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What is Limescale? What to Know About the Silent Appliance Killer

Limescale, also dubbed “the silent appliance killer,” can have damaging effects for your water pipes and all appliances using water in your home. From washing machines to kettles and from showerheads to dishes, almost nothing escapes it. Today we will discuss what is limescale and what causes it. Moreover, we will present you with its signs and effects, and, most importantly, the most efficient ways to prevent and remove it.

What is Limescale?

what is limescale definition

From a scientific point of view, limescale is a residue left behind by hard water. It is a calcium carbonate deposit. It accumulates on the inside of your pipework, inside your appliances, and on the surface of all items that get into contact with hard water.

It looks like a chalky white(ish) film or crust that needs specific cleaning products to remove (especially from showerheads and faucets). It looks unpleasant, can ruin the infrastructure of your home, and it is quite hard (but not impossible) to remove and prevent.

What Causes Limescale?

Your home’s water contains dissolved particles of calcium and magnesium (the elements conferring your water its hardness). When the water evaporates, it generates a build-up of calcium carbonate deposits.

As you probably figure out, the harder the water in your area is, the more limescale deposits you will have to counter and remove. Here is what you need to know about the causes and formation of limescale in your house.

  • Limescale forms mostly in the presence of hot water – a reason why it is such a significant problem when it comes to the metallic parts of appliances and devices using warm water.
  • In the presence of heat or fatty acids in soaps, calcium and magnesium ions decompose into insoluble molecules that form that soap scum on the surfaces in your bathroom or kitchen, inside pipes, and appliances.
  • Limescale adheres to itself. It means that once you have a coating of limescale inside your pipes or appliances, the run of hard water will add more and more layers of calcium carbonate that stick to the initial one.

By building up in and outside pipes, appliances, and surfaces, limescale becomes the “silent killer” you may not even see (or recognize) sometimes. Nevertheless, it comes with signs and symptoms, so let’s learn more about them!

Signs You Have Limescale (And Consequently, Hard Water) in the House


When it comes to limescale, you have two problematic areas you need to consider: the bathroom and the kitchen. We already learned that limescale looks like a film or a crust off-white in color and a bit chalky in texture. So let’s see the spaces most likely for it to build:

In the Bathroom

Since you use gallons of hard water every day in your bathroom, here are the most exposed elements, devices, and surfaces:

  • Shower
  • Bathtub
  • Faucets and taps
  • Sink
  • Toilet
  • Floor/walls tiles
  • Other surfaces
  • Inside the pipes (where you cannot see it)
  • Washing machine
  • Other surfaces

Of course, one of the most crucial difficulties with limescale in the bathroom is that it can ruin your showerheads and all water pipes by chalking the water flow. Moreover, it can eat your washing machine from the inside and you might not even notice it.

In the Kitchen

When it comes to drinking limescale water or using it for cooking or washing food, the jury is still out. We will talk about this a bit later. Nevertheless, we do have a verdict on the consequences of limescale on all the things you use in a kitchen: dramatic. So let’s see the most affected items and areas:

  • Sink
  • Taps and faucets
  • Dishwasher
  • Tiles
  • Coffee maker
  • Tea kettle
  • Electric water boiler
  • Pots, pans, plates, etc.
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Pipes and plumbing
  • All other surfaces.

Besides reducing the water flow in your kitchen over time, limescale can ruin a dishwasher, all the water-using appliances and devices you have around, and present an unsightly landscape no matter how often you clean.

Why is Limescale a Problem for Your Everyday Life?

While we cannot ignore the ugly sight of limescale deposits on our bathroom or kitchen surfaces, the adverse effects of limescale go far beyond. Just as the consequences of hard water cascade, those of limescale can branch out in numerous ways. Let’s detail them:

  • When hard water heats up or stands still for prolonged times, it can cause hidden damages to your appliances. The more limescale builds inside your kettle or coffee machine, the less efficient they will become. Limescale can ruin them from the inside, costing you a lot of time and money to fix or, worse, replace them with new ones frequently.
  • Limescale builds up like no other inside your washing machine and dishwasher. In time, your appliances will consume more water and more energy to function optimally. Consequently, you will pay more for water and electricity.
  • As a logical consequence, washing machines and dishwashers break at some point, and you will have to repair or replace them. It translates into a more substantial burden on your budget on top of the heftier bills you already paid.
  • Regarding your pipes and plumbing, things can get even worse. Besides lower flow rates, limescale building up inside your pipework can block them entirely.
  • The limescale that builds up inside your heating elements turns them inefficient – with a high impact on your heating bills.
  • Limescale also affects cooling operations and appliances. Such equipment may become exposed to increased thermal stress levels due to unproductive cooling. In turn, this can lead to the decreased efficiency of such machines and increased failure rates.
  • From an ecological point of view – which we can’t ignore in our day and age – energy-inefficient pipework, heating, cooling, or electrical appliances take a massive toll on our environment.

Why Is Limescale a Problem for Your Business?

Take all the issues mentioned above and multiply them by ten, if not a hundred. Imagine you are a customer in a café, and you see chalky white deposits in your tea or coffee. How could you ever trust your dentist again if you saw all the tools covered in a white, unsightly film?

Would you ever step foot in such a place again?

You can easily see where we are going with this example. Businesses revolving around hospitality services, restaurants, hospitals (and other health clinics), spas and wellness centers, car or clothes washing facilities, and all other establishments using extensive quantities of water every day may become victims of hard water and limescale.

Is Limescale Bad for Your Health?

As we said, the jury is still out on this one. Just as it happens with hard water, some people consider that ingesting trace amounts of calcium and magnesium with your water is not bad for your health.

While officials and authorities do not consider limescale to be a health issue, it is clear that more and more Americans show concern about the quality of water they drink and use.

As we already discussed, when we approached hard water, limescale harms people with dry skin and dermatological issues, so softening the water is the next logical step.

How to Remove Limescale

Limescale removal from surfaces, faucets, taps, and kitchenware is not hard with the right cleaning agents or homemade mixtures (that mostly contain vinegar or lemon juice).

  • If your mother told you to run your washing machine on a regular cycle with no load of clothes but with a cup or two of vinegar instead of detergent, listen to her.
  • If you heard that you could use a concoction of vinegar/lemon juice and baking soda to keep clean and limescale-free all your tiles and grout surfaces, sinks, shower bases and bathtubs, taps, sink fixtures and fittings, go for it as well.

However, no matter how many DIY solutions you employ or life hacks you use if you do not solve the leading cause of limescale – hard water – you will never get rid of it.

How to Prevent Limescale to Protect Your Plumbing and Appliances

Cleaning and implementing temporary solutions have a low-efficiency rate. If you are one of those citizens concerned with their water quality, the quality of their life, and the environment, you need a permanent solution.

Such solutions involve water softeners or water descalers. The former uses the chemical process of adding sodium to the water, thus turning the water soft. Nevertheless, such traditional water softeners do not work great with people suffering from cardiovascular diseases or following special diets because of the extra salt in their drinking water.

Water descalers, on the other hand, use electricity and magnetic fields to treat the water – you may also know them as water conditioners. Such innovative electronic descaling systems charge the target particles, stopping them from adhering to surfaces and forming scale.

Modern water descalers against hard water and limescale are easy to install, do not affect the quality or safety of the drinking water, and work both in residential and commercial applications.

Bottom Line

Now that you learned what is limescale, it’s time for you to tell us if you encounter such problems in your home or business. What solutions did you employ to solve it?