How To Remove Limescale From A Toilet & Below The Waterline

Unlucky enough to have to unsightly (and difficult to remove) hard water stains in your toilet? Don’t stress out – I’ll show you what to do as well as some other helpful tips along the way.

What causes limescale build up in a toilet?

what causes limescale build up in a toilet

Limescale build-up has a lot to do with whether your water is hard or soft. Hard water has higher levels of magnesium and calcium.

Hard water picks up these minerals from exposure to things like rocks and chalk, and for that reason, you may notice a mineral taste in your drinking water if you don’t use a filter.

But water with lime build-up or high limescale levels doesn’t just taste funny. It can also stain:

  • Toilet bowls
  • The toilet tank
  • A kitchen or bathroom sink
  • Kettles and coffee pots

Limescale build-up is a result of hard water containing minerals that can build up over time in your toilet bowl.

How Does Limescale Look in the Toilet?

You know you have limescale stains when you start noticing unsightly orange spots on your porcelain. You’re most likely to find them in the toilet bowl because it’s in regular contact with hard water.

How can you get rid of limescale build up?

how can you get rid of limescale build up


There are various ways to get rid of limescale stains. Depending on how much scrubbing you’re willing to do, these range from do-it-yourself solutions like vinegar or baking soda to industrial-strength cleaners like Borax.

The method you choose to get rid of limescale build-up also depends on how stubborn the limescale stains are.

More aggressive toilet stains may need you to leave baking soda or toilet cleaner sitting in the water for several hours before trying to descale the bowl.

Steps to remove limescale

If you’re good about cleaning the toilet bowl regularly, you may be able to add some vinegar to the water and scrub with a toilet brush until the bowl is descaled.

To remove limescale with vinegar, follow these steps:

  1. Pour one liter of vinegar into the toilet bowl. Ensure it reaches all toilet stains and covers them thoroughly.
  2. Let sit for a minimum of three to four hours.
  3. Scrub vigorously with a toilet brush.
  4. Flush the toilet and repeat as necessary until the stain lifts.

Alternatively, you can substitute the vinegar for baking soda and follow the same steps. Both of these have the double advantage of being inexpensive and readily available in most households.

However, tough hard water toilet bowl stains may require something stronger like toilet bowl cleaner.

Again, the steps listed above won’t change significantly, except that you may notice the chemicals in the toilet bowl cleaner respond faster to the limescale build-up than other household products.

While many people favor pumice stones and similar things to remove limescale, using them isn’t advisable. They can remove the stain but may damage the finish on your toilet in the process.

For that reason, if you do need something more powerful, it’s best to stick to named brands.

How to drain your toilet bowl before cleaning

If you want to drain the water from the toilet bowl before removing stubborn limescale stains, do the following:

  • Switch off the water and flush the toilet. (You should have a water control valve nearby to turn off the water supply to the tank)
  • Next, plunge out any excess water. Your toilet doesn’t need to be clogged for this to work. The motion of the plunger suctions water back into the pipes.

If this still doesn’t adequately empty the bowl, you can always try siphoning or sponging away excess water.

How to get rid of limescale below the waterline

how to get rid of limescale below the waterline


With the water gone, you can now tackle cleaning tough stains below the waterline.

This doesn’t significantly differ from removing limescale from the toilet bowl, so you can follow the steps outlined earlier. However, because the water isn’t in the bowl, you may find your cleaning product of choice is now more effective on limescale build-up below the waterline.

How to use limescale removal tablets

how to use limescale removal tablets


Scrubbing is never fun, especially when it comes to the toilet bowl. One way around this is to use limescale removal tablets.

They’re quick-acting and effective. The best part is that all you need to do is drop them in the toilet bowl and let them sit overnight.

For tough stains, two tablets may be necessary. You’ll still need to get the toilet brush out and do a bit of scrubbing the next morning, but it’s much less work than if you rely on vinegar or other household remedies.

What are good off the shelf limescale removal products?

what are good off the shelf limescale removal products


That said, if you want an off-the-shelf limescale remover, consider:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda

They’re easy to find, inexpensive, and effective.

Alternatively, limescale tablet removers are also effective. We like:

Whatever you choose, it’s possible to lift even the stubbornest hard water toilet stains. But while many remedies are inexpensive, you may find they demand significant patience and energy.

But for a toilet free of limescale build-up, it’s worth the effort.

James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »