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How to Remove Hard Water Stains on Glass and Other Dishes

by Ann Ferguson

We’ve all seen hard water stains: white, splotchy spots tarnishing the shine of glass, plastic, and metal dishes. We don't have to tell you that these pesky spots are unwelcome sights in many kitchens. The reason they manifest in the first place is because a large portion of the water supply is categorized as hard water. Hard water is water with a high concentration of minerals like magnesium and calcium, which are collected in the water as it makes its way through the pipes and faucets that deliver it into households. In the case of dishes, hard water stains are created from these minerals that the water leaves behind as it evaporates.

In this guide, we’ll look at how to remove hard water stains on glass and other dishes with prevention techniques and cleaning methods.

At a Glance:

What are the effects of hard water on dishes?

How do you get rid of hard water stains?

How can I prevent hard water stains on dishes?

What are the best water softeners to prevent hard water stains?

Effects of Hard Water on Dishes

side by side image depicting hard water stains on glass and clean glass

The main effect of hard water on dishes is hard water stains. These can occur on glass dishes, metal utensils, and plasticware. Sometimes, stains can create a film over the entire dish, making a translucent piece cloudy; however, they are more commonly seen as white, slightly opaque spots.

Hard water contains a higher level of minerals like magnesium and calcium. When hard water dries off dishes and other surfaces, it leaves behind these minerals as residue. This creates the white droplet-shaped spots that are often present on clean dishes. Hard water stains can be inconvenient; however, they are not indicative of dirty dishes.

Related: 3 Signs of Hard Water on Hair and How to Prevent Them

How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Glass and Other Dishes

Even though water stains are not dirty, they can be annoying. This is especially true when dealing with drinkware. These white spots can ruin the look of your otherwise pristine kitchen. There are several remedies to remove hard water stains from dishes, ranging from store-bought products to DIY, homemade solutions. These methods are best to remove heavily layered water stains present from long-term hard water exposure. Daily hard water stains are best dealt with by eliminating the problem by installing a water softener.

Products for cleaning hard water stains:

  • Vinegar and water
  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Store-bought solutions

Vinegar

Vinegar is acidic, which helps cut through the dried mineral spots. Spraying the dish with vinegar diluted in water then wiping it with a cloth can help get rid of hard water stains. However, this method is not always practical for everyday dishes. A vinegar spray is more useful for removing hard water stains from other surfaces, like glass shower doors and shiny faucets.

Lemon

Like vinegar, the acidity of lemon juice cuts through dried minerals, eliminating the stain. However, you will have to follow up with a spray to remove lemon residue. This residue left untouched could become sticky or slimy.

Baking Soda

An age-old cleaning solution, baking soda has many uses around the house beyond baking. The grainy texture and cleaning properties allow the baking soda to remove heavy hard water stains. To use baking soda to remove hard water stains, add a small amount of water to create a paste. Then, take this paste and rub it into the glass with a cloth.

Store-Bought Solutions

There are many streak-free cleaners made specifically for glass. When shopping for a cleaning product, make sure to look for a solution made to target hard water stains.

How to Prevent Hard Water Stains on Dishes

woman organizes dishes in dishwasher

Unlike treating them, preventing hard water stains generally requires a one-time action. Prevention of hard water stains begins first with eliminating the problem. Water softening systems can be installed to reduce the concentration of minerals in the water, eliminating white mineral stains.

Buy and Install a Water Softener

To install a water softener, you first need to select the right system for your household. There are several options in this space, differing in brand and capacity. Selecting the right size is important, and it is dependent on your water demand and generally your household size. A system that is not large enough to support your water demand can result in water delivery issues.

You may want to consider hiring the help of a plumber when installing your water softener, to ensure that it is done properly. However, it is possible to install a water softening system yourself.

Other Hard Water Stain Prevention Methods

While softening water is the best way to prevent hard water stains, there are other solutions. Adding a cup of white vinegar to the top rack of your dishwasher before running it will help minimize hard water stains. Vinegar is a mild acid, which helps your dishwasher cut through hard water minerals. This solution is safe as vinegar is nontoxic. It is also very cost-effective, as you can purchase large containers if vinegar inexpensively.

Our Top 3 Water Softener Picks

For a household water softener, we recommend an Envirotec model. Envirotec water softeners come in different sizes to satisfy different needs. Here are our top picks from our catalog:

1. Envirotec Water Softener System ET64H

Envirotec Water Softener System ET64H

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This Envirotec water softener system features a multiple-tank design. This allows for easier movement of the system for service work or relocation to a new home. It has a very large capacity of 64,000 grains. This size system allows the system to regenerate the least, extending the system’s lifespan. The large capacity also eliminates hard water bleed-through, giving you a better result.

Capacity: 64,000 grains

Features:

  • Highest Capacity
  • Multiple Tank Design
  • Regeneration Tank
  • Maxflow™ Valve
  • Enviroguard™
  • Ultrastar™ Resin High-Temperature Resin
  • Outstanding warranty

2. Envirotec Water Softener System ET50HWS

Envirotec Water Softener System ET50HWS

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This water softener system from Envirotec features a new efficiency booster that knows precisely when to regenerate, saving water and salt usage up to 75 percent over conventional water softeners. The valve has excellent service flow rates for better water pressure at your showers and faucets than other systems.

Capacity: 50,000 grains

Features:

  • Digital Demand Monitoring
  • Superior Capacity
  • Multiple Tank Design
  • Regeneration Tank
  • Maxflow™ Valve
  • Enviroguard™
  • Ultrastar™ Resin High-Temperature Resin
  • No warranty compares

3. Envirotec Water Softener System ET42H

Envirotec Water Softener System ET42H

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This is the smallest of our chosen Envirotec water softener systems. This is designed to handle harsh water conditions with MaxFlow, giving the system a high flow to meet the demand.

Capacity: 42,000 grains

Features:

  • Designed to handle harsh water conditions
  • MaxFlow™ high flow metered demand valve

Shop Water Softeners at Spencer’s TV & Appliance

At Spencer’s TV & Appliance, we provide high-quality, brand-name appliances for great prices. We hope our guide to getting rid of hard water stains on dishes helps you get shiny, spot-free dishes. You can also shop water softeners online or visit us today at one of our locations in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Glendale regions.

Related: 10 Signs Water Treatment is Needed in Your Home