Hard water is one of the most prevalent and frustrating water quality issues in the world, especially for those who live in a hard water geographical location. The majority of the households use hard water as their household water supply because of which they face different issues. From destroyed plumping to higher energy bills to sticky skin and lifeless hair, hard water is a nightmare to live with.
What is hard water? “Hard water is water with an abundance of mineral content, specifically calcium and magnesium..”
In scientific terms, Water hardness is generally the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in water. But in layman’s terms, you may notice water hardness when your hands still feel slimy after washing with soap and water, or when your drinking glasses at home become less than crystal clear. This mineral-rich water causes devastating effects on household appliances. When hard water is heated, calcium ions form calcium carbonate, a precipitate formation also known as scale. Scale accumulates in pipes, clogging them, and reducing water pressure. Scale also forms inside water heater appliances, shortening their lifespan, and increasing energy bills. The minerals in hard water resist lathering with soap and leave behind unsightly white soap scum all over your bathroom and kitchen. In a home plagued by hard water, shower heads lose the flow, laundry is dull and dingy, and dishes emerge from the dishwasher streaked and cloudy.
Measures of water hardness:
Hardness is caused by compounds of calcium and magnesium, and by a variety of other metals. General guidelines for classification of waters are:
- Soft: 0 – 17.1 mg/L
- Slightly hard: 17.1- 60 mg/L
- Moderately hard: 61 – 120 mg/L
- Hard: 121 – 180 mg/L
- Very hard: 180+
What causes hard water:
Hard water is caused by elevated levels of calcium and magnesium that water collects as it journeys from rain to underground aquifers. Hard water is a natural result of the hydrologic cycle. Water evaporates from our oceans, transforming into clouds and then precipitating back down to earth in forms like rain and snow. Water is known as a universal solvent, and when it hits the earth as precipitation, it is soft and slightly acidic. Water then percolates through the soil and rock into underground aquifers, passing through layers of limestone and gypsum. These rocks are rich in calcium and magnesium, which the water readily absorbs as it filters through them, thus hardening water.
How to know whether water is hard or not:
If you live with hard water, odds are you are already aware of it. From rattling heaters to spotty glassware and dishes, it’s hard to miss the signs that you are living with hard water. However, if you are still unsure, you can either purchase a total hardness test strips or else you can test your water hardness at home without using a kit by below-mentioned DIY:
- Fill an empty water bottle halfway up with tap water.
- Add in ten drops of dish soap. Make sure the soap is free of perfumes, dyes, and detergents, as these can affect results.
- Screw the cap on and vigorously shake the bottle.
- If the bottle is filled with sparkling bubbles and suds and the water is clear, you have soft water. If barely any lather has formed and the water is a milky, cloudy color, you have hard water.
- Continue to add soap bubbles. The more soap required to make the water lather and fill with suds, the harder that water is.
This DIY test is a good indicator of whether or not water hardness is a problem for your home, but it will not provide you with results as accurate as an actual water hardness test.
Is hard water bad for you?
Hard water is safe to drink and presents no serious health risks. However, it causes many other problems. The heightened levels of mineral content in hard water are not a health concern as much as a danger to your home and property.
The hard cost of hard water:
A strange odor or taste to drinking water is often one of the first clues you have a water conditioning problem. It’s a sure sign there is hard water or some sort of bacterial contaminant.
Ugly brown or reddish stains on the porcelain are a big embarrassment. You can blame hard water for that too – mainly iron. It’s no coincidence those stains look a lot like rust spots. The iron in your water could be coming from rusty pipes. You’ll have to use a lot of elbow grease to get rid of those stains. Using chemicals can remove these strains, but a permanent solution to get rid of them is to fix your hard water problem.
When you have hard water, you’ll notice nasty soap scum seems to accumulate all over the place. That’s because soap and the minerals in hard water just don’t play nicely together. If your dishes are always spotty, it may not be your dishwasher; it’s probably your water.
Showering with hard water:
Soap struggles to lather when faced with hard water. The minerals in hard water render the cleaning properties of soap ineffective, requiring you to use more of it to bathe. After emerging from the shower, the soap will stick to your skin and hair in a filmy residue, leaving them dull and dry.
Hot water appliances:
Scale formed by hard water is a detriment to hot water appliances. When an electric water heater accumulates scale, the appliance has to heat the scale caked on the heating element before it can heat the water. A gas-fired heater encounters the same problem, which affects their efficiency as well as life span.
Hard water can harm laundry – and once again – it’s all due to the rocky relationship minerals like calcium and magnesium have with soap and detergent.
How hard water can be treated:
To treat hard water, you’ll need to invest in a whole-house water filtration system. This ensures that the entirety of your home and appliances are protected from the corrosive effects of hard water. There are two popular solutions to combating hard water.
- Anti-scale system
- Water softener.
There are also other ways to treat hard water like a reverse osmosis system, which can help eliminate potentially harmful contaminants, but those mentioned above are most commonly used.
In the past few decades or so, evidence has been accumulating about an environmental factor that is influencing the hardness of the water. This has become a serious issue; however, the only one perfect answer to all your hard water issues is installing a water softener in your home. Water softeners remove things like calcium, magnesium, and iron from your water as it comes in from the source. It’s an investment that could save you headaches as well as money. Learn more about Is softened water safe to drink?