The $2 Bathroom Staple That Helped Me Finally Get Rid of Hard Water Stains

published Oct 2, 2020
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Credit: Sandra Regalado

When the country effectively shut down at the start of the pandemic, we hunkered down. Our kids stayed home from daycare, we cancelled social events, and we told our cleaning lady to stay home and take care of her own family.

As a working parent, forgoing the extra childcare and household help was admittedly a challenge. Like so many, my husband and I had to reevaluate our daily schedules to just make it work. And that meant that certain cleaning tasks—like scouring shower doors—went directly to the back burner.

After about six weeks though, our expansive—and relatively new—glass shower door had never looked worse. It was littered with stubborn white splotches, resulting from hard water and weeks of shampoo splatter.

Stubborn hard water stains on my glass shower door.

I tried just about every bathroom cleaner I own, starting with the more natural concentrate I prefer and moving to progressively stronger options. Nothing worked—and my arm was tired from all that elbow grease. I started to wonder if the smudges would ever budge, but turned to Dr. Google as a last resort.

Deep within a forum on Houzz, I discovered a potential solution: toothpaste.

I thought, what do I have to lose? Not even the $2 cost of a tube of toothpaste, since I already had some on hand. So like commenter Deb0701 suggested, I slathered toothpaste all over the glass shower door and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, I used my trusty (and very beloved) steam cleaner to wash it all away. I was shocked: The spots were completely gone.

After using toothpaste and a steam cleaner.

How did it work? I really had no idea, but I had to know, so I asked cleaning expert Kimberly Button to explain it. “Toothpaste is a great combination of a mild abrasive in a smooth paste,” says Button. As a result, it can gently clean household surfaces much like the way it cleans your teeth, she explains.

Perhaps best of all: It’s an ingredient everyone has at home and you don’t have to worry about measuring ingredients, says Button. For best results, use the traditional white toothpaste—not the gel kind. Then follow these steps:

  1. Apply the toothpaste. Start with a pea-size drop (the same amount recommended for brushing your teeth) for small areas, such as glassware or fixtures, says Button. Larger hard water stains, such as in the shower or on windows, will take a lot more.
  2. Scrub the surface. Working in circles, rub the toothpaste into the surface using a soft, damp cloth.
  3. Rinse. Rinse with a clean, wet cloth (such as a microfiber cloth) to remove the toothpaste residue. Or, use a steam cleaner to make quick work of the task.