How to Remove Watermarks & Stains on Glass

We all may want those sparkling clean windows and glass shower doors we see on TV, but getting them isn’t always that easy. Instead, we’re often left with stubborn hard water stains. These water spots are caused when there’s a high concentration of magnesium and calcium minerals in the water. The minerals build up over time on surfaces, such as your shower door glass, that are in constant contact with hard water. Fortunately, there are lots of options for how to remove watermarks on glass. Even by using just a few household ingredients, you may find it’s easy to remove and prevent future watermarks on glass.

watermark-free shower glass

Try Vinegar to Remove Hard Water Stains

One of the best household items for cleaning purposes is vinegar. This is non-toxic and can be used to clean many surfaces in your home—including watermarks on glass. Plain white distilled vinegar is ideal for cleaning. There are a number of recipe options for making your own cleaning solution. One of the most common is a solution of 50 percent vinegar mixed with 50 percent tap water. For extremely tough stains, you may find you need a higher concentration of vinegar.

It’s important not to spray any solution directly onto the glass (see “How to Keep Your Door Glass Clean”). Instead, spray the cleaner generously onto a clean towel or cloth.

Next, scrub the glass. The towel even acts as an abrasive, helping remove the spots as the vinegar works on the mineral build-up. Once the surface is fully covered with the solution, allow it to soak a bit. The harder the stains, the longer this may take. Use a dry towel or squeegee to remove the cleaning solution, then wipe off with a clean, dry towel (or paper towel). You can also use a squeegee to remove the water. Be careful to not let the vinegar solution or water dry on the glass surface, as this could leave more spots.

Baking soda can also work with vinegar as an effective cleaner, however, the two should not be combined. Vinegar is an alkali and baking soda is a base so if mixed together will cancel out the effectiveness of each other. Instead, spray or wipe full strength vinegar on the hard watermark and let it stand for about 30 minutes. Next, sprinkle with baking soda, scrub gently and rinse with water.

Give Lemon a Go for Water Spots

Vinegar isn’t the only common household item that can help you remove watermarks on glass. Lemon can also work. Like vinegar, it also has acidic properties. You may find that fresh lemon juice will work better than bottled. Rolling the lemon on a countertop will make the lemon easier to juice. You can then squeeze the lemon juice into a spray bottle with water. Spray onto a towel and then wipe over the glass.

You could also simply wipe the lemon itself over the glass surface. Once cut, rub it over the glass and let it soak in before removing with water or a traditional cleaner.

Essential oils are another cleaning possibility. Citrus oils such as lemon and orange may help in removing hard water stains, while also serving as a water repellent against future buildups.

Begin by mixing a few drops of the oil in water. Then apply to the glass with a towel or sponge. Allow the solution to soak and then wipe away.

Store-Bought Cleaners 

If you prefer to buy your cleaning products, there are plenty of options. Abrasive cleaners are available in powders and liquids, and either are sprinkled on the surface, or applied with a towel or sponge. Just be sure they are safe to use on glass to avoid damaging the surface.

When using these products, begin by wetting the glass and then sprinkle or wipe on the cleaner. With the powder in particular, wetting the surface helps it stick to the surface, forming a cleaning paste.

After cleaning, rinse the surface with water. Abrasives should not be left on the glass because they could leave a residue.

Best Practices for Glass Water Stains

Finish with a traditional glass cleaner to make sure all residue is removed. Be sure to dry the cleaned glass to help prevent future stains and spots.

There are also products available to specifically remove water spots from glass. You can find these in retail stores, online, or where you typically buy your cleaning products.

Cleaning Cautions

There are a few considerations to keep in mind before taking steps to remove water spots from glass.

  • Be sure that store-bought cleaning products are safe to use on glass before applying them.
  • Since cleaning products may be corrosive or acidic, wear gloves while cleaning the glass surfaces in your home.
  • Always wash your hands after they contact any cleaner, and don’t touch your face after hands have been in contact with the cleaning products until after they’re washed.
  • Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area when cleaning; and
  • Always read and follow all directions and warning labels.

Keep Hard Water Stains from Coming Back

Once you’ve successfully cleaned and removed the watermarks from your glass, there are also steps you can take to keep your glass, shower doors and mirrors sparkling. If you start to see watermarks on your glass, treat the glass right away. This will help keep them from building up.

You can treat spots regularly with a vinegar solution, as this will keep them easy to clean. Also, don’t let water droplets settle or evaporate onto the glass surface. Wipe them away as soon as you see it forming to help prevent future spots. You can also squeegee the water off the glass, to help keep it clean. Keep in mind that the longer the watermarks are on the glass, the harder they will be to clean.

Easy-Clean Treatments

You can also purchase products that are designed to repel water from the glass surface. These products treat the glass so that water droplets sheet away rather than settling on the surface. These are available in stores where you by cleaning products, specialty retailers or online.

In addition, if you’re planning a bathroom renovation or to purchase new windows, there are glass products available that have already been treated with a special easy-to-clean coating.

Glass shops in your area are available to answer questions you may have about cleaning the glass in your home. They can also guide you in your search for a new shower door or windows. If you’re looking for guidance, assistance or product recommendations, look to for help connecting with companies near you.


© 2020 Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.

Ellen Rogers

By Ellen Rogers

Ellen Rogers has been involved with the glass industry for nearly 20 years and is the editor of USGlass Magazine and Architects’ Guide to Glass magazine. Ellen received a degree from Peace College where she studied journalism.

Ellen enjoys running and competes regularly in races including half and full marathons. When not on the go, Ellen enjoys reading, wine tasting, true crime shows, and family game nights with her husband and son. Their favorite game is Clue. Ellen also bakes what is known locally as “World Famous Oatmeal Cookies.”

8 responses to “How to Remove Watermarks & Stains on Glass”

  1. I am currently trying out microfiber cleaning cloths with not much luck. I still have water marks on my glass tables.Can you help

  2. Use baking soda or borax. Nothing else works as well. Sprinkle a liberal amount on a towel and dampen with water and start scrubbing. After about 20 seconds either product will even the ph in the water spot and voila marks are gone.

  3. Hi Ellen,
    I’ve cleaned my glass shower it looks great, but when the light hits it I can still see water spots.
    Can the glass absorb hard water after a period of time?
    If so what’s my next step?
    Thanks so much

    • Hi Lorri,
      This is common of hard water spots. You’ll want to use a cleaner that is specifically formulated to remove hard water spots. They typically contain a mild abrasive or a mild acid. You’ll want to check with the manufacturer of your shower to see what they recommend.

  4. I have a Koehler glass door and it has a special coating on it that does not allow me to use cleaners. I have looked on the website and there is no information on how to clean it. Can you help

    • Thanks for the question Laura! Unfortunately, without being able to use a cleaner on the glass we won’t be able to offer up much help. You may wish to reach out to the company directly via phone to verify care instructions with their customer support as it seems rather restrictive not being able to clean the door. If it is indeed the case that a cleaner of any kind cannot be used (soap, vinegar, etc.) then ask whether or not wetting the glass with water, squeegeeing it, and buffing it dry with a microfiber cloth would be acceptable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *