Hard water stains in shower & why you should NEVER use bleach or vinegar.

Updated: Jul 27

This post is all about how to identify and remove hard water stains and buildup in your shower and shower maintenance.

For more information and a full video Tutorial watch my YouTube video here:

Products I recommend in this blog:

- Shower Squeegee

- PH Neutral daily Cleaner - Laticrete

- PH Neutral daily cleaner – Mapei

- Microfiber rag

- soft nylon bristle brush

- Vent fan - direct hook up

- Stand up fan - portable

I want to preface this by talking about the problems we typically see in a shower that has underlying issues and is past daily maintenance. A lot of times people will see mold in their grout joint or in the caulking and think, it’s the grout or the silicon. If you have presence of black mold in your grout or silicon that goes away (or doesn’t) when cleaned and keeps coming back, this is a very high indication that you have a leak in your shower or an underlying issue. If you do have black mold in your shower or a foul smell, I would suggest hiring a professional to help you pinpoint the problem before it gets worse. I do provide 1:1 consults if you are in need of advice and I can better assist you if you need to determine what is going on in your shower.

Mold VS. Hard water stains and soap scum

Please take a look below to properly assess if you may need to consult with a professional or if you just have some build up. Mold is very harmful to your health and should always be looked at further to assess the integrity of your shower.

Mold in shower
Black mold in shower

hard water stains in shower
soap scum and hard water stains in shower

The presence of black mold (left) is a good indication for something more serious than surface dirt and build up. While there are many articles online about how to remove mold from the shower, without addressing the actual issue which is likely under the tile, you will always have mold and therefore means it is not dirt that is causing the mold.

Please consult with a professional if you see the presence of black mold in or near your shower.

Daily maintenance:

Before we get into the hard water stains and buildup, I want to talk about daily maintenance to prevent hard water stains in the shower and mold from occurring. Mold can occur when there is a problem with your showers function and water is sitting underneath the tile. Tile and grout is NOT impervious (waterproof) and water will find its way behind your tile assembly. If you have pooling water that does not dry, mold will grow. In addition to natural materials like wood and fiber board are all great things for mold to grow on behind the tile if not properly waterproofed. Remember, water resistant is NOT the same as waterproof. The best way to maintain any shower from getting build up is by using a shower squeegee. This inexpensive tool when used daily will help keep your shower clean, longer and lessen the chances of hard water to build up on your grout joints over time.

How to use it:

Use the shower squeegee daily after every shower. Be sure to squeegee any flat surface like ledges, niches, and corners. Lastly, squeegee the shower pan or shower floor towards the drain to get any standing water away. The shower will still be wet but there will be no pools of water on the ground with soap residue or pools of water with shampoo and conditioner built up in the niche area. Remember shampoos and body soaps are made with chemicals and can eat away at the materials in the shower over time. The use of the squeegee will alleviate that.

Additionally allow adequate ventilation inside the restroom until it is all dried out. If you have shower glass, you should leave the door open and the vent fan on until the shower is dried out. If you do not have a vent fan, placing a small oscillating fam in the room while leaving the doors open will allow some better airflow to hinder the growth of mold and other nasty organic matter to grow. In my experience, I see showers not only build improperly with poor and outdated shower waterproofing methods which cause mold and other harmful bacteria to grow but also improper shower maintenance.

By just using a squeegee and allowing your room to air out until dry you will avoid a lot of problems down the line.

How to identify hard water stains:

Hard water stains and soap scum build up are all signs of improper cleaning methods and this post will outline what you should do to properly maintain your shower.

Hard water stains will first be seen on a shower head, they are small while particles that build up over time. In the shower, this can cause a build up on the grout joint which will attract natural bacteria and start to turn pinkish.

Well, what IS hard water?

Hard water is water that has high mineral content. Hard water is formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone, chalk or gypsum, which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates and sulfates.

Why should I NOT use bleach or vinegar to clean my shower?

Using acidic based cleaners like vinegar can cause your grout to deteriorate leading to more problems down the line. Remember your grout is made out of chemicals and anything that can potentially eat away at those chemicals will ruin your shower over time.

Using alkaline based cleaners like bleach will leave a residue on TOP of the grout joint and just like the hard water deposit will attract more dirt causing even more discoloration in the grout over time.

Real life example:

A few weeks ago, a client reached out to me telling me he had orange stains all over his shower grout and that his cleaning crew couldn’t get them out no matter what they did.

The problem: Bacteria build up on the grout joint from hard water and use of bleach products

The photo shows some gnarly orange stains on the shower floor. This is what hard water stains look like and will continue to build up over time when alkaline based cleaners like bleach are used. Cleaners like bleach will actually leave a residue on your grout attracting more dirt and buildup over time.

The solution: using a PH neutral cleaner and a soft tooth brush to clean the grout joints and remove hard water deposits and bacteria build up.

After we recommended the correct product for cleaning, the white grout joints were white again.

Benefits of using a PH neutral cleaner for shower maintenance:

There are so many benefits to using a PH neutral cleaner for shower maintenance, hard water stains, and buildup.

1. Close to human PH – minimizes risk of skin irritation

2. Less likely to cause health effects while using

3. Wont hard surfaces

4. Safe for users and the environment

5. Still considered a strong cleaner

As always it is my goal to arm you with the best knowledge possible so you can keep your shower in tip top shape.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consult, please do so here.

Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more in-depth tutorials and walk throughs. Visit my contact page to get in touch.

Conclusion: This post is all about how to identify and remove hard water stains and buildup in your shower and shower maintenance.

Thank you for reading <3

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I'll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.

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