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Hard Water and No Sealant--reddish residue?!

by Eryn Branch
(Reno, NV)

You can see the shape of our bath mat (water sprays out lightly onto the floor)

You can see the shape of our bath mat (water sprays out lightly onto the floor)

We have a shower that is entirely slate--it was gorgeous when new and sealed, but looks pretty sad now! My tile installer recommended I clean it with a vinegar solution. Another tile person told me that using vinegar removed my sealant. Not sure who to listen to on this issue.

Whatever happened, I now have reddish residue and white hard-water marking and the shower looks awful. I've used soap-scum removing products, and mildew products (clearly I had mildew in the grout), tried Murphy's oil, a magic eraser, and natural stone cleaner (from the tile supplier). I don't want to seal it in this condition, and have read some sites that say "use alkaline" and yours which recommends "acidic." Maybe I need both?

Where would you start?

Wish we lived closer to you guys!


I'm sorry you're having a hard time with your slate shower, but even I have a hard time with cleaning slate showers.

The type of slate you have can be very soft and very porous, so from what I see, not only in your pictures, but almost every slate shower I clean, the calcium build up is very hard to remove.

The alkaline solutions don't work and the acidic solutions help, but really the only thing that really helps is a utility knife to scrape the calcium. Even after scraping, if the calcium has grown inside the tile, it may not be removed.

There have been many slate showers, where we were not able to remove all the calcium.

In my opinion, based on my experience with cleaning them, slate is one of the worst tiles that can be put in a shower setting.

One last thing, don't worry about using a product because you're afraid of stripping the seal, it's most likely gone and the next one you put on will probably be gone within a few months too.

Remember it's a hot wet environment used daily and the sealers just can't hold up.

I know this is not great news, but I base my comments on what I've seen.


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Mar 05, 2012
by: Eryn

Thanks, Pedro--honesty is appreciated! I welcome comments or ideas from other folks, but I think I'll order an acidic cleaner and get in there!

Do you think I can safely use a pumice stone to scrub, or should I be using a softer brush? Would you clean the grout or slate first?

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