Most often when someone asks how to remove limescale they are referring to that white flaky chalklike buildup that forms on a pan or kettle as a result of hard water. However, that same buildup also forms around faucets and on pipes as well and may even be more difficult to remove. This type of limescale is highly alkaline and most often calcium carbonate which requires something acidic to dissolve it. You would need to soak the area for at least 1/2 to 1 hour for the limescale to dissolve which makes it difficult to clean pipes and faucets.
While the scum that collects around the inside of tubs and basins as a result of water and soap is also limescale, it generally will rinse off with warm water as it is more easily dissolved. Most often we refer to this type of limescale as ‘scum’ but it is actually calcium cations that form when calcium from hard water combines with soap. Unfortunately, it is still limescale and may take specific solutions to completely dissolve it along with a bit of good old fashioned ‘elbow grease.’
Removing Calcium Carbonate Limescale
There are a number of commercial products on the market that have been manufactured to remove limescale from faucets and plumbing, but many people are reluctant to use them because of the noxious fumes they give off. Fortunately, you can also use ingredients which you probably have lying around the house that will be just as effective and a whole lot less toxic. Remembering that limescale is highly alkaline, you could use vinegar just as effectively!
1. Soak cloth in vinegar until saturated.
2. Wrap around pipe or faucet – secure with clothespin or rubber band.
3. Leave on approximately one hour.
4. Remove cloth and wipe with clean damp rag.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 if necessary.
For removing this type of limescale from kettles and pans, the process is different because you can actually soak the interior in a solution of vinegar and water.
1. Fill pot/kettle with water.
2. Add two to four tablespoons of vinegar.
3. Heat just to boiling.
4. Remove from heat and cool.
5. Drain and wash as normal.
6. If any buildup remains you can safely repeat the process.
You can actually use vinegar to safely clean electric coffee makers as well. Although they do sell commercially prepared chemicals for this purpose, vinegar is just as effective and a whole lot safer.
1. Fill reservoir with water as normal.
2. Add two tablespoons of vinegar.
3. Turn on coffee maker and ‘brew’ as you would for coffee.
4. Empty the pot.
5. Fill reservoir with clean water and run through brew cycle.
6. Repeat step 5 at least one more time to get remaining vinegar taste out.
For stubborn buildups that leave behind a bit of limescale residue you could also soak the pan by filling it with water with baking soda. This, too, will dissolve limescale so that it should easily wipe clean.
Dissolving Calcium Cations
One of the worst things to deal with when cleaning sinks, bathtubs and showers is that scum that is often left behind. While porcelain/enamel tubs and bowls and glass shower doors can be safely scrubbed with an abrasive cleanser, newer plastic models should be cleaned with nonabrasive products. Here again vinegar is a lifesaver.
1. Fill a spray bottle with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.
2. Spray the tub/basin/shower doors to thoroughly saturate.
3. Allow to stand 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Rinse and/or wipe down with clean damp rag.
Some people use ammonia instead of the vinegar, which works just as well but leaves a lingering odor. Also, there is a danger involved with using ammonia when cleaning and disinfecting a bathroom or kitchen. You cannot mix ammonia (sodium hydroxide) with household bleach because it will result in a potentially lethal chlorine gas. Many people like to bleach their basins after removing the scum. For this reason, vinegar is infinitely safer than ammonia.
Whether looking to clean caked up limescale on pots and kettles or simply removing scum safely from bowls and basins, there are natural ways to accomplish it without subjecting yourself, your family or the environment to toxic chemicals. Not only are you cleaning with safer products, you will find that you will save money in the process. What could be better than that?