What dissolves calcium deposits?

Answer

Calcium deposits on plumbing fixtures are easily removed using a mild acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, if the owner acts quickly. Allowing these deposits to grow thicker makes them more difficult to remove and requires more powerful chemicals.

If acid is not effective alone, mechanical action such as scrubbing with a rag dipped in vinegar helps to remove the buildup. For a shower head, fill a plastic bag with enough vinegar to cover the head and secure overnight with a rubber band. If cleaning deposits form on a toilet or porcelain fixture, fine-grained sandpaper helps to provide the mechanical action needed to break up the deposit; however, caution is required as sandpaper has the potential to scratch the surface. If scrubbing with vinegar and sandpaper fails to remove the deposit, pumice stones are the next choice for use on a porcelain fixture.

Depending on its source, water contains a variety of dissolved minerals. Hard water contains dissolved calcium carbonate. As hard water evaporates, a mineral film remains on plumbing fixtures. However, calcium carbonate dissolves readily in acids. Dissolved carbon dioxide in water causes it to become acidic enough to dissolve limestone formations, which are primarily calcium carbonate. A water softener exchanges sodium ions for the calcium ions, resulting in a more soluble ion that is less likely to leave mineral deposits.

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