What is hard water and how does it affect you?
Simply put, hard water is water that is high in minerals. It contains calcium, magnesium, and trace amounts of other minerals. It is formed when water gets repeatedly filtered through deposits of chalk, limestone, or gypsum, which are mainly made up of magnesium and calcium bicarbonates, carbonates, and sulfates. The higher the amount of magnesium and calcium in water, the harder it becomes.
The Differences between Hard and Soft Water
Hard water is water that is high in minerals, while soft water has a higher concentration of sodium. Here are the main differences between hard and soft water:
- Mineral Content – Rainwater is naturally soft; however, when it runs through the ground, it ends up picking deposits of calcium and magnesium, which makes it hard. This is the main difference between hard and soft water. Soft water is water that is treated to reduce the concentration of these minerals.
- Drinking – Soft water lacks the beneficial minerals that hard water has. Additionally, at times, soft water has a salty taste to it, which makes it unsuitable for drinking.
- Household Chores/Cleaning – While hard water is beneficial for drinking due to the natural minerals, it’s not ideal for cleaning. It tends to leave spots on cookware and dishes, soap and mineral residue in the shower and tap, and also dulls the appearance of the clothes washed with it. Soft water leaves no such residue behind.
- Skin – Hard water tends to dry out the skin and might even result in dry, scaly skin over time. Soft water, on the other hand, will not cause any such harm to the skin.
How to Tell If You Have Hard Water
If you are wondering how to tell if you have hard water at home, here are some typical signs of hard water:
- White, chalky spots or residue on washed dishes – a result of calcium hardness
- Dull and rough-feeling linens and clothes
- Buildup of scale on faucets and unsightly stains on white porcelain
- Flat hair and dry skin – a result of soap residue, as it never completely washes away
- Clogged pipes, leading to low water pressure from taps and faucets
You can also test the hardness of the water in your home by checking its mineral content. According to the hardness standards set by the Water Quality Association, water is deemed as slightly hard when the mineral concentration of grains per gallon (gpg) falls between 1.0-3.5, while it is deemed as hard when the concentration falls between 7.0 and 10.5. If the concentration crosses 10.5, then the water is deemed as very hard.
You can check the concentration of minerals in water by conducting a hard water test at home. Take a clear and clean bottle with a cap, water from your tap, and a basic liquid soap. Fill one-third of the bottle with tap water and add a few drops of liquid soap. Shake it thoroughly for a few seconds. If the water does not lather and only appears to be milky or cloudy, then you have hard water in your home. Soft water tends to produce abundant bubbles on the surface, with clear water underneath.
You can also invest in a water hardness test kit. These kits are easily available online or in home improvement stores. They will allow you to test the hardness of your water, reveal the chlorine, nitrate, or iron content, and identify the level of alkalinity.
The Effects of Hard Water
When hard water is heated, it tends to form solid deposits of calcium carbonate. This scale or residue can significantly reduce the life of expensive industrial equipment as well as your cookware. Additionally, it raises the cost of heating or boiling water on an industrial scale.
The scale buildup also tends to reduce the diameter of water pipes over time, which leads to less water movement and lower water pressure. With hard water, you might end up with clogged pipes, which will add to your home improvement expenses.
With hard water, soaps also tend to leave behind a film of residue on your skin and washed dishes. Hard water tends to diminish the life of kitchenware such as porcelain and glass dishes as well; it leaves spots and scaly, soapy film on washed dishes. This is because soap reacts with calcium in the hard water to form soap scum. What’s more is that it is incredibly hard to form soap lather with hard water, which leads to increased soap usage and expense.
Hard water leaves behind brittle, white scale buildup on taps, showerheads, and water appliances. It tends to leave behind pesky white limescale marks on water heaters and kettles. It also affects the functionality of dishwashers. It reduces the efficacy of key water-using appliances over time, such as washing machines and water heaters. The stubborn and unsightly scale also builds on kitchen and bath fixtures, such as sink, toilet, shower walls, etc.
What’s more is that hard water tends to shorten the lifespan of fabrics and changes the appearance of your clothes and linen. Hard water dulls the appearance of your clothes and towels and other fabrics feel stiff and course. Hard water also tends to have an effect on your skin; it leads to excessively clean and dry skin.
Is Hard Water Bad for Hair Health?
The high concentration of minerals in hard water can cause some damage to your hair health. Hard water causes the scales in your hair to rise up, which creates a coarse, frizzy, and tangled feel and look. It roughens up the texture of your hair, which makes it easy for mineral deposits to stick to your hair and cause mineral buildup in your scalp. This buildup will eventually cause your hair to become weak and it will easily break, which will result in hard water hair loss.
To fight the damage caused by hard water, you can use a chelating or hard water shampoo. These shampoos are precisely designed to eradicate heavy hard water mineral buildup from your hair. They come with EDTA that targets these minerals and washes them away.
However, use these shampoos once a week as when used too frequently, they will dry out your hair. Also, pair them with a moisturizing shampoo to retain your hair’s natural shine and glow. Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar, mixed with soft water, to deal with hard water mineral buildup in your hair.
The Bottom Line
While hard water is good for drinking purposes, it can lead to a lot of expenses over time, such as clogged pipes and ruined appliances and kitchenware. It can also cause damage to your skin and hair.