Is there any housekeeping chore worse than cleaning the bathroom? Most homeowners would say "no." From trying to move around in such a small room to inhaling noxious fumes from the cleaning fluids, cleaning a bathroom can be a frustrating experience. And if you have stubborn mineral stains, it's even more of a pain.
Believe it or not, mineral and rust stains in your toilet or tub -- greenish stripes, a brown ring, lime scale -- aren't caused by anything you're doing wrong in your cleaning regimen. It's simply something in the water. Calcium, lime, magnesium and iron, naturally found in hard water, attach to just about every surface they come across. Even if you have filters or water systems in place to soften the water, some of these minerals still slip through. The rust-colored stains you find under your faucets or in your toilet turn up when iron meets air. Green or brown stains in the toilet usually indicate lime buildup. Lime scale forms as hard water evaporates and leaves a mineral buildup behind. As it dries, it picks up any dirt particles along with it, and slowly the stain builds, layer by layer, on the inside of the toilet bowl. Yuck!
The good news is that many store-bought products and home concoctions can fight these stains. The bad news? Removing mineral stains requires some elbow grease, so don't expect it to be an easy process.
To get rid of these stains, you need some sort of acid. The most effective solution is muriatic acid, an extremely powerful and dangerous chemical. But we advise against using this unless you're a professional. If you want an off-the-shelf solution, consider Lime-A-Way or CLR (which stands for Calcium-Lime-Rust). Barkeepers Friend and The Works are also recommended, as well. For an organic home remedy, try vinegar, and -- perhaps unbelievably -- one of your favorite beverages.
The first thing you want to do when preparing to remove stains from your toilet is to shut off the main water valve located behind the toilet on the wall. Turn it clockwise until it stops. Then use a bucket or cup to remove as much water as you can from the toilet bowl.
If you're using a brush, use one with nylon bristles. The old-style ones with wire bristles will scratch and damage the porcelain. Or, you might even consider using a pumice stone instead of a brush -- it's slightly abrasive, but not enough to damage the porcelain. However, if you go this route, make sure there's a bit of water in the toilet to work with. The water helps prevent the pumice from scratching the porcelain.
If you're using a commercial cleanser, follow the directions on the label. But you can use more natural solutions that you probably already have at home:
- Vinegar and baking soda -- Add 1 or 2 cups of vinegar to the toilet bowl along with a few sprinkles of baking soda. Swish the solution around the bowl with your brush for a few minutes and then let it sit for about 15 minutes. Scrub the stains with your brush (or pumice stone). If this doesn't remove the stain, try adding some lemon juice to dissolve the last of it. Turn the water back on, flush and repeat the cleaning process, if necessary.
- Coca-Cola -- After emptying the bowl, fill it with Coca-Cola (yes, really -- Coca-Cola). The acids in the soda help eat away at the stains. Let it sit overnight. Flush the next day and get to work with your pumice stone or brush on the now-loosened stains.
Now for what not to do: Don't use bleach in the toilet bowl. It won't work on the stains and can damage a septic system. And never, ever, mix bleach and ammonia. The resulting fumes can irritate respiratory passages and can even be fatal. Don't scrub with anything metal or super-abrasive. You'll ruin the porcelain.
The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that you may need to apply your stain remover more than once, and be ready to apply some good old-fashioned elbow grease. You can get rid of the stains if you persevere!