A reader wants to remove the mineral deposits on this shower door. (Reader photo)

Q: We have a walk-in shower, and over the years, the lime and calcium deposits have built up to the point where I can’t get them off with the commercial products I’ve tried. Is there a solution?

Fairfax Station

A: Judging from the pictures you sent, your shower doors appear to be framed in anodized aluminum, which can be colored many shades, including gold. Unfortunately, the mineral deposits appear to be mostly on the frames, the most problematic surface.

Cleaners that dissolve mineral spirits, such as vinegar, lemon juice and products such as CLR and Lime-A-Way, are all acids. To work, they need to be at the opposite end of the pH scale from mineral deposits, which are alkaline. But acids of all sorts eat into aluminum. That’s true even for anodized aluminum, which has been electrochemically treated to be more corrosion-resistant. So you can’t use an acidic cleaner, or you will wind up with pitted metal.

“Our product is fine on the glass but not on the frame,” said Chloe Sanders, office manager for Jelmar, the company in Skokie, Ill., that makes CLR. CLR is often touted as a way to remove mineral deposits from shower heads, but that use is okay only if the heads are plastic or chrome, she said. “We say not to use it if the showerhead is a different material.”

Mineral deposits on a reader’s shower door. (Reader photo)

Probably the only thing you can do, short of replacing the doors, is to scrub or scrape off the deposits. “Try a razor scraper or a soft scrubber. Get creative,” suggests Scott Gilmour, owner of York Property (yorkproperty.com), a company based in Bethlehem, Pa., that removes mineral deposits and other crud from surfaces as big as skyscrapers. On anodized aluminum, his company always uses abrasives, never chemicals. “Chemicals would burn it,” he said.

I have a large set of Lenox Chinastone dishes that I received as a wedding gift in 1986 — 18 place settings and serving pieces for our large family. I have used the dishes daily and for entertaining, and I continue to enjoy the pattern. However, the finish on several plates and teacups has dulled to the point that I no longer feel comfortable using them for entertaining. Is there a glaze or wipe-on product that would bring back the luster?


Sherri Crisenbery, vice president for the Lenox brand, said she knows of no wipe-on replacement glaze. But she did suggest polishing with Bon Ami or using a cleaner made for glass cooktops. “That may help,” she said, but she added that she doubts it would do enough to make your pieces look new.

Crisenbery said that in 17 years with Lenox, she has never seen the extent of damage shown in the pictures you sent. “It shouldn’t have happened,” she said. Dishwasher detergents in the 1980s were harsher than the ones sold today, so perhaps that, in combination with hard water from your taps, caused the problems, she said.

Lenox replaces pieces without charge if there is a manufacturing defect, such as a missing part of the design. It also offers a lifetime warranty against breakage, which results in the company paying half the cost of replacement pieces. Your pieces didn’t have a defect and didn’t break, so these policies don’t apply. “But we always try to work with the customer,” Crisenbery said. She suggested calling to see whether the company would be willing to help pay to replace the pieces that look worst. Or you might just want to buy new dishware. “After 30 years, she deserves a new set,” Crisenbery said. “We don’t keep our cars for 30 years.”

A reader's Lenox Chinastone dishes have been used daily, dulling over the years. The reader wants to bring back the china's luster. (Reader photo)

If you opt for replacements, be forewarned that you may not be able to get pieces that match exactly. Lenox used to have two factories in the United States that manufactured dinnerware. As price competition ate into the market for U.S.-made products, the company decided to close one of the factories. The one that made Chinastone (ivory china with aluminum oxide added) was older, so it closed, leaving only the factory that works with bone china. Lenox also sells dinnerware made of porcelain and stoneware, but those products are imported.

If you do want replacements, Crisenbery recommends shopping at Replacements (replacements.com). Lenox sells directly to Replacements and has even put discontinued styles back into production when the company reports brisk orders for styles no longer available. If an exact replacement isn’t available, perhaps you can find something that’s close enough. The website offers a free pattern identification service to people who fill out a form and attach one or more pictures.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.