How to Remove Calcium Buildup in Faucets/Shower Heads

If you live in an area with hard water, it is not unusual to have ugly stains on your faucets and fixtures. Iron and calcium buildup in toilets, sinks, tubs and other fixtures make them look ugly and old that they really are, and may even be confused with poor hygiene.

Calcium deposits affects both the inside and outside of faucets. It is a mistake to concentrate removing mineral build up on the outside of the faucets and ignore the inside.


To start with, if you can see the white calcium buildup on the faucet and you are also experiencing low water pressure, the inside of your faucet is certainly clogged by the calcium deposits.

Apart from faucets, calcium deposits can affect your water pipes and drains as well. If your fixtures are draining slowly or there is a reduction in water pressure in your house then you most likely have calcium deposits there too.

To remove calcium/limescale buildup from a faucet, start by removing the aerator and soaking it in a bowl of vinegar. Wrap the faucet in a bag full of vinegar or a cloth soaked in vinegar for 3 hours. Spray dish soap on the faucet and scrub the calcium away using a toothbrush. Connect back the aerator.

Low water pressure in a shower is also caused by calcium build up. Calcium is deposited in the tiny shower head holes over a period of time which clogs them up, restricting the flow of water and hence the low water pressure.

I will show you how to clean a shower head and remove calcium build a little later in this post.

Removing calcium buildup in faucets and shower heads is a temporary solution. You will need to do it again and again.

The best way to prevent calcium buildup in faucets and other fixtures is by installing a water softener. Since the minerals present in hard water have a positive charge, they are attracted to the negatively charged elements in the water softener thereby being pulled from the water.

Vinegar vs. Strong Acids

Vinegar is the safest bust still effective solution to dissolve and remove calcium deposits in faucets, shower heads and drains. Although it is an acid, it is a weak acid and will not damage your pipes or kill microbes in a septic tank.

You can also use strong acids like sulfuric acid or muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) to get rid of calcium and other hard water mineral deposits from faucets. These acids are however very toxic when inhaled and will burn your skin if they come into contact with it.

Apart from that, these acids will badly stain your kitchen sink and peel off finishes from faucets and shower heads. You should definitely never use acids if you are on a septic system as they will kill all the good bacteria in the septic tank.

If you must use something stronger than vinegar, I suggest that you go with CLR. It is not as strong as muriatic acid hence gentler on your plumbing.

If muriatic acid is all that you have, mix it with water in the ratio of 1:1. Remember that to dilute an acid you should always add the acid to the water (slowly) but never the other way round.

In Faucets

calcium buildup in faucets

As I have already mentioned, vinegar is my favorite solution for calcium buildup removal from faucets. You can also add baking soda to help further break down the limescale.

You will need the following items for this task:

  • Vinegar
  • Thick cloth/towel
  • Bowl
  • Wrench
  • Old toothbrush
  • Dish soap
  • Plastic bag (optional)

Now, there are 2 methods that people use to remove calcium buildup from faucets. The first is filling a plastic bag with vinegar then immersing the faucet inside and tying it with a rubber band.

I am not a fan of this method. With this method, you can only target the faucet spout but not the faucet handles and escutcheon which also have the limescale covering them.

My favorite method is covering the entire faucet with a heavy cloth soaked in vinegar. Before doing that, you will first need to remove the faucet aerator and clean it separately.

Here are all the steps to follow:

1. Remove the Faucet Aerator

If you look at the tip if your faucet spout, you will see a small attachment whose opening looks like a mesh. That is the aerator. It allows air into the faucet thereby preventing water from splashing and also increase spray width.

  • Since you do not want to scratch the aerator, wrap a cloth or tape around it before grabbing it and loosing it with a wrench.
  • If you have a more modern faucet, you may have a cache aerator, which are inserted inside the spout. These aerators need a special key to remove.
  • For a pull out kitchen faucet, pull the head out and clamp the hose to avoid having to fish it out later. Disconnect the head from the hose.
  • Drop the faucet aerators in a bowl and add vinegar until they are completely immersed in the vinegar.
  • Keep the bowl away and let the vinegar dissolve the calcium.

2. Soak the Faucet in Vinegar

  • Get another bowl and fill it with vinegar up to the ½ level.
  • Put the cloth/towel in the bowl and soak it up with the vinegar.
  • Lift off the cloth without squeezing out the vinegar and place it all over the affected parts of the faucet.
  • Let it sit there and dissolve the calcium for about 3 hours.
  • You should periodically pour a little vinegar on the cloth to make sure it remains saturated at all times.

3. Scrub off the Calcium

  • Remove the cloth after the 3 hours have lapsed.
  • Generously squirt dish soap all over the faucet. You can as well use baking soda instead of the dish soap. Both of them will do just fine though.
  • Grab a toothbrush (or any other non-abrasive brush or pad) and start scrubbing away the limescale buildup.
  • Rinse the faucet with water when all the minerals deposits have been removed.
  • Use the same toothbrush to scrub the faucet aerator until the fine holes on the mesh are completely opened.
  • Connect the aerator back on the faucet and gently tighten it.

And basically that is how to remove limescale/calcium build up from faucets.

In Showerheads

Shower heads work the same way as faucet aerators. Due to the small sizes of holes on the shower head, they are easily clogged by calcium deposits greatly reducing the water pressure.

There are three ways or removing calcium buildup in shower heads. In 2 of the methods you will not even need to disconnect it from the shower arm.

The first method is quite easy. Just pick a toothpick and poke through each hole on the shower head. After that blast hot water through the shower head for about 30 seconds.

The second method involves using vinegar and a plastic bag.

  • Start by filling a plastic bag with vinegar up to the half-level mark.
  • Introduce the plastic bag into the shower head.
  • Make sure the shower head is fully immersed in the vinegar.
  • Secure the plastic bag on the shower arm using a rubber band.
  • Leave the vinegar to dissolve the calcium for 3 hours or even overnight.
  • Remove the plastic bag and vinegar and clean the shower head using a brush.
  • Just to be sure all the holes are opened, poke through each one of them using a toothpick.
  • Blast hot water through it for 30 seconds.

The other method involves removing the shower head and soaking it in the vinegar.

  • Grab you shower head with your hand and attempt to loosen it by turning it counterclockwise. Not all shower heads need to be loosened with a wrench.
  • If the shower head is really tight, you will need a wrench to remove it. Grab the nut with a wrench and gently turn it counterclockwise. If the shower arms looks like it will turn as well, back it off with another wrench. Check out how to remove a stuck shower head here.
  • Drop the shower head in a bowl and add vinegar until it is fully immersed in the vinegar. Let it sit there for 3 hours or even overnight.
  • Check if there are calcium deposits inside the shower arm. Scrap it off with a screwdriver.
  • Turn on the water to flush out any debris inside the shower arm and water pipe.
  • Clean off old Teflon tape from the shower arm threads and apply about 6 wraps of new one.
  • after the 3 hours, add some baking soda into the vinegar and shower head and let the solution fizzle for 10 minutes.
  • Scrub the shower head with a toothbrush until all the limescale is removed.
  • Again, use a toothbrush to check if all the shower head holes are fully opened.
  • Connect it back on the shower arm and gently tighten it.
  • Check if the water pressure has improved.

And basically that is how to remove calcium build up from a shower head.

As I had said before, the best way to prevent calcium build up in your entire house is by installing a water softener.

Apart from staining faucets and other fixtures, calcium and other mineral deposits causes premature failing of water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers and toilet fill valves.

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