How to Remove Hard Water Scale From Your Toilet

Keep your toilet bowl free of hard water scale buildup.
Keep your toilet bowl free of hard water scale buildup. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Hard water scale is a white buildup that resembles chalk stuck onto the inside of the toilet, usually the result of dried calcium and magnesium. Scale is most noticeable on the inside of the toilet bowl. Scale can also form around the small holes near the rim of the bowl. Scale also develops in and around the drain and inside of the tank. Removing hard water scale is necessary to keep the toilet in good working order.

Things You'll Need

  • Mop or rags
  • Spray bottle
  • White vinegar
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet brush
  • Scrub brush
  • Scale remover
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection

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White Vinegar

Locate the water shut-off valve for the toilet, which is typically on the wall behind the toilet. Turn the water shut-off valve to the right to close it and stop the flow of water. Flush the toilet to drain the water from the bowl and tank. Soak up the excess water in the toilet with a mop or rags.

Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar. Lift the toilet tank cover off the back of the toilet. Spray the inside of the tank with white vinegar. Saturate paper towels with white vinegar, and lay them over the scale buildup.

Add 1 to 2 gallons of white vinegar to the toilet bowl. Immerse a toilet brush into the white vinegar, and scrub the scale around the rim and holes near the rim. Let the vinegar remain in the toilet bowl for 10 minutes. Dip the toilet brush into the vinegar, and scrub again to distribute vinegar over the scale. Allow the vinegar to remain on the surface for 10 more minutes. Continue to distribute vinegar over the lime scale every 10 minutes for an hour or longer, until the scale loosens.

Remove the vinegar-soaked paper towels from the toilet tank. Spray the interior of the tank with vinegar. Scrub the interior of the tank with a stiff scrub brush.

Flush the toilet to remove the vinegar. Scrub the toilet with a stiff scrub brush to remove scale. Turn the water supply valve to the left to restore water to the toilet.

Scale Remover

Turn off the water supply valve, and flush the toilet to remove the water.

Put on rubber gloves and eye protection. Squeeze the bottle to apply a thick coating of a commercially available scale remover to the inside surface of the toilet bowl. Allow the scale remover to remain on the surface according to the manufacturer's instructions, which may range from 10 to 30 minutes.

Scrub the inside of the toilet with a toilet bowl brush to remove the scale.

Turn on the water supply, and flush the toilet. Rinse the inside of the toilet with plain water.

Tips & Warnings

  • If scale buildup is thick, allow the vinegar to remain in the toilet bowl overnight.
  • Repeat the scale removal process once per month or more often if you have particularly hard water.
  • Read the manufacturer's directions to determine if it is safe to use the scale remover inside the tank. Some scale removers may harm rubber or plastic parts.
  • Open windows to ventilate the bathroom when you use commercially available scale removers.


  • "2,001 Amazing Cleaning Secrets"; Jeff Bredenberg; 2004
  • "New Fix-It-Yourself Manual"; Reader's Digest, Editor; 1996
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