Asked on Jun 19, 2015

Getting lime, calcium & rust off ceramic tile

Karen Elmore
by Karen Elmore

So we just purchased a house that has a large ceramic tile shower. The water where we now live is incredibly hard and has left calcium and lime buildup along the shower walls. I've tried everything from LimeAway, lemon juice & white vinegar (pre-treated with baking soda) and barkeepers friend. Someone suggested phosphoric acid but after reading about that stuff it scares me. Any suggestions on how to clean or recommendations for the best shower tile cleaners?

  14 answers
  • Shari Shari on Jun 19, 2015
    I have had success removing those brownish-orange iron stains from well water, mineral deposits and soap scum with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges. Based on the picture you have provided, it looks like a heavy buildup of soap scum and maybe some mildew too. I would first spray the grout lines with a bleach product like Clorox Cleanup and then scrub each grout line with a toothbrush. Rinse. Then wipe each grout line and tile with the magic eraser sponge. That should clean it right up!
    • See 1 previous
    • B. Enne B. Enne on Jun 19, 2015
      @Karen Elmore I have the same problem. The ''expert'' who installed my kitchen backsplash, told me I needed to clean my bathroom tiles, when I showed him, hoping to get an expert opinion! Really??? I did nothing but clean them! Nothing has worked for me including Magic Erasers, the things you mentioned and oven cleaner...I will probably have to re-colour the grout.
  • Michelle I Michelle I on Jun 19, 2015
    There is a toilet bowl cleaner called the works, the blue one not the green one. This does miracles on lime and scale, the problem lies that you can not get it on any chrome fixtures, it will discolor it. I love this stuff and have used it in my cleaning business and my home for years. Be careful of your hands if they are sensitive
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    • Tammy Mueller Tammy Mueller on Nov 26, 2016

      Dollar tree is just as effective. In fact, the family dollar is where i found the gel formula.

      Wal-Mart does carry it now & i believe it's actually cheaper at Wal-Mart than at dollar tree s or dollar stores.

  • Becca Becca on Jun 19, 2015
    there is a product called "lime away" I have used it on stains such as these. Don't know if its still available though.
    • B. Enne B. Enne on Jun 19, 2015
      @Becca You're right it usually is good, but she mentioned that she had already tried that. :)
  • Gatico Gatico on Jun 20, 2015
    Try mixing half white vinegar with half dishwashing soap in a spray bottle. Shake very well and spray thoroughly to make a thick layer over tile. Leave on tile 2 to 4 hours, then scrub and rinse with a brush. The soap is used to thicken the vinegar creating a heavy coat, but it takes time for the vinegar to work thru the layers of built up. This works for me. For built up on fixtures try soaking paper towel in vinegar and wrapping it around the fixtures, leave for a couple of hours or until built up soften and comes out like jelly.
  • Gatico Gatico on Jun 20, 2015
    I should add that trying to remove old mineral built up with vinegar might take several hours longer because it is the first time, just make sure vinegar doesn't dry out and stays moist. Please do let us now what finally works :)
  • Nugget Jacobs Nugget Jacobs on Jun 20, 2015
    Apply liquid fabric softener and let it sut for 30 minutes to soften the built up crud.
    • Susen Gail Susen Gail on Jun 20, 2015
      @Nugget Jacobs Never heard of using fabric softener, but I'll give it a try! No smelly fumes! susen
  • Susen Gail Susen Gail on Jun 20, 2015
    CLR is a lot faster than vinegar. Use a mask in an enclosed space. Wet paper towels with the stuff and place on the vertical tiles. Then just let it work. (I do this same wet towel technique in the toilets and around the faucets.) CLR works on my chrome faucets, toilet rings, coffee pot, dog's water bowl . . you name it. Also, Home Depot carries a brand line called ZEP. These products have helped me restore many parts of my old house. It's not cheap, but those products work. The floor restorer is my favorite. Do not mix CLR with bleach! But several days after CLR application, you might try bleach on the grout. I say several days so that the two cleaning agents aren't even mixed in the drain. Then there's another product called Gel Gloss that will shine and protect your clean shower. This stuff is good for fiber glass showers and marble, too. Please use a mask and goggles when using these products in an enclosed space. Good luck and happy cleaning. susen
    • Karen Elmore Karen Elmore on Jun 20, 2015
      @Susen Gail I did look about using the Zep but when I researched it, it said that it was not safe for septic systems which is what we have.
  • Kaylee Kaylee on Jun 20, 2015
    Have you tried Borax? We clean my mom stick-on tiles of the floor with borax. It made them shine. Some sites suggest to make a paste out of borax and vinegar. If the borax does work just use the rest of it in the laundry. See this site:
  • Sbsb1005 Sbsb1005 on Jun 20, 2015
    I have the same issue and tried all you did as well. I found at the grocery store and or the big box store (Meijer/Home Depot) a pumice stick. You get it wet and scrub away. We keep ours in the shower and work on it while we are taking our showers. Buy a couple at a time.
  • Ann Ann on Jun 20, 2015
    I have used white vinegar on mold and other tile problems. It has to soak in for a few hour and then scrub. White vinegar is a disinfectant as well.
    • Cathy Cathy on Jun 26, 2015
      @Ann , my mom said the same thing white Vineger helps
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Jun 21, 2015
    I clean move outs and rentals every day, we use The Works Toliet Bowl Cleaner to get rid of hard water build up. Turn on a fan and we use a spray bottle and spray it on. Let it set. You need to wear gloves and a mask. Then spray off. Keep repeating until it's gone. Always keep a little water running at the bottom of the shower to keep it from spotting the drain. The reason this works is because it has muratic acid. I have never had it fail and I have cleaned thousands of move outs and residential homes. It will also remove hard water build up from glass in showers. But if the glass is damaged or etched water will build up again unless you keep the water wiped off when you get out. Hope this helps.
  • Carol Potts Carol Potts on Jun 21, 2015
    I have used a product called ROG3 which can be purchased at their website or on amazon. I think they also may have started selling it in some home improvement stores. I love it as it does not smell bad where you have to wear a mask and ventilate the area when using it. It is 2 different formulas for tub and tile. One is a cream for the tub, and the other is a liquid in a spray bottle for tile. I use both on my tub and tile. In fact I have put it on and left it overnight, then rinsed it clean in the morning. It originally was made for use in hotel bathrooms, but is now available for homeowners. It makes my tub, sink and tiles look like new. I will never use anything else as long as they keep making this product.
  • Trina Trina on Oct 17, 2016
    Spray on oven cleaner. Use as pretreat. Spray on, let dry and sit for a day if you can then use white vinegar before you scrub. No need to add water till you rune. Just did the same thing to our shower. We moved into a house that was a complete mess.
  • Amelia Amelia on May 26, 2019

    I had scale on an uneven tile on my floor from puppy wee. Tried everything until above commenter mentioned borax. Of course!! How stupid of me to forget. Ran to the spot, sprinkled the borax on wetted tile and rubbed with my shoe sole. Gone in 1 minute!! Thanks