Does your home have hard water? According to a report by the U.S. Geological Society, roughly 85 percent of the country’s homes are supplied with hard water. Unfortunately, most people are unfamiliar with hard water, let alone how it affects their home. While typically not a health hazard, it can still cause several problems of which you need to be aware.
What Is Hard Water?
Hard water isn’t water that’s physically hard. Rather, it’s water with above-average levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium minerals. It’s not uncommon for water to contain some amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium. When it contains more than 1 grain per gallon (GPG), however, it’s considered slightly hard, according to the American Society of Agricultural Engineers’ water hardness standard. When water contains more than 7 GPG, it’s considered hard, and water with a 10.5 or higher GPG is very hard. Soft water, on the other hand, has a low concentration of these minerals, measuring less than 1 GPG of dissolved minerals.
You can still drink hard water. Calcium and magnesium, the two minerals of which hard water is primarily comprised, are essential minerals that support good health. Hard water doesn’t contain high enough levels of these minerals to offer any noticeable or significant health benefits, but drinking it won’t harm your health either.
Problems With Hard Water in Your Home?
1) Soap Scum
If you notice a white, powdery coating in your bathtub or other surfaces to which water and soap is exposed, it could be attributed to hard water. Known as soap scum, this occurs when calcium and magnesium minerals chemically react to the compounds in soap to create a new insoluble substance. Not only is it unsightly, but soap scum is also difficult to clean since it doesn’t dissolve in water.
2) Dirty Dishes
Whether you clean your dishes by hand or use a dishwasher, they’ll probably look dirty and dingy if your home has hard water. As hard water splashes over your dishes, it leaves behind trace minerals. Glass dishes that should be crystal clear would have a cloudy, milky-white appearance. To make matters worse, you can’t clean this film off your dishes simply by hand-washing them. If you continue to expose your dishes to hard water, they’ll never become fully clean.
3) Clogged Drains
Clogged drains is another classic sign of hard water. Specifically, this occurs from the accumulation of soap scum in bathtub and shower drains. By itself, hard water can pass through drainage pipes with relative ease. Although it contains high concentrations of calcium and magnesium, these minerals are fully dissolved, so they don’t stick to the sides of the drainage pipes. But the contact between hard water and soap creates a new substance that doesn’t fully dissolve in water. When you scrub soap scum off your bathtub and shower walls, some of it will get stuck inside your drain. If enough soap scum accumulates, it can create a complete blockage that forces you to call a plumber.
4) Dishwasher or Washing Machine Failure
The average lifespan of a dishwasher and washing is about 12 and 11 years, respectively. But if your home has hard water, you may have to replace these appliances a little sooner. Reports show that water-consuming household appliances such as these to break down up to 30 percent faster with hard water than with soft water. The minerals in hard water can get trapped inside your dishwasher or washing machine, causing them to wear out more quickly. Hard water also encourages metal surfaces in appliances to develop rust, further shortening their lifespan.
5) Dry Skin
If you and the rest of your household suffer from chronic dry skin, you should examine your water supply. Bathing or showering in hard water strips away your skin’s natural oils and encourages chronic dryness. Some people experience skin irritation as well as due to mineral deposits clogging their pores. Trace deposits of calcium and magnesium can get stuck inside your pores, causing itching, redness, and dryness immediately after showering or bathing. You can minimize the effects of hard water on your skin by washing with a cleanser rather than a soap. But until you soften your water, you will likely experience skin problems after bathing or showering.
6) Dirty Clothes
Hard water can affect your clothes. When you pull a load of laundry out of your washing machine, you may discover your clothes have a grimy, darkened appearance. Hard water minerals mix with laundry detergent, increasing its viscosity and changing its effects on fabrics. Rather than rinsing off, the viscous detergent sticks to your clothes, allowing the mineral deposits to settle in the fabrics and cause staining.
How to Fix Hard Water In Your Home
Because it’s not considered a health hazard, most cities and municipalities won’t take action to fix their hard water supplies. As a homeowner, however, there are ways to soften your water so that it doesn’t cause these or other problems. You can install a whole-house water softener, for example, to soften water as it enters your home. Whole-house water softeners work on the principle of ion exchange. They contain salt that automatically exchanges calcium and magnesium ions in hard water for sodium ions as the water flows through it. This physically removes minerals from the water entering your home. The only maintenance required when owning a whole-house water softener is cleaning and refilling the tank with new salt. As long as it’s full of salt, it will provide you and your family with soft water.
There are also water conditioners that can minimize the effects of hard water. Water conditioners aren’t the same as water softeners. Water softeners physically remove calcium and magnesium from water, whereas water conditioners change the properties of these minerals so that they don’t stick or cling to surfaces. Water conditioners are easier to maintain since they don’t use salt, but only water softeners will reduce mineral concentrations in your water.
Don’t let hard water wreak havoc on your home. Invest in either a water softener or conditioner today to enjoy natural, clean water that’s not saturated with minerals.