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How Does Hard Water Affect Your Bathroom Tiles and Surfaces? 

How Does Hard Water Affect Your Bathroom Tiles and Surfaces?

Your bathroom surfaces are champions.  

They endure challenges daily: the chemicals in your personal care products, soaps, hair products and dissolved minerals commonly found in water. And they still come away looking great.  

But over time, these challenges can impact  your surfaces appearance.  Slow and steady they creep up on you, until all of a sudden “ugly disgusting deposits” are staring you in the face.  They need a little help to keep looking great all the time – or – again – as the case may be 

Cleaning walls, floors, ceilings, trims, glass, and fixtures in your bathrooms  can be a  challenge because of the nature of these ingredients.  Their removal may require more than one product.  Certainly it is faster to have the right product for each challenge.  You would think it would go without saying, that the “right” product should also be a product that does not create a “new problem” while cleaning up an old one.  You would think...  Unfortunately, there are entire service industry segments that exist to address the issues created by an inappropriate product that creates a new problem while solving an old one. 

DID YOU KNOW?  If you have hard water deposits the solution to its removal often contributes to grout-staining issues down the road?  Yup...  Good news is that it does not have to be that way.  Read on. 

This article explains these common problems, how to clean them, how to prevent these problems from reoccurring, and what you should know before trying common DIY solutions to these problems.  

Common Problems with Bathroom Tiles and Surfaces 

White stains and mold and mildew are the most common problems found in the dank environments of the bathroom. They look like stains or unseemly patches on bathroom tiles and surfaces, robbing your spaces of their pristine look and appeal.  You would think the cleanest place in the house should be the shower.  How is it that it is often the dirtiest, the one that we spend the most on to clean, the one that takes the most time, and the one that can create the greatest frustration? 

Hard water stains 

These stubborn white or brown residues are a direct result of minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium found in water, that remain after the water evaporates following our shower or use of the tub 

Iron, calcium, and magnesium are common elements found dissolved in water. When the water that lands on your surface evaporates, it leaves behind these minerals on your surface, and over time, they cause the white patches (Calcium Carbide CaCO3) or red-brown streaks (FeO=iron oxide) commonly known as hard water stains.  

Limescale deposits 

These are scale-like residues particularly built up on heated surface fixtures because of the minerals in hard water bonding with the surface.  You see this in your kettle and coffee maker.  it is why these elements need to be cleaned periodically.  White vinegar does wonders here.  Of course the plastic, glass and metal we see in these appliances are generally impervious to the acid, as we rinse them after use as well. 

These deposits are also prevalent on pipework and heated surface fixtures, especially in geographic areas where hard water is common. Limescale deposits are caused when the calcium ions react with carbonate ions.  

Over time, if not addressed, limescale can impair plumbing and heating components. To address the buildup and potential damage of limescale, you can use descaling agents or invest in water softeners.  A water softening system is a $5000 investment, which means that many seek a lower cost chemical solution when it comes to cleaning surfaces.  Over time waterflow can be constricted as these deposits slowly buildup in pipes constricting their floor.  Your water pressure problems might be caused by such a build-up.  Repiping can be expensive, hence the watersoftener logic is a pay now or pay later argument.   That said, over time your water pressure could be negatively impacted.  This means that our expected time in the house becomes a factor.  if we are planning to retire here, this is a worthy investment that will make a noticeable difference.  if we are more transient and expect to be transferred, the water sofener system can be delayed. 

Black or red stains 

This signifies the buildup of mold and mildew. Mold and mildew thrive on soap scum and other organic materials commonly found in bathrooms. They are organisms that thrive in damp and humid environments.  

The staining is actually not the fungus but a result of the organism's presence and more specifically their excrement, which can be difficult to remove. 

Your surfaces also need to be disinfected if there's been a buildup of mold and mildew. Even long, hard winters don't kill mold – they only deactivate them. When temperatures drop, mold spores become dormant and grow again when the temperature rises.  These spores may be impacting your breathing.  That stuffiness you are feeling may be attributable to these little beasties.  Sold your mold issue and your breathing may improve.  MARBLELIFE MOLD AND MILDEW STAIN REMOVER CLEANER get high marks for its effectiveness, and ease of use.  Spray it on an it goes to work attacking the problem, but it does not prevent mold and mold stains from returning, as the conditions that allowed them to thrive in the first place remain.  This may be a good reason to consider remodeling the shower enclosure with an eye to enhance waters ability to leave through runoff and evaporation.  This means increasing the angle of the floor to the drain, opting for a square drain that goes across the entire shower width, and then laying tile to minimize grout lines that do not run direct to the drain.  Increase airflow with more powerful exhaust fans, or remove the shower door to create a walk-in will all increase airflow allowing the water to evaporate more rapidly.  This will have no impact on hard water stains however, slow or fast the deposits in the water are the same.  Mold and mildew stain removers generally do well against mold but another product is needed for the hard water stains.

What are these dull spots? 

