How to clean pool tile at the waterline

  • Working Time: 1 hr, 30 minutes – 4 hours
  • Total Time:
    1 hr 30 minutes – 4 hours
  • Skill Level
    For Beginners

If you have a spa or backyard pool, you should also understand that they need to be maintained. We all know it is important to keep the water clean and free from leaves and other debris. Even if you’re diligent about keeping the water clear, dirt and stains can build up on the pool’s fill line or waterline.

Grime is a buildup of mineral deposits (scale), sunscreen, and body soil that sticks to tiles. Your pool surfaces will likely be affected by hard-water deposits and stains from your tubs or sinks. Scaling is when mineral deposits stick to the pool’s sides and evaporates. It appears as gray or white scum that is hard to remove. Calcium deposits and scaling on tiles are the main causes.

  • Calcium carbonate is visible as flaky, white deposits on the tile. It will bubble up if it is treated with muriatic Acid. Calcium carbonate is the easiest kind of deposit to get rid of.
  • Calcium silicate is slightly darker in colour, doesn’t flake and doesn’t react with muriatic acid. It is more difficult to get rid of calcium silicate if it has been on the tile for a prolonged period.

The pool can stain in many colors. It is caused by chemical imbalances in the water and the reaction of the pool’s surface to the chemicals. The pool maintenance company will regularly clean out the buildup. You can clean the pool regularly if you have a maintenance company. However, if the stain is too stubborn to be removed by them, you will need to replace the tiles.

How often should you clean your pool waterline tiles?

For the easiest maintenance, the waterline tiles should be cleaned as soon as you notice any discoloration–weekly or monthly. It is easier to clean the waterline if there are small amounts of buildup than if it is very heavy. It is important to clean the tiles at the end and beginning of each pool season.


If you have a lot of mineral deposits, algae and dirt at your waterline, it is best to remove them in small steps over several days or even weeks. This will help prevent the pool’s filtering system becoming overloaded and maintain the water’s chemical balance.

What you’ll need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pool vacuum
  • Skimmer net
  • Eye protection
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Plastic bucket
  • Pumice stone
  • Rubber gloves


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cleaning vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Melamine sponge
  • Commercial tile cleaner


Always start with the gentlest method when cleaning waterline tiles. This may remove the grime and not require you to use more toxic or difficult cleaning techniques.

Get rid of all organic matter

Use a pool vacuum to get rid of leaves, grass clippings or any other organic matter from the pool.

Get rid of the waterline

If the waterline is slightly lower than its normal position, it is easier to clean stained tiles. You have two options: you can work on the pool deck, or in the water.

Use a scrub brush

To remove the mineral deposits, use a stiff-bristled scrubbrush (no wire bristles). Use a circular motion to scrub an area of three to four feet in width. A soft-bristled toothbrush is better for glass tiles. It will prevent scratches. An old toothbrush is ideal for small, tight areas.

Get rid of dirt and grime

After you have removed the mineral deposits, clean the area of dirt, grime, and body soil. You can do this by using one of the solutions you have mixed in your plastic bucket to scrub the area.

  • One part water, one part distilled vinegar
  • Two parts water to one part cleaning vinegar
  • Make a paste by mixing some water with dry baking soda.
  • One-fourth of a cup dishwashing detergent and one gallon water

Dip the scrub brush into the solution, and use it to clean the tiles around the waterline. For stubborn stains, you can use a melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Magic Eraser makes a good choice). You can spray a little bit of pool water, or fresh water, over the newly cleaned area. Then you will continue to scrub and clean the pool’s perimeter.


These cleaning solutions are safe for the eyes, but it is recommended to wear goggles or protect your eyes from any splatters.

Use a Pumice Stone

If you are unable to remove mineral deposits with the cleaning products and scrub brush, it is time to use a pumice rock. You can find them online or at your local pool supply and home improvement stores. The stone is made from ground volcanic rock and will break down the deposits. To avoid scratching, it is important to keep the tile and stone moist. Use a gentle touch and work slowly to scrub along the waterline.

Use a professional or commercial cleaner

You can use a tile cleaner that has sulfamic (CLR) or Lime-Away if the pumice rock did not remove the buildup. These cleaners can be harsh so they should only be used with extreme caution. After you have added regular pool chemicals to your water, these cleaners should not be used. Allow several days for the chemicals to dry before you can swim in the pool.

Instead of using these cleaners, you might consider contacting a pool maintenance company to clean the tiles with a high-pressure baking soda blast.


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