn hard water stains... so there you go.

2. Dry glasses with a lint-free dishcloth

If you've ever hurriedly hand-washed a glass with washing-up liquid and left them to air dry on a dish rack, you might've noticed those tell-tell streaks on your goblets. Going forward, it might be better to switch up your dishwashing technique and spend a few minutes manually drying your glassware with a lint-free dishcloth instead. You can still use your dish drainer to stack your plates.

3. Try salt and water

'This is probably the easiest solution to cleaning stubborn hard water glass stains,' says Anna Walter, blog writer, Fab Glass and Mirror.

'It is something that you can easily make. All you need is salt and water. How does it work? The salt scours the satins away. The mixture should not be too watery.'

'Balance it so that it forms a paste. Use the paste on the stained area. Scrub it until the stain fades away. Once done, use a clean cloth to wipe out the residue. You do not want to leave more stains on the surface.'

4. Go chemical-free

Unfortunately, some of the better-known cleaning products contain chemicals that can be a little problematic in a busy household. If you've got young children or sensitive skin, harsh toxins aren't ideal when you're trying to work out how best to keep glass shower doors clean.

If you don't want to go down the DIY home remedy route, an eco-friendly cleaner like Method All-Purpose Cleaner will break down any build-up. Simply spray this on your screen, then wipe it with a microfiber cleaning cloth.

And, if you're rinsing glasses, switch to eco-friendly washing-up liquid... it's a super easy switch, and some options aren't as expensive as the leading brands. Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap in particular boasts a 'clean-rinsing design that washes away completely to leave streak-free shine'

5. Saturate stains with baking soda

Another way to clean a shower screen is to make a DIY limescale remover (50:50 water/vinegar) in a spray bottle. Once you've saturated the surface, leave it for a few minutes before going in with a Scrub Daddy/scrub brush/ old toothbrush dipped in bicarb. Cleaning with baking soda will get rid of any malt vinegar smell and clear away any caked-on chalkiness.

For an in-detail, step-by-step of this baking soda limescale remover hack, check out Millie Hurst's tutorial on how to treat lime on a shower cubicle or shower-over-bath design.

Oh, and just as we advised against naturally drying your drinking glasses by the kitchen sink, we recommend you use a shower squeegee to get rid of all the excess water on your shower screen too.

6. Use rinse aid in your dishwasher

You might have a great dishwasher with funky features and snazzy settings, but if you're not using a good rinse aid, then prepare for your best wine glasses to be speckled with lime.

Finish Jet-Dry dishwasher rinse agent and drying agent is a super affordable buy that'll dry your glasses quickly, stop water 'sticking', and banish those stubborn spots.

7. Make stains disappear with melamine foam

Abracadabra hard water stains away with a melamine foam sponge. The most popular one on the market in our opinion is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which you can buy on Amazon.
How to:

  1. Wet the sponge to activate the micro-scrubbers.
  2. Squeeze out the excess water.
  3. Wipe your Magic Eraser firmly across the glass shower doors with a firm, steady swipe to remove the hard water stains.

8. Shaving foam will make glass surfaces sparkle

A can of shaving foam isn't just for smooth legs. In fact, it's one of the most cost-effective ways to clean a mirror. So if you're guilty of splashing water all over this reflective surface when washing your face – this one's for you.

Cleaning with shaving cream couldn't be easier. All you need to do is shake the can, spray some onto a clean cloth and get to work on your looking glass. You can also use shave foam to clean windows too. This is particularly helpful if the spray from your hosepipe or sprinkler has splashed onto your panes. It's also far cheaper than employing a window cleaner to do the job.

9. Install a water softener

Last but not least (because it's the most expensive and intrusive option), is to get yourself a water softener. These devices typically sit under the kitchen sink (in your cupboard) and change the pH level of your running water.

'A water softener works by removing the magnesium and calcium present in your water supply through a process of ion exchange, turning it from hard water to softened water,' explains Harvey Bowden, founder, Harvey Water Softeners Ltd

How do you remove extreme hard water stains?

'No matter how clean you keep your shower, hard water stains are going to accumulate. And they can be very difficult to remove from your shower doors. But if you have a can of WD-40 Multi-Use product on hand, you can remove hard water stains from shower doors quickly and easily,' says .says Kal Kozomos, digital e-commerce manager at WD-40.

You probably didn’t know you could use WD-40 for bathroom cleaning, but because it’s a lubricant that’s not as harsh as most chemicals you use in the bathroom, it’s great for getting rid of hard water stains without harming your surfaces.

'Spray some Multi-Use Product on the affected areas, and with a sponge and a bit of elbow grease, you’ll have your glass doors sparkling again. And because WD-40 has water displacement properties, it protects your shower doors from further water damage.'

Christina Chrysostomou
Former acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the former acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.