When all else fails, give up more cleaning advice!
I've already given up all my best product "secrets". But it occurs to me that I didn't really reveal much by way of technique. I forget sometimes that people aren't generally born knowing how to clean things, but this past Friday reminded me that some people, even those who have been cleaning more years than I have can still afford to learn a new trick or two. I took on a new house last week. A lovely home that had been regularly professionally cleaned for the past dozen years. Yet what did I find? Water spots. Heavy layers of water spots as well as hard water deposits surrounding every faucet.
It's easy to get cocky and look down my nose at my predecessor, but then I remember how many years I lived thinking hard water stains were "normal wear and tear". In fact, one time as a young renter I vacated an apartment, having carefully cleaned it, only to be insulted by a deduction from the security deposit for "hard water stains around the kitchen faucet". What?! Those don't come off! They can't charge me for normal wear and tear!
I'd tried it all over the years, CLR, Lime Away, even the heavy duty acid stuff they sell on the auto detailers' black market, and found none of them could get a glass shower door clean and shiny, or remove the crust around the faucet. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with these products aside from the fact that they DON'T WORK. Well, maybe Lime Away works in limestone country. I don't know where that is, by the way; all I know is I don't live there. The "C" in CLR stands for "calcium", so it might work fine in dairy country - but I don't live there either. (The "R" stands for "rust" I think, and Barkeepers Friend is cheaper and faster.)
Okay, enough small talk. Now, it's pretty simple. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out, but, if I remember correctly, it was a trip to the dentist for a cleaning which set the light bulb blinking and the bell in my head dinging. Tartar, he said, is basically made up of mineral deposits (and other gross junk). Hmmm. Dr. Jones scrapes those puppies off.... And there began the experiments. I'll skip the failures and get straight to what works: razor blade scrapers, stainless steel scrubbers (or fine steel wool), drywall screen, and Bio Clean Water Spot Remover. The tools work like the scraper the dentist uses. The Bio Clean paste works like the polish he finishes up with that leaves your teeth feeling so wonderfully smooth.
Now, don't run off and start until you've read the rest. Some of these products, the drywall screen in particular have the potential to scratch. NEVER use drywall screen on glass! The caps and exclamation point are meant to indicate that I've tried this and permanently etched a dear soul's shower glass. I've prayed for forgiveness, yet the shame of my guilt remains, etched in glass. The stainless steel scrubber looks like a wicked tool. I advise caution simply because it looks so dangerous. I have yet to see it actually scratch anything - but as with any abrasive devise, I must insist that you test it first in an inconspicuous place. Using a razor blade is like shaving. It takes practice. Practice on an inconspicuous spot, and for Pete's sake be careful. There's a reason people use these things to commit suicide: they're sharp! Always scrape away from your body and keep your free hand out of the way.
Okay, lets start with the bathtub. I've found that almost any house I enter will have discolorations like outlines of little puddles on the bottom of the tub that "nothing will get rid of". These are usually hard water deposits. The textured surface makes a razor blade useless, so I head first for the stainless steel scrubber. (I'm assuming here that you know to get it wet and add some cleanser.) Scrub, scrub, scrub. It should come up easily. If you run into a stubborn patch you can try the drywall screen, testing it first in an inconspicuous spot to make sure it won't mar the finish. Rinse and repeat until the spot is completely removed.
Now you are ready to tackle the glass shower doors. My best recommendation is that you do away with them entirely and replace them with shower curtains which you can just throw in the laundry every so often, but if you insist on keeping them here's what to do. If the water spots are very faint, wet a sponge, preferably the scrubbie kind, and use it to apply Bio Clean according to the instructions on the bottle. I know the product is fairly expensive, but try not to think about that. Don't skimp, it will just make your work harder. Rub until the glass feels smooth under the sponge. Rinse and follow up with Windex. To help prevent future build-up you can apply a sealant, or oil the glass with Liquid Gold, or Pledge; but the only sure way to keep from having to repeat this scrubbing routine is to wipe your shower dry with a towel after EVERY USE. If you are not inclined to do this, or not prepared to police the others in your home to enforce this rule, I highly recommend you follow my first advice: get rid of the glass shower doors altogether.
For heavier build-up you'll need to break out the tools. I suggest starting with the razor, make sure it's a sharp one. "Shave" off the bulk of the stains. With practice you will find this goes fairly quickly. Then follow up with Bio Clean and Windex as described above. If you find yourself without a razor you can use the stainless steel scrubber (as always, test it in an inconspicuous spot first), again following up with BioClean and Windex.
Now that your bath is shiny, grab your drywall screen, make sure it is cut to a manageable size and folded to fit easily in your palm, and head over to the sink. If you're like most folks you'll see a discolored ring around the metal drain insert as well as around the edge of the faucet fixture. Those don't need to be there. Get your drywall screen wet, sprinkle a bit of Comet or Ajax around the area you'll be cleaning, (Test the screen in an inconspicuous spot first. Most, but not all, sink material will resist scratching.) Fit the edge of the screen into the groove where the stain is and rub it off. If the build-up is quite thick use the razor blade to scrape away the bulk of it, then finish up with the screen. The stainless scrubber will work for this too, but doesn't fit as neatly into the corners and wears out the fingers of your gloves as you try to work it into the tiny grooves. Rinse and dry. At this stage you may notice the area at the bottom of the sink looks duller than the rest because of water stains. For this use the BioClean and scrubbie sponge. You'll be amazed at how close to brand new you can make your sink look.
Next, your faucet fixture. If you have whitish, dry looking residue, that's hard water again. This CAN be removed. Do NOT use drywall screen for this. You may use the razor, but only if you are very good at it. I don't recommend it unless the build-up is so extreme that you are actually considering replacing it entirely. In that case you've got nothing to lose. But, before you try that, get a stiff toothbrush and your BioClean and set to work. It may take a lot of scrubbing, but you really can get rid of that residue. I can't tell you how many times I've told someone it might cost them less to replace their faucets than to pay me to clean them, only to find I was able to clean them in a mere half hour of scrubbing. So give it a go.
Finally, head over to the toilet. I know you don't want to, but you can do it. You've got your Playtex Handsavers on so nothing's too scary for you. Sprinkle the interior of the bowl with Comet or Ajax, or drizzle one of those special liquid bowl cleaners under the rim. Get your drywall screen and scrub the inside of the bowl. Pay special attention to the ring around the water line and the area under the rim. Flush. Scrub any areas you've missed, and flush again. Now spray the remaining surfaces of the toilet with Mr. Clean or whatever bathroom cleaner you like and wipe clean. (By the way, avoid any bleach based cleaner, or 409 on the non-porcelain surfaces of the toilet. I've known some toilet seats and lids to be permanently discolored by them.)
That's enough work for today, wouldn't you say? I hope you'll find great satisfaction from a job well done. If I've left out anything, or if you have any questions, please ask. And remember my catchy and not-at-all-dorky motto, "If it can be shiny, it should be shiny!"