The spots develop when water dries on glass and leaves behind the minerals that were trapped inside.
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glass shower in modern marble bathroom
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When it comes to cleaning your bathroom, tackling the shower is typically the worst part thanks to the triple threat of moisture, residue, and hard water that builds up on the glass. The last on this list, however, is the main culprit of dingy spots on shower glass. 

"Hard water stains, also known as limescale, are high in minerals which end up leaving behind a chalky residue on surfaces," says Brad Roberson, President, Glass Doctor, a Neighborly company. When the water evaporates, the limescale remains, coating surfaces and clinging onto glass, tiles, and fixtures leaving behind hard, crusty deposits that change in color from white to green." 

If you don't tackle hard water stains regularly, they can become a nightmare to remove. "The longer you wait, the more build-up occurs,"  says Melissa Poepping, founder of The Chemical Free Home. She recommends cleaning your shower every two weeks (or weekly if it sees heavy use), which you can do by making a DIY solution with common household ingredients. 

Necessary Materials 

Hard water stains won't come off with a basic glass cleaner, but luckily pantry staples, like white vinegar and baking soda, will effectively remove the unsightly spots. 

  • Gloves
  • White vinegar 
  • Paper towels 
  • Spray bottle 
  • Sponge 
  • Baking soda 
  • Distilled water
  • Microfiber towel

How to Clean Hard Water Stains 

Once you've gathered all your supplies, you're ready to begin cleaning. Start by warming up a generous amount of white vinegar over the stovetop until hot.  

1. Soak Glass in White Vinegar 

Wearing gloves, Roberson says to dip paper towels into the hot vinegar and stick them to your shower glass. "The slightly acidic nature of vinegar allows it to soak into and loosen the mineral deposits," he says. Let the vinegar sit for 30 to 60 minutes, then remove the paper towels. To keep the glass wet during this time, Roberson says to spray the paper towels occasionally with vinegar from a spray bottle. 

2. Wipe Down Shower Door 

Remove the paper towels when time is up, then sprinkle a damp rag or sponge with a generous amount of baking soda and wipe down the shower door gently. "Avoid vigorously scrubbing, which could scratch the shower door," Roberson says.

3. Rinse With Distilled Water 

Rinse away any residual vinegar and baking soda by pouring distilled water over the glass. By now, the surface should be glistening, but if any limescale remains, Roberson says to repeat the baking soda scrub until all build-up has been removed. Dry with a microfiber towel. 

What to Do If Stains Persist

According to Alicia Sokolowski, the president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean, vinegar is typically able to remove hard water stains—and should work effectively when it comes to this this. "However, if your stains have been left too long and you find vinegar isn't working for you, you can also try using a lemon," she says. 

For this method, cut a lemon in half, dip it in salt, and scrub the grime away. "The abrasives of the salt and the acidity of the lemon eats away the soap scum and mineral build-up, keeping your shower glass shining," says Roberson. Spray some lemon juice on your shower after cleaning to keep the glass spotless for longer. 

How to Slow Future Limescale Build-Up 

If you have hard water in your home, these spots are unfortunately inevitable—but there are some ways to slow and minimize build-up.  

Check Your Water Quality 

It's possible your water has become harder than normal, which can make limescale more difficult to remove. "Our daily household water travels through layers of rocks before we use it, and the more time the water interacts with these minerals, the harder the water gets," says Roberson. If you notice cloudy spots on dishes and glasses, it may be a sign you need to check your home's water quality. If it's too hard, Sokolowski says investing in a water softener will help curb the issue. 

Wipe Down Glass After Use

The best way to prevent build-up from occurring is by wiping down your shower after every use. "Remember, hard water stains form after the water evaporates and the minerals are left behind," Poepping says. "Wiping the area clean immediately eliminates the issue altogether."

To do so, Roberson recommends using a small squeegee after showering to ensure all water is wiped away.

Comments (7)

Martha Stewart Member
September 6, 2021
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Martha Stewart Member
September 6, 2021
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Martha Stewart Member
September 6, 2021
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Martha Stewart Member
November 13, 2020
Heat one cup vinegar in the microwave for two minutes. Add half a cup of Dawn, or the store brand of Dawn. Gently shake in spray bottle. Wet walls of shower and tub. Spray this concoction on everything. Forget about it for a few hours. Lightly scrub it off with a sponge and rinse. This way you don’t need to make a paste and apply it which is an extra step.
Martha Stewart Member
November 13, 2020
Heat one cup vinegar in the microwave for two minutes. Add half a cup of Dawn, or the store brand of Dawn. Gently shake in spray bottle. Wet walls of shower and tub. Spray this concoction on everything. Forget about it for a few hours. Lightly scrub it off with a sponge and rinse. This way you don’t need to make a paste and apply it which is an extra step.
Martha Stewart Member
October 28, 2020
I have been using a microfiber cloth to wipe the shower doors dry after I shower and have been so surprised and pleased with how clean the doors are when they dry. Cannot believe it took me this long to discover this easy fix. Squeegees never worked and scrubbing was a pain. This is so easy.
Martha Stewart Member
October 27, 2020
After you've got your shower glass sparkling use a windshield rain protector on the glass (Rain X) and your glass will remain clean much longer. Nadine, Ogden, UT