Hard water is a common problem in the United States that affects a large amount of the population–over 85%. Even though hard water is safe for drinking and bathing, hard water can be a nuisance in the home. If left untreated, hard water can ruin appliances, clothing, and even cause problems with your skin and hair. Hard water is a result of water having too much calcium and magnesium. These extra minerals in the water is what wreaks havoc in your home. Despite hard water being such a common problem in the United States, only about 30% of people with hard water are using a water softener.
In order to solve the problems of hard water, you have to get rid of the extra calcium and magnesium. The method you use to combat the minerals will depend on how hard your water is. For water that is only slightly hard, you may be able to come up with simple home remedies such as using a mix of baking soda and vinegar to remove stains. If your water is much harder than that you may have too many problems to fix with simple home remedies. In this case, installing a water softening system that can handle your level of water hardness is the best way to eliminate the extra mineral deposits in your water.
Before investing in a water softening system you should make sure that you need one. Here are some tell-tale signs that can indicate if your water needs water softener.
- Scale build up.Scale build up (also known as limescale) is one of the biggest indicators that you have hard water. The extra calcium and magnesium causes soluble calcium bicarbonate to become insoluble. This happens either when water is heated or left standing still. This process is what causes a white, crusty build up or film that is hard to clean. This scale build up will continuously get worse causing damage to appliances that use water and clogging pipes.
- Dry, itchy skin.The extra minerals in the water can cause dry skin because the salts from the minerals prevent the water from nourishing your skin. They also prevent water from completely dissolving soap and can leave a film of soap scum on your skin. This film can cause itchiness, and for sensitive skin it can cause irritation. Dry hair is also a side effect of hard water. Hard water doesn’t dissolve shampoo well and the mineral deposits leave behind a film on your hair.
- Stains are on your appliances and faucets.The calcium and magnesium deposits can cause stains on your sinks, bathtubs, and faucets. These stains can be removed, but will constantly reappear until you fix the source of the problem. Although the stains themselves won’t damage anything, it can be annoying to have to constantly clean them.
- Stains are on your glassware.Hard water can leave stains on your glassware that is hard to clean. It can also make your glassware more susceptible to damage. Home remedies can be used to clean your glassware to combat hard water, but over time the damage can cause the glassware to become brittle.
- Grey-looking or faded clothing.Since hard water doesn’t dissolve detergent well, your clothes may not be as cleans as you would like them to be. The minerals in hard water can also stain your clothes, giving your white clothes a little bit of a yellow tint and making your colored clothes look a little gray. Special detergents designed for hard water can be used for this problem until you can install a water softener system.
- Water doesn’t flow well.The scale that is left behind by hard water can build up in pipes and cause clogs. This will prevent your water from flowing properly. It would seem that soap scum and scale would just rinse away, but the mineral deposits chemically react with soap scum to form a thick, hard substance that can get stuck in the pipes. This substance can also cause other objects to stick to it such as hair, which will create an even worse clog. The result is decreased water pressure, water that doesn’t flow well, or in some cases, water that doesn’t flow at all.
- Water bill is high.Poor water flow and clogged pipes can cause an increase in your water bill. Also, since hard water doesn’t allow soaps, detergents, and shampoos to work as well as they should, you may use extra water to clean, which will also increase your bill. In the long run, dealing with hard water will be more expensive than installing a water softener system.
Measuring the Hardness of Your Water
All of these problems can be an indicator that you have hard water in your home, but they can all also be caused by other conditions. The best way to determine if you have hard water is to do a hard water test. The hard water test gives your water a rating based on how much of calcium and magnesium is in the water. The unit of measurement is grains per gallon, milligrams per liter (mg/l) or parts per million (ppm). Zero to 17 ppm is considered soft water. Very hard water starts at 180 ppm. Between these two measurements are slightly hard, moderately hard, and hard. Figuring out the hardness of your water is the best and most accurate way to determine if you need a water softening system, and to determine which one works best for your home.