What Is Hard Water?


Do You Know What Makes Water “Hard” Or “Soft”?

Hard water is called “hard” because it contains excessive amounts of dissolved minerals in it. These minerals can contain ions that chemically react with the things they touch. Soft water refers to water without any additional mineral deposits, which most people find preferable. Although rainwater is naturally soft, once it falls on the ground and percolates through rocks, it picks up natural hardness minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. The more of these naturally occurring minerals present in the water supply, the harder it is.

Hard Water Headaches

hard water scalingThe extra minerals found in hard water can cause a number of problems around the home. Hard water can dry your skin, reduce the shine of your hair, and leave mineral deposits called mineral scaling in sinks, faucets, shower heads – even your pots and pans you use to cook with.

You may have noticed the buildup of hard water stains (better known as soap scum), which is a chemical reaction between the minerals in your water and your soap, which cakes onto every surface in your shower.

Because hard water is already partially saturated with dissolved minerals, it cannot dissolve other things easily. Soaps, shampoos and detergents do not lather well in hard water, which may cause you to buy or use more of it over time.

The mineral deposits caused by hard water should be removed regularly because they can corrode your faucets and pipes and even rust your sinks and bathtubs. Hard water can also decrease the efficiency and lifespan of your appliances.

Is Hard Water Safe To Drink?

Yes, absolutely. The minerals found in hard water act as nutrients for the body and are completely safe to drink. Scientific studies by the World Health Organization have found that drinking water rich with minerals like calcium and magnesium help protects good health and leads to lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Why Some People Have Hard Water And Some Don’t:

Hard water is much more common in the mountains, in areas with natural springs or areas that endure a lot of run off or erosion. If your home’s water is on a natural well, it may have different properties than your town or city’s tap water.

hard water map
Most of North Carolina gets its water from the Neuse River Basin, which spans from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pamlico Sound. The North Carolina Piedmont and coastal areas have relatively soft water compared to the rest of the United States, but depending on your geographic location and your water source, this may vary.

How Do I Know If I Have Hard Water?

If you’ve noticed mineral deposits around your faucets or water aerators or you’ve noticed your dish soap, shampoo, or body wash doesn’t lather very well, it’s very likely you have hard water. Some minerals can give your home’s water a distinct smell or earthy taste that is easy to identify.

A Simple Way To Test For Hard Water:
1) Make a cup of tea in a glass mug.
2) Using a microwave oven, bring the water to a boil in the mug
3) Place the tea bag in the hot water and steep for 3-5 minutes.
4) Remove the bag.
5) If the tea is clear, your water is on the soft side. If there is a film on the top or the tea is cloudy, your water is on the hard side.

hard water test

The tea on the left is covered by floating film, the tea on the right made with soft water is normal

hard water film

This is a close up of the film that will form on tea made with hard water

Water Hardness Testing Kit
There are also test kits you can get at hardware stores that will measure just how hard your water is. The results of any water hardness test based on the classification methods of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Water Quality Association. Your report will be given in milligrams per liter (mg/l), parts per million (ppm) or grains per gallon.

Soft water falls between 0 and 17.1 mg/l and ppm or between 0 and 1 grains per gallon.
Slightly hard water falls between 17.1 and 60 mg/l and ppm or between 1 and 3.5 grains per gallon.
Moderately hard water falls between 60 and 120 mg/l and ppm or between 3.5 and 7.0 grains per gallon.
Hard water falls between 120 and 180 mg/l and ppm or between 7.0 and 10.5 grains per gallon.
Very hard water is classified as anything over 180 mg/l and ppm or 10.5 grains per gallon.

Once you have tested the water in you home, you can determine what type of water filter or softener you can install to remove the mineral deposits before they can do any harm!

How To Treat Hard Water

Unless you have a very high mineral concentration in your home’s water supply, regular cleaning and preventative maintenance can take care of most of the problems associated with having hard water. Most hard water stains are caused by limestone or calcium bicarbonate build-up and can be removed with household items like vinegar or lemon juice. If the finish on your glass shower doors is delicate, be sure to stay away from abrasive cleaners and use the approved cleaner for the surface type.

If your water is very hard and you believe it may shorten the life of your appliances, installing water filtration or water softening systems beneath your home can remove or neutralize these dissolved minerals from your water.