Hard water is a more prevalent and serious problem than what you might think and every single house has either hard or soft water.
In case you don’t already know, the level of dissolved salts in water is what determines if it is hard or soft. The more salts water has dissolved in it, the harder it is. The main salts that come dissolved in water and make it harder are calcium and magnesium carbonates.
While drinking moderately hard water can have some positive effects in your health, mainly helping you replenish the salts you lose when you sweat, the negative effects of hard water vastly outweigh any potential benefits, which are minimal at best any way.
What problems it can cause?
Hard water can create a vast array of problems at home: the most prominent or notorious one is that it drastically reduces the efficacy of soaps and detergents; instead of forming foam, soaps and detergents create a sticky scum known as soap curd and you need to use much more water washing it away, and more soap and detergent is needed to clean dirt and stains. In the shower, this curd sticks to your body and makes your hair look dull and brittle, it dries the skin and is hard to wash off and also makes your nails look brittle and opaque. Hard water also affects clothing, making it feel scratchy and killing the colors, in fact, it has been estimated that hard water reduces the life of your clothes and fabrics by up to a 40%.
Also, when hard water evaporates over the surfaces of your toilet, sinks, tubs and shower, it leaves a doughy and sticky buildup known as scale, which can be incredibly hard to clean.
Hard water can also buildup inside your pipes and clog them or reduce the flow of water in your home or in some appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters; reducing their efficiency and increasing their consumption of electricity and water.
In all, it has been estimated that people with hard water can save up to $100 USD every month by installing a water softener or conditioner.
How do I know if I have hard water?
If some or all of the problems described before sound familiar to you, then your water supply is most likely hard and you can safely assume you need a water softener. The definitive way to determine if your water supply really is hard and what is its level of hardness is to test it.
- You can take a sample to a certified laboratory, which is going to be more expensive but safer;
- you can buy an electronic water tester which is a small device with the appearance of a stick, that has two electrodes that are dipped in a small sample of your water, with the device calculating the hardness of the sample in a small LCD display
- You can also buy hardness test strips that measure the level of hardness, pH and Iron; the strip reacts and changes its color when and then you just have to match it to the closest color match in a reference color chart;
- You can also buy a complete test kit, you use it by adding certain chemicals to a sample of your water and then measuring the color change after the reaction, much like with test strips;
- Or, you can buy another device known as a Colorimeter which measures the level of hardness by passing a light beam through a sample of water and displays the results in an LCD screen.
While hard water has not been proven to cause any serious problems to your health and wellbeing, it will drastically reduce the life and quality the things you own: your appliances, clothes, the surfaces of your windows, tiles, your plumbing and will even make your nails, hair and skin look bad; and it will also make you spend much more money and water.
For that reason alone it is always advisable that you pay attention to the quality of the water you receive and consider whether a test would be convenient or not; which will cost you money, but far less than the cost of doing nothing; besides, it is always better to be safe.