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A Homeowner’s Guide to Hard Water

Posted On: February 19, 2017

A Homeowner’s Guide to Hard Water

Hard water can pose a threat to your plumbing, appliances, and even linens. However, you may not be able to tell if you have hard water just from bathing in,drinking, or washing with your home’s water.

In this blog, we’ll explain what hard water is and how it causes plumbing problems. We’ll also list the most common signs of hard water to help you identify this issue more easily and provide solutions for resolving hard water.

What Is Hard Water?

The term “hard water” describes water that has a significant concentration of trace minerals. The higher the concentration of minerals in your water, the harder it is. Hard water contains primarily calcium and magnesium, but can potentially include other mineral particles.

These minerals enter the water when it passes through chalk or limestone deposits. Homeowners who get their water from wells are more likely to experience hard water, but hard water can come from virtually any source.

Most hard water minerals have little effect on your water’s potability, appearance, or even taste. But, as we’ll explain in the next section, just because hard water is drinkable doesn’t mean you want it in your home.

Why Is Hard Water Undesirable?

Generally, the calcium, magnesium, and other trace minerals in hard water are undetectable to your eye or to your palate. Over time, however, hard water can leave mineral deposits on any surface it comes in contact with. For example, hard water can leave residue inside your pipes that contributes to clogs by catching debris and letting the debris build up in a single spot.

Hard water also interacts with cleaning products, your skin and hair, and the belongings that you wash most frequently, like your dishes and clothes. Often, you can determine whether or not hard water is present by looking for telltale signs.

How Do You Know If You Have Hard Water?

Hard water, especially hard water with a particularly high mineral content, has a predictable effect on your home and body. If you have hard water, you will likely notice a combination of the following signs:

  • Dull hair.Mineral and soap residues can leave your hair looking dull or even greasy. In addition to the contents of hard water itself, these minerals decrease the cleaning power of your shampoo, so you may have more trouble rinsing away oils.
  • Itchiness.Calcium and magnesium have a drying effect on the skin. Over time, you may notice that your skin feels rough, flaky, or frequently itchy.
  • Low amounts of soap lather.Hard water reduces the efficacy of cleaning products, from shampoo to laundry detergent. This issue stems from the fact that soaps in hard water produce less lather, which makes both washing and rinsing less effective.
  • Low water pressure. As we discussed in our blog “Low Water Pressure? 6 Causes to Blame,” mineral buildup can decrease the flow of water through your pipes, lowering your water pressure.
  • Rough or stiff fabric. When you wash your towels, clothes, and sheets with hard water, they may appear clean, but the fabric often retains a mineral residue. This residue can make the fabric feel scratchy or stiff.
  • Soap scum on bathroom surfaces.When soap lathers less effectively, it leaves behind more soap scum. This residue often looks like white film on your tub, shower curtain, or bathroom sink.

A professional plumber can determine exactly how hard your water is by collecting samples and testing the concentration of calcium, magnesium, and other hard water minerals in the sample.

How Do You Treat Hard Water?

On a small scale, you can remove residue left by hard water using distilled vinegar. On hard surfaces, such as your sink or tub, apply a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Scrub the area to remove any spots, then rinse thoroughly.

For fabrics, check with your washing machine manufacturer. If vinegar will not damage the seals in your machine, add ½ cup of distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle when you wash towels and other sturdy fabric. Avoid using vinegar on brightly colored or delicate fabrics as the solution may damage these items.

When you need hard water treatment on a larger scale, talk to your plumber about installing a whole-home water softener or a water softener that treats problem areas, like your laundry room. These softeners filter your water as it enters your home, reducing the amount of minerals left in the liquid.

Use this information to identify hard water in your home and protect yourself from any negative effects.

If you suspect that your home has hard water and would like to schedule professional water content testing or invest in a water softener, work with C.B. Lucas Heating & Air Conditioning. In addition to our HVAC services, we offer expert services to keep the water in your home clean, clear, and easily available.

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