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What Is Hard Water And Is It A Problem?


You might think to yourself that water is water, right? The drinking water in my home is just like my neighbor's home across the street, isn't it? Not exactly.

Have you ever noticed a chalky film on your glass dishes? What about scale buildup on your faucets or around your showerhead? Is your skin even dry when it isn't winter? These unsightly and physical signs all point to the potential your home may be suffering from hard water.

There is a lot people don't fully understand about hard water. Some common questions our ARS/Rescue Rooter plumbers hear from customers are:

  • What is hard water?
  • What are the signs of hard water?
  • Is hard water bad for my family?
  • How can I rid my home of hard water?

Understanding the qualities of hard water and how your plumbing service can help you combat these effects is a positive step toward a healthier home plumbing system that delivers the performance and reliability you want.

In the following article, we'll cover these questions and more, and give you a better understanding of what water hardness is and how you can protect your water supply and your water systems.

So, What Is Hard Water Anyway?

If you weren't a good chemistry student, bare with us.

All water contains dissolved minerals and other elements. Hard water refers to water that contains a particularly high concentration of two specific minerals: calcium and magnesium carbonates. The calcium and magnesium concentrations are picked up by the water as it percolates through deposits in the Earth before it is supplied to your home.

Although water is typically treated by your area water treatment company to remove harmful microorganisms and chemicals, this treatment process does not remove these mineral deposits.

Water that is hard typically has a pH level between 7-9.  Water that is hard forms through the absorption of carbon dioxide in rivers and lakes, which causes the formation of bicarbonate ions.  Bicarbonate has a positive charge which makes hard water hard to wash away with soap.

What Are The Signs of Hard Water?

Did you know that hard water can cause a lot of problems with your plumbing and appliances? If you notice certain signs in your house, hard water might be the reason.

White mineral deposits on dishes or glassware

These are hard water stains from calcium carbonate and magnesium salts left behind as hard water evaporates. They can be easily removed by re-washing the items with vinegar or lemon juice added to the wash cycle. Using a dishwasher with a hard water setting may also help prevent buildup on dishes and glassware which reduces hard water stains.

White, chalky residue on glass shower doors or around the sink faucets

This is hard water scale which forms when hard water evaporates. It requires an acid-based cleaner to remove it from hard surfaces like tile or porcelain sinks and tubs. A white chalky residue may form inside your coffee maker and tea kettles if hard water is used.

Soap curdles in the washing machine

When hard water mixes with soap it forms a scum which can leave clothing less than clean after laundering and leave soapy residues on your skin if you try to bathe with hard water. A detergent specifically formulated for hard water can help prevent this issue along with trying to use cold instead of hot water for washing clothes and removing clothing from the washer as soon as the cycle ends.

Lower water pressure

Unusually low flow of water at shower heads or faucets in your bathroom or kitchen could be due to hard water build up inside which can reduce how much pressure is pushing through each hour. Water softening systems will help prevent hard water scale from forming on pipes and restricting water flow.

Failing appliances

Hard water can also cause appliances such as the dishwasher, clothes washer and water heaters to rust prematurely because hard water reacts with metal ions in the presence of soap molecules leaving behind a residue that corrodes metal.

Hard Water Affects

  • Clothes getting whiter or brighter when washing them in hard water
  • The soap doesn't lather well if you don't use a laundry detergent that is made for hard water
  • Hot water heaters must be replaced more often because of hard water scaling - Your hair feels stiff after taking a shower in hard water

Is Hard Water Bad For You?

The hard water stains and white residue in your home give hard water its name, but hard water doesn't actually affect the health of people living in hard water areas.

In general, most people don't have any problems with hard water, but people who have sensitive skin may notice that their skin feels dry after bathing or showering.  They might also notice that soap doesn't lather well when being used to wash hard water stains.

