how to remove water stains
Floor and surface cleaning

How to remove water stains

Hard water can cause limescale stains on surfaces in your bathroom or kitchen. These tips will help you remove water stains!

Key Steps:

  • Build-ups of ‘hard water’ on glass and metal can often leave limescale stains. Try using a commercial cleaning product specially designed to remove limescale.
  • Olive oil or an oil-based furniture polish can be used to remove water stains from wood.
  • A water and bleach solution can be effective at removing water stains on ceilings. A fresh coat of paint, after a layer of ‘stain blocking’ paint has been applied, will finish the job up nicely!
  • Remember to always test any cleaning methods on a small area of your surface first and to follow the instructions on the product’s label carefully.

Water is hardly a harsh chemical, but it can still badly stain home surfaces. In the bathroom and kitchen, removing water stains is a regular task; but if your ceiling has sprung a leak, or water has spilt on your table top one too many times, other approaches are necessary. This quick, handy guide explains how to remove water stains on wood, ceilings, and other types of household surface.

How to Remove Water Stains from Glass and Metal

You’ll have noticed that water – especially in ‘hard water’ areas – leaves a build-up of white calcium deposits on glass and metal, otherwise known as limescale. It’s worth saving yourself time and effort by trying a commercial cleaner designed to tackle limescale on your shower doors and kitchen sinks, like Cif Bathroom Spray. These are usually incredibly effective – just follow the instructions on the label to get the best results – but when it comes to removing water stains, you can improve the performance of any commercial cleaner by applying it properly. These tips explain the basics of returning a shine to your glass and metal surfaces.

  • Wipe off any residual product carefully. Just spraying a product on and swishing it around won’t necessarily leave you with a gleaming surface – wipe your surface or appliance down to avoid smears and ‘tide lines’ once your glass or metal is dry. If you’re working on windows, use a scrap of dry newspaper to buff them up to a real shine.
  • Use a good quality, clean cloth – e-cloths are perfect for getting a gleam back on surfaces without being too abrasive. It should also go without saying that a build up of cleaning product and dust can make cloths ineffective, so pop them in the laundry regularly to ensure the best results.
  • Protect yourself! Your health is more important than getting a shiny worktop – look after your skin by wearing gloves, work in a well ventilated area, and use an apron to protect your clothes during the splashier tasks. Finally, always follow the safety instructions on the label of your chosen product carefully.

If you’d like to try a homemade method, the simplest way to remove water stains on glass or metal without using a commercial cleaner is to use a solution of white vinegar and water.

  1. Make sure to protect your hands with rubber gloves – any small cuts or scrapes you have on your hands will sting if they come into contact with vinegar.
  2. Make a weak solution (1 part vinegar to 5 parts water) and put it in a spray bottle for general use (consider adding a few drops of essential oils for a more attractive odour – strong vinegar can smell rather unpleasant).
  3. Spray the solution on your glass or metal surface. Leave it on for a few minutes to start working through the limescale and removing water stains.
  4. Use a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue, and then rinse it clean.
  5. Reapply, or use neat vinegar to remove particularly stubborn water stains.

If you need to remove water stains from your drinking glasses, just fill a washing up bowl with vinegar solution and let the glasses soak until the residue has disappeared. Watch this video for a better idea.

How to Remove Water Stains on Wood

Removing water stains from wood can be a little tricky, but it is by no means impossible. Water stains on wood will have a different appearance depending on how deep they are, and the finish of the wood they have damaged. White marks mean the water has only affected the surface or finish of the wood – these are easier to remove than dark water stains.

For surface water stains, the following method is appropriate:

  1. Apply olive oil or an oil-based furniture polish directly on to the stain, and leave it to soak in overnight.
  2. If the mark remains, try vigorously rubbing white toothpaste into the stain.
  3. Wipe the surface clean and re-treat if necessary.
  4. To finish, apply an oil or wax-based furniture polish.

To deal with darker stains, you will need to strip back the surface of the wood with sandpaper and allow it to completely dry out, before tackling the colour of the stain:

  • To make the stain lighter, very carefully apply a weak bleach solution, following the safety instructions on the label.
  • To make the stain darker, apply an appropriate wood stain, once again according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Then, match the finish to the rest of the wood using varnish or furniture wax.

How to Remove Water Stains on Ceiling Tiles & Plaster

If you’ve had a burst pipe or a hole in the roof, there may be a water stain on the ceiling plaster or tiles as a result of the leak. It is essential to address the original problem before even thinking about how to remove the stain. The whole area must be completely dry before you can take the following steps to tackle the unsightly stain.

  1. Use a water and bleach solution to ‘disinfect’ and lighten the area of the stain. This will help keep mould from developing, and may reduce the darkness of the stain. Remember to mix the bleach according to the instructions on the label, and to follow any safety instructions.
  2. Paint an area slightly bigger than the stain with ‘stain blocking’ paint, and let it dry. This will keep the stain from remaining visible through a fresh coat of paint.
  3. Paint that fresh coat of paint over the same area. If there is a noticeable difference between the tone of the new paint and the rest of the ceiling, you will need to paint the rest of the ceiling as well to make sure the finish is uniform.

So there you have it – when a leak threatens during the wet months, you can be rest assured that removing water stains will remain simple! If you’re unsure whether these solutions will be enough for your water stain problem, check out our articles on removing mould and mildew for help with slightly more drastic situations.

Top Tip


When applying bleach solution to a ceiling stain, remember to carefully cover the floor and furniture below with an old sheet or newspaper – any drips could accidentally lighten a carpet or sofa! Also be sure to protect your clothes and skin: wear an apron, rubber gloves, and goggles.