Cleaning stubborn water stains from a toilet

26 12 2013

We moved into our house nearly four years ago. When we moved in, the house was three years’ old and the toilets were stained (the water here is fairly hard), as were the plug areas of the white porcelain hand basins in the bathrooms.

Below is an example of the staining — yes, these are WATER stains!!!


I tried everything possible (e.g. CLR, Steradent, abrasive and non-abrasive cleaning gels, sprays, solutions etc.) to clean them, all to no avail. They remained stained. A plumber we’ve used over the past few years said that we’d never clean them as ‘there was a bad batch made about the time your house was built and the porcelain was porous and therefore the stains were ingrained’. Short of replacing the toilets with new ones, we were stuck with toilets and hand basins that were clean but that looked dirty.

I even emailed pictures of the stained toilets to the manufacturer back in November (I’m still awaiting a reply…), as the building guy I spoke to said they had a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Meantime, we had some roof plumbing work done by a plumber just before Christmas  and I asked him about his availability for replacing the two toilets. He came inside, took one look, then beetled back to his van where he grabbed some abrasive mesh. He rubbed a small area of one toilet bowl and voila! The stains had disappeared!!! and there was some milky stuff in the water. He said they were calcium stains (which accounted for the milkiness) and that the porcelain was fine — we just needed to get the calcium off and they’d be as good as new. He even gave me about 30 cm of the mesh he used and warned me not to press too hard with bare fingers as I’d cut them. The porcelain doesn’t get scratched by this process either — it was very smooth where he’d rubbed the calcium off.

So, wearing rubber gloves, I got to and over the past couple of days I’ve cleaned both toilets and hand basins and they are all shiny new again! And even better, I’ve saved myself the expense and inconvenience of having to replace toilet pedestals and hand basins. All it required was the right ‘tool’ for the job and a fair amount of elbow grease.

Here’s one of the toilets with one side cleaned, and then finished.



Below is this magical abrasive mesh (I think the AO is for aluminium oxide and the 180 is for the grit level).


You don’t need much of it to make a big impression, and you can use it wet or dry — I found wet was best:


I’ve since attacked a few other areas around the house with this stuff, but be careful as it will scratch metal surfaces if you put too much pressure on it. I haven’t tried it on the glass shower screens yet, but I suspect it may scratch glass too. However, a light rubbing removed rust-type stains from aluminium without obvious scratching.

When I’m next in town, I’ll try to buy a roll of this stuff from the plumbing supplies place — plumbers use it for filing off rough edges on copper pipes etc. I figure that I’ll need to give these toilets a periodic rub down with the mesh as our hard water issue isn’t going away any time soon.



6 responses

26 12 2013

Ahhhh…..such a simple/inexpensive solution!!!!

8 01 2015

Can’t wait to try this! Your before looks exactly like my toilets and I’ve tried everything!

19 01 2015
visit website

Tubs, sinks, and toilets have a glaze on the porcelain. Over time it does wear away. I owned a home where the tub was exactly as you described. You are stuck with lots of continuous cleaning or replacing the toilet. (Or professional deglazing) sorry no encouraging news

28 09 2015
Ella Norris

I am going to try your method.It sounds interesting. I usually use pumice stone. It is cheap and effective. Greetings!

3 05 2016
Carren Richardson

Can you please tell me how l can this product on line ?
I have tried local plumber supplies to no avail. Thank you so much
Carren Richardson

3 05 2016

I have no idea where you might be able to buy it online, especially as I have no idea where you live. However, a quick Google for ‘AO180 mesh’ found this supplier in the US:

I’m in Australia and found it at my local plumbing store; a hardware store might also have it.

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