The issue here is that there are more than 1 cause for dull spots.  Soap scum build-up, hard water stains from mineral deposits, and damaged tile surface (etches on marble due to exposure to acids from personal care products or cleaners (repeat cleaners)).   

Remembering that the most effective cleaner is optimized to accomplish a given task, it is important to differentiate.  For soap scum build-up, products such as MARBLELIFE SOAP AND SCUM REMOVER are extremely effective cutting through the soap without damaging the tile beneath it using an unique engineered abrasive that is harder than soap scum but disintegrates on contact with the hard tile surface.  This has little impact on etches (missing tile surface) or hard water stains. 

Etches requires either polishing with diamond pads (do not try this at home as little jobs become big expensive jobs unless you know what you are doing).  Marble polishes can be deployed, but one needs to understand there are good polishes and false polishes.  A false polish seeks to fill the damge in with a wax or oil to restore the reflection of light.  Unfortunately these non-stone soft materials attract dirt and evaporate away over time requiring re-use and can buildup requiring professional cleaning over time.  The chemical polish works well restore a shine, but doing so without releveling the surface, so that the gloss will bend if you walk a light reflection through that area.  Here again, it is important to read the directions as these products need to be neutralized at end of use.   

That leaves as with the subject of this article... 

How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Bathroom Surfaces 

Having removed the mold, mildew and addressed soap scum, one may find there remains one more obstacle to ACHIEVING CLEAN – hard water stains or deposits.  These appear as spots that mirror the droplet of water that sat in this area before evaporating or pile up around leaky faucets in the kitchen sink, tub or shower.  Using MARBLELIFE products is the easiest (and safest) way to free your bathroom walls, floors, ceilings, trims, glass, and fixtures from these other stain sources.   

Now comes the task or quickly removing hard water stains...Vinegar /Lemon Juice or baking soda present two different approaches. 

Baking Soda – Not so fast – long term grind 

The baking soda seeks to grind this away – requiring some elbow grease.  It is used as an abrasive, to scrub away mineral deposits. Although it may remove much of the staining, it's a double-edged sword.  

Baking soda damages your surfaces over time, causing the tile surface and grout to discolor and fade. Eventually you'll need to replace the tiles. 

Vinegar / Lemon Juice / Calcium-lime-Rust Removers 

The vinegar or lemon juice seeks to leverage the acidity to dissolve the Ca-CO3 or FeO on the surface away.  This works … but it also creates the next problem you are going to face.  Acids will dissolve thes mineral deposits.  

Marble, limestone, concrete and terrazzo are all acid sensitive, so the removal of these mineral deposits in this manner can also dissolve the surface of these materials resulting in an etch - another dull spot source noted above.  This is not a problem for most people but a big consideration for those you are blessed with the having these elegant surfaces.

The hidden damage – no one talks about – and the solution! 

Before you think you have escaped... there remains one more surface – grout.  Yes that material that exists between each tile on your floor and wall is ALSO acid sensitive, but in a different manner.  Its not the material itself, but rather the sealant that is traditionally used to seal the grout.  You see 

Vinegar or lemon is acidic. This is what makes it ideal to dissolve and clean hard water stains. However, this very attribute can strip away the protective sealant from your grout, leaving it susceptible to damage.  Without the protective seal your grout is a concrete sponge.  These openings are ready to absorb dissolved dirt leading to grout staining.  The very act of cleaning the dirt from the top of your tile, is not transported and deposited in these open pores to create GROUT STAINING.  

Without a sealant your grout lines are more vulnerable to damage and wear and tear, so much so that in just a couple of months, you will also have to deal with discolored grout along with a buildup of hard water stains. Once stained, it is very difficult to get the dirt OUT of these pores, as it is now IN the grout versus ON the grout.  MARBLELIFE MAXOUT DEEP GROUT CLEANER was developed expressly for this problem, and does an excellent job, however once cleaned one still has open pores ready to absorb dirt again, unless they are resealed.  For this purpose MARBLELIFE GROUT SEALER was developed.  it can resore the grout seal that was removed and can be done as a do-it-yourself project, however there is still a better way.  The issue here is that while re-applying the grout seal does indeed correct this problem, it will be recreated the next time an acid is used to remove hard water stains.

THE GOOD NEWS – COLORSEAL – Makes Acidic Hard Water Solutions work 

The good news is that there is a solution.  MARBLELIFE COLORSEAL is an acid resistant grout sealer that not only imparts acid resistance to the grout seal, but can actually be used to rejuvenate the original color of the grout OR to alter the grout color.  Once in place, the GROUT SEAL problem is solved, making the use of acidic cleaners to address hard water stains suitable on ceramic and porcelain without fear of suffering grout staining issues in the future.   

Net result, if you have hard water, you will have hard water stains, and will need to have your grout COLORSEALED in order to address it without creating unsightly stained grout problems.  The good news is that MARBLELIFE COLORSEAL can be installed in a matter of hours, and lasts for years.  Cost is will depend on the grout size being higher for smaller tiles due to the greater quantity of grout surface to be addressed.  This unique chemistry is odorless, cures quickly such that the next morning one can return to your shower routine.   

