Hard water. Ever heard this word tossed around? Having been in the plumbing world for over 40 years, the topic of hard water is certainly not a new topic, but definitely one that continues to stir up questions. For those that either don’t know what hard water is or are curious if it’s present in your house, then this is the perfect blog post for you! Understanding what it is and how to measure the different levels of hard water can help prevent headaches in a number of areas in your everyday life!
What is “Hard Water?”
Before getting into any of the details about hard water, it’s important to fully understand what it is. In short, hard water is water that has a higher than normal mineral content. Throughout the water cycle, various minerals (such as calcium and magnesium) accumulate in the water. It is important to point out that this can also occur with city water. As you might guess, the logic behind this is the more minerals that are dissolved in water, the harder it becomes. Simple as that!
To provide a quick example, think of washing your hands. After doing so with soap and water, have you ever felt like there was some residue left behind on your hands? Well, this is due to hard water. A reaction between the soap and the calcium (found in hard water) forms soap scum. As a result, you’ll find yourself using more soap to clean your hands because of the hard water! The same logic applies when you’re doing laundry, washing the dishes, and so on!
Is it safe?
Once you understand the basic definition of hard water, the next question becomes whether or not it’s safe to drink. The easy answer to this is yes! It’s perfectly safe to drink and wash with, but it will impact your daily life in other ways. I’ll touch on these later on!
The 4 Measures of Water Hardness
Before we dive deeper into how hard water affects you and what you can do to combat it, let’s take a closer look at the numbers and how to determine where your water ranks. As a rule of thumb, we go off of four primary classifications of water:
- Soft Water: 0 to 60 mg/L
- Moderately Hard Water: 61 to 120 mg/L
- Hard Water: 121 to 180 mg/L
- Very Hard Water: 180+ mg/L
Now that we know the criteria, let’s take a look at which parts of the United States contain the highest amounts of hard water. This map comes courtesy of H2O Distributors. As you can see, most of the Kansas