Hardness is a water quality issue that has nothing to do with health but can be an annoyance. Mineral build-up in pipes, faucets, and water heaters may be caused by hard water. Soaps and detergents might not function effectively because of it.

In the United States, hard water is not a federal regulated drinking water standard because hard water does not pose any known health risks to people living in hard water areas.

How Does Hard Water Damage Your Plumbing?

While hard water is perfectly safe for drinking, cooking, and bathing, the hardness minerals of calcium and magnesium in hard water can cause trouble for your plumbing system.

Over time, mineral buildup is left behind as water flows through your plumbing pipes, faucets, showerheads, and appliances. These deposits can shrink the usable diameter of your pipes, as well as cause corrosion that leads to pinhole leaks.

Ultimately, these effects can result in water damage and a loss of water pressure throughout your home. Hard water can also clog faucets, showerheads, and appliances, reducing their performance and leaving unsightly limescale deposits behind.

Inside your water heater, these minerals can corrode the heating elements or even affect the tank itself, requiring water heater repair or premature replacement.

Over time, all of these effects will reduce the functional lifetime of your plumbing system, requiring you to call for more frequent plumbing repairs and replace your appliances and pipes much sooner than expected.

What Are The Top Cities With Hard Water?

Hard water is prevalent in most areas of the United States, with over 85 percent of the country having it. Water hardness varies by region, but is typically measured in grains per gallon (gpg) and milligrams per liter (mg/l). In the United States, the average non-distilled drinking water has a hardness level between 2-4 gpg.

Here is a list of some of the cities in the U.S. with the hardest water:

  1. Indianapolis, IN
  2. San Antonio, TX
  3. Las Vegas, NV
  4. Phoenix, AZ
  5. Tampa, FL
  6. Minneapolis, MN
  7. Chicago, IL
  8. Austin, TX
  9. Omaha, NE
  10. Jacksonville, FL
  11. Miami, FL
  12. Salt Lake City, UT
  13. San Jose, CA
  14. Kansas City, MO - Kansas City, KS
  15. Columbus, OH

Turning Hard Water Into Soft Water

There are big differences between hard and soft water. Hard water is treated with a home water softening system to help produce soft water. A water softener removes the unwanted minerals from your home’s water and replaces them with salt before the water flows into your home’s plumbing.

Soft water contains dissolved minerals like sodium and potassium ions, which easily break down into their constituent parts (i.e., sodium and potassium ions), so they don't build up in the same way hard water does. In fact, soft water has a slippery feel when used for bathing - that's because these minerals are oils!

There are many benefits associated with water softeners, especially if your home’s water is particularly hard. Although hard water isn’t harmful to humans, it can cause dry skin and hair after bathing and may affect the taste of some foods and beverages. Treating your water with a water softener is a simple way to completely eliminate the effects of hard water on your home and your daily lifestyle.

Water that has been treated will taste better and leave your hair, skin, and clothes feeling softer; soft water also allows you to use less detergent when washing clothes and dishes, and won’t leave spots on silverware, glass, and cookware after drying.

Requesting water softener installation service is not only a step toward a more comfortable lifestyle, it will also protect your plumbing from the harmful effects of hard water for fewer plumbing issues and lower overall costs associated with plumbing maintenance, repair, and replacement.

Ready to Experience Soft Water in Your Home?

If you think your house is plagued by water hardness, then your next call should be to ARS/Rescue Rooter about water softeners. The plumbing experts at your local ARS/Rescue Rooter can walk you through options for ion exchange water softeners and install the system that’s right for you. Toast a drink of soft water to that!

Give us a call at 866-399-2885 or you can find your nearest ARS/Rescue Rooter location here, and rid yourself of soap scum and tap water hardness forever.

Searching for more knowledge to boost your indoor comfort? Sign up for our email newsletter and you'll receive expert tips and advice from our HVAC & plumbing pros. Plus when you sign-up. you'll be entered into a drawing to win a FREE 50 Gallon Gas or Electric Water Heater!

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