A glass door, with Hard water

Surprising Trick Removes Stubborn Hard Water Stains from Glass Shower Doors

Got stubborn hard watermarks and stains on your tub or shower doors that simply will not budge no matter what you try? You’re not alone.

I’ve heard from countless readers who say they’ve tried everything from my magic soap scum cleaner to cleaning vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, oven cleaner, muriatic acid, steel wool, Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami and other expensive chemicals to get rid of the horrid, ugly, hard water stains and white haze.

A glass door, with Water and Shower

Severe situations

While most of the time the Magic Soap Scum Cleaner takes care of the problem, even it cannot touch a severe situation where the hard water minerals have become so embedded, the surface of the glass has become permanently etched.

Multiple fails

Some readers report that it took multiple cleanings with the magic stuff to get their glass doors truly clean, while others report they’ve tried everything from magic stuff to 30-percent white cleaning vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, oven cleaner, muriatic acid, steel wool, Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami, and even razor blades to scrape away the problem—all without success.

I have to admit this has left me in a quandary and about this far from advising new doors to be the only solution.

Miracle solution

Then I discovered the solution: Sandpaper.

Yes, you read that right but don’t stop reading yet. This is no ordinary sandpaper.

I’m talking about an automotive quality waterproof sanding wet/dry paper with such a fine grit, it is used in the automotive industry to polish the surface of a car to a mirror finish. You can use the same type of sandpaper to sand away the mineral buildup that has etched your shower door and return it to its original clear, clean, sparkling self.

While sandpaper is readily available in any home improvement store, please be very careful in making your selection, You want automotive quality wet/dry sandpaper.

The best product I’ve found for this job is Wet/Dry Premium Waterproof Sheets. This is a 12-sheet assortment of finish sanding paper ranging from #1500 to #7000 grit. The grit on this type of sanding paper is so fine it will not scratch the glass, the way that woodworker’s sandpaper, steel wool, or other abrasive products might.

Start with #3000

For severe watermark stains, start with a piece of #3000 grit paper (cut it to a size that feels comfortable in your hand as you are going to scrub the glass with it).

Wet both the glass surface and the sanding paper with water to provide a lubricant. Do not attempt to do this completely dry.

Using a circular motion, scrub the entire surface of the glass. You will immediately begin to cut through those stubborn deposits. Prepare to be amazed.

Move up to #5000

Next, move up to #5000. Repeat as above making sure the sandpaper and the glass are wet.

Finish with #7000

Move to #7000 repeating as needed to remove even the tiniest micro scratches that may have been left behind.

At this point, you will be polishing the surface to that mirror finish, with what feels like a piece of paper—that’s how fine #7000 grit is.

Depending on the severity of the problem, the entire process could take five minutes to much longer to finally achieve the level of success you have in mind. But know that it will work. Your shower doors will look like new—no fumes or expensive chemicals.

A sink and a mirror

Maintenance

To keep your glass shower doors looking beautiful, get a cheap shower squeegee or use a microfiber cloth to wipe the shower surfaces (walls and doors) to remove all standing water after every use.

First published: 9-27-18; Updated & Republished 2-3-20


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27 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Barbara J Pirie says:

    When I used to help my friend with his window cleaning at the New Jersey shore, we used Easy Off on the windows that were etched with all of the salt air. I think it was the original Easy Off, it worked like a charm!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Yes that will work. Just keep in mind that there are levels of etching. If the etching is quite mild, your method does work really well. What this post is referring to is severe etching which has bonded to the glass in a way that is creates microscopic “holes” and “pits” in the glass. All the Easy Off in the world won’t fix that stage of etching. But this sandpaper method works great, in most cases!

      Reply
  2. Robin Wagar says:

    Would this work on windows that have calcium buildup from the sprinklers? At this point I use the window cleaner you recommended and made up and a raiser blade but I am not happy with the results.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      My opinion is that yes … if it doesn’t come off with a razor blade, those spots have become permanently embedded in the glass itself. The sandpaper method (following the instructions very carefully) is likely the best option. Let us know how that works for you

      Reply
  3. Cally Ross says:

    Mary, didn’t you suggest using automotive wax on the shower doors to prevent the mineral build up? or maybe i read it somewhere else…
    preventing it in the first place seems proactive rather than trying to remove it after it already happens. Provided one has that option. 😉

    Reply
  4. Vicki Bradley says:

    I am getting ready to install new glass shower doors in a remodeling project. Is there any product you recommend to use to put on the doors before I ever use them to help protect them from these stains in the first place? Or is it just best to squeegee & use micro cloth each use? Never had glass doors before so trying to do it right to save myself alot of headache. Love your col7mn!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      New shower doors can be treated by the manufacturer (or installer in some cases) with a protective coating that is completely invisible but does exactly what you suggest—protects against hard water etching. It can be quite pricey—and you have to be very careful to never use any cleaning product on the treated glass that has ammonia in it. Your best bet with new glass is to always squeegee it down after showering. It takes about 5 seconds. Your glass will be beautifully clear for the lifetime of those doors.

      Reply
  5. Mary Hunt says:

    Hi Sherry …. Just now seeing your comment/question here. Sorry about that. You can find just about anything you want in comments on Amazon and I would never tell you not to follow them. It’s your glass door at stake here. BUT … what is worse? Living with horribly etched shower doors or horribly etched shower doors where in an inconspicuous place you have tried to alleviate this. I know with certainty that with THE RIGHT PRODUCT it is possible to sand/polish out light etches and surface scratches. So … it’s up to you. As for the granite, it didn’t arrive from the quarry all shiny and beautiful. Check out how granite is finished and polished. It’s not with Comet. Ha! Yes it is sanded and poished to a high gloss with …. very very very fine sanding paper. Again, it’s up to you. Which are you willing to live with. I’m sure there’s a place somewhere where you can test treat your granite. Good luck!!

    Reply
  6. Harlean Greathouse says:

    If the glass doors are stained, but not etched a great way to clean them so they sparkle is to clean them when they are still wet after a shower. Just wipe them down with dryer sheets. The cheap ones from the dollar tree are great for this. create a sudsy look as you wipe them down. Once you have finished this step, splash clear water on to rinse them and then polish them dry with a fiber cleaning cloth. My shower has two glass walls and the glass door, and I treat them this way after I shower and before I get out of the shower. No water spots since I started using this method,

    Reply
  7. LuAnn Placeres says:

    Thank you! I tried everything and I mean everything to get the hard water stains off of shower glass doors and NOTHING worked. Then I read your article, ordered the sand paper on Amazon and got it the next day. With just water, the sand paper and a little elbow grease, In one hour the glass looked crystal clear!!!!!! This is the ONLY thing that worked! I cannot thank you enough

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I don’t know. But I know how to find out … test it using the finest grit sand paper—in an inconspicuous place.

      Reply
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