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Published On: Sun, Nov 10th, 2019

How to Know If You Have Hard Water and What That Means for Your Home

Hard water is a common complaint in many households, and as the days go by, more and more solutions arise to solve this problem. This is because water is very essential in any home, and no one can do without it. But what makes hard water so bad? All your questions will be answered in this comprehensive article.

photo D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA

What is Hard Water?

Hard water can be defined as any water which contains high mineral content, especially calcium and magnesium carbonates. There can also be bicarbonates, sulfates and iron. The level of hardness in water is known by the concentration of multivalent cations in the water.

Although hard water has some benefits when it comes to drinking, its effects aren’t all good. Apart from causing equipment breakdown in the industrial setting, hard water can also affect domestic settings adversely. In cases where it is a problem, people usually turn to water softeners to solve issues caused by hard water. 

Testing for Hard Water

Before you begin to worry about hard water, you would have to first test your water to see if it is hard and how hard it is. This way, you can be sure about the hardness level before looking for a solution. Also, there are easy ways to test for hard water without the hassle of testing the water in a lab. 

  1. Lather Test

Hard water doesn’t mix well with soap, and so you can follow the instructions below to know if your water is soft or hard. This test does not give you a specific estimate of your water hardness level, but it gives you an idea of how hard your water is.

  • Pick a clear bottle: You should use a bottle with a cap which can hold up to 360mL or 12 ounces of water. If you cannot find a bottle, you can use a clear plastic container.
  • Fill it up with water: You can fill the bottle almost to the brim, leaving just a little bit of breathing space. 
  • Add soap: Then, add ten drops of your liquid soap to the bottle of water. Although different soaps react to hard water in different ways, and dishwashing detergents do not react to hard water as much as other soaps, this method is still a bit reliable. It is advisable to use liquid soap, preferably Castile soap.
  • Shake: Cover the bottle or container and shake it for a moment until the soap had been completely mixed with the water.
  • Look for soapy water: This is usually called suds. If the water has suds and a lot of bubbles, then the water is soft. If not, the water is probably hard. To be sure, follow the next steps.
  • Add more soap: Next, you should add more liquid soap to the bottle. Add ten drops at a time and shake it every time you add while taking note of how many drops you’re adding. At the end of the day, the number of drops it took to make a lot of suds in the water would help you estimate the hardness of your water.
  • 50 drops and above means it’s very hard.
  • 40 drops mean that it is just hard.
  • 30 drops mean that it is averagely hard.
  • 20 drops mean that it is not so hard.

2. Water Hardness Test Kit

Another way you can test for hard water is by buying a home test kit for water hardness. You can get these at many hardware and home improvement stores. You can also buy it online. All you have to do is ensure that the kit you purchase is from a reputable company and it tests for hardness. Be careful not to buy kits that test for contaminants or just quality.

If you don’t want to buy a complicated hardness kit, you could buy a simple DIY test kit. A simple example is the wet-strip test that people use when testing water in pools or spas. It works by dipping the strip into a container of water and checking the color. Based on the strip, the color would tell you if the water is hard or not.

3. Look for Signs

There are some signs that you can look for when testing for water hardness. These signs are all around your home and they are the arrows pointing to water hardness.

  • Soap Scum: This is a popular sign of hard water in your home. The water in your home, after mixed with soap, would make the water look chalky. After doing the lather test, you could observe the water to find this.
  • Limescale: Another sign that you can use to test for water hardness is the presence of limescale in your kitchen sink, bathroom or shower. This is a white scale left behind by hard water. It also comes with a lot of problems. 

4. Call the Water Utility Office

To save you all of the stress if you use the municipal water supply, you can call their office to ask for their latest report on their water quality. Some cities post the information online, while others would give it to you if you just ask. This is not very reliable because while leaving the municipal supply center, the water could pick up a lot of hard water minerals on the way. So, if the water at the center is soft, it might not be the same for you. 

Effects of Hard Water

When it comes to drinking hard water, the World Health Organization announced that there are no adverse health effects. In fact, a lot of scientists say that hard water is good for drinking because of the minerals it contains. But, apart from drinking, hard water causes some problems around the home.

  • Clogged Pipes

This is the first and most frustrating effect of hard water. Because of the buildup of lime scale that hard water leaves when it flows through the pipes, this eventually clogs or blocks the pipes. This can also damage your pipes and cause you to constantly fix them. This also causes you to spend a lot of money on frequent plumbing repairs.

  • Stubborn Stains

Hard water also leaves behind stubborn stains on your dishes, sinks and bathtubs. This is because of the mineral residue from the water. Although this can be quite easy to clean, it isn’t convenient to clean the bathtub and sink everyday.

  • Increase in Water Bills 

This is caused by the buildup of lime scale that hard water causes in the pipes. Because of the clogged pipes, water uses more force when trying to pass through. This would affect your water pressure, water flow and consequently increase your bills and damage your pipes.

  • Dry Skin and Hair

Seeing as hard water doesn’t mix well with soap, it leaves behind soap residue on your skin and hair after washing. This residue makes your skin dry and irritated. It can also cause your hair to start thinning out and if you have high levels of iron in your water, it can also color your hair.

  • Damaged Water Equipment

When lime scale gets into water appliances like boilers, washing machine, coffee maker, dishwasher and others, it causes them to break down. This is because the scaly substance can get into the internal workings of the appliance. Using hard water will lead to increased costs on always fixing these appliances or buying new ones. 

  • Faded Laundry

Another effect that hard water has in the home is in the case of faded clothes. When you wash your clothes with hard water, their colors eventually fade away and they also become stained.

  • Clogged shower head

Your shower head can also get clogged because of lime scale and hard water. This would reduce the water pressure and greatly affect your showering experience.

All these effects don’t affect your health, but they affect your home by increasing maintenance bills. But, what do you do to solve this problem of hard water in your home? 

Hard Water Solutions

You’ve tested for hard water, and you now know the unwelcome effects that hard water brings with it. The next step is solving the problem of hard water and this can be easily done with water softener systems available on the market.

Water softeners are a long-term solution to hard water, although they can be a bit expensive. They are devices that use different methods to get rid of the hard water minerals in the water and make the water soft. Soft water eliminates all the problems that hard water brings, plus, its very fresh depending on the water softener you bought. 

There are other solutions like adding vinegar to the water or just cleaning after it, but water softeners work best. 

Hard water is a problem in homes all around the world, but it is not one that cannot be solved. You and your family can enjoy clean, pure and soft water in your home.

Author: Priyangshu Borgohain

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