The only weakness settles around the need to scrub grout lines.  Grout staining is no longer an issue, so that leaves us with mold and mildew.  Here is where an effective cleaner such as MARBLELIFE MOLD AND MILDEW CLEANER comes into play.  An effective cleaner translates to limited need to scrub.  There is a difference between using a brush to insure all surfaces come in contact with the cleaner, and using a brush to abrade away the mold waste material.  This is akin to your dentist telling you to brush softly done scrub.  Here again, effective cleaners make the difference. 

Best solution – is remodel – with these consideration in place – install a water softener – MARBLELIFE COLORSEAL you grout and you have an easier to maintain shower, but recognize these investments don’t make sense in many cases, which is why we also have the chemical cleaner and MARBLELIFE COLORSEAL options.

Can You Clean Hard Water Stains with Vinegar on marble, limestone and travertine?  

No. However, Vinegar is acidic and will damage grout and Marble surfaces, bathroom fixtures, and some types of trim. Acidic cleaners WILL dissolve the marble, limestone and travertine surfaces.  You may not notice it the first time, but this damage accumulates.  The repair REQUIRES a professional marble polisher service call which is 50x the cost of an appropriate cleaner running $1000+ / day.  Lets not self-create this problem in order to save $10 in cleaner.  This makes no sense.  If you are insistent it doing this – consider a razor blade – it is time consuming but if done correctly can remove build-up without scratching or damaging the tile surface.  Here again, technique matters, scratch the surface and you are back to paying for restoration services, but it can be done...carefully.  Or call MARBLELIFE.  They can effect such treatments quickly without damaging your stone.

Cleaning Hard Water Stains with MARBLELIFE Products  

MARBLELIFE is a science company. Our material research in surfaces, their care, their restoration and cleaning coupled with our unique position as the only company that is in the field servicing damage caused by inappropriate cleaners positions us uniquely to understand, develop and supply products and services tailored to the correction of such situations caused by hard water deposits, and the cleaners clients have deployed in an effort to do this themselves.   

MARBLELIFE offers FREE CONSULTATION.  We would rather earn your business by saving you grief before damage is done, then to earn it by restoring your surface after the fact.  Give us a call and speak to a local representative who is familiar with your area, your water sources, and likely lives with the same water quality, as they live and work in the same communities.   

Tile and Grout Cleaner 

Because most homemade cleaning recipes damage your surface, we recommend not to use acidic cleaners or baking soda. MARBLELIFE® Tile & Grout Cleaner is a non-acidic, non-abrasive cleaner that can help you maintain your tile and grout. It has emulsifiers to break up oils and chemicals that the bathroom surface is exposed to without damaging your surfaces. It's a potent and safe stain remover for your bathroom tiles. 

MaxOut Grout cleaner 

For hard-to-remove grout stains, use MARBLELIFE® Grout Cleaner. It can flush out stubborn staining, leaving your surfaces looking great.  

Grout Sealer 

Using MARBLELIFE® Grout Sealer is the last step in this cleaning process, but it is essential. Apply the sealer to the grout surface and let it sit for a few minutes to be soaked up by the grout. Sealing your grout makes sure that your grout is protected from the dirt and chemicals that your surfaces are exposed to daily.  

Soap Scum Remover 

The MARBLELIFE® Soap Scum Remover is gentle and free from harsh chemicals. It cuts through the soap and scum buildup on your bathroom floors, tiles, and glass.

Preventing Hard Water Stains 

Once you bring your surfaces back to their appealing self, here's how you can keep those hard water stains at bay. 

  • Wipe or squeegee away all water from bathroom floors and walls. Doing this before it evaporates eliminates the buildup of the mineral in hard water. 
  • Wipe down your tiles and surfaces with a soft cloth to remove soapy residue and keep the floor and walls dry. This helps remove any organic matter that mold and mildew feed on and wipes away any crusting of mineral deposits left behind before they build up into stains. 
  • Use a water softener to reduce mineral buildup and try other water treatments to reduce the hardness of water. 
  • Use the MARBLELIFE® Tile and Grout Cleaner and MARBLELIFE® Soap & Scum Remover to keep your bathroom tiles clean and prevent soap scum buildup and mold and mildew.

DIY Solution: Take It with a Grain of Salt 

While the internet is full of DIY solutions that seem convenient, they can cause real damage. For daily care, we recommend using MARBLELIFE products. You will get clean and long-lasting surfaces, eliminating the need to replace them unnecessarily. 

Hard water can be a formidable foe, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can keep your bathroom tiles in impeccable condition.

While these recommendations work, we get it, who has time for this in our go-go lives where we jump into the shower as we get ready for work.  For these reasons, we look to permanent solutions through water treatment or remodeling the shower if we are committed to this home, and we recognize the need for appropriate products to care for, and minimize damage while seeking to ACHIEVE CLEAN.  Finally, we all make mistakes, for which MARBLELIFE restoration services exists to help restore or periodically refresh your surfaces.  Whatever your strategy is, MARBLELIFE is hear to assist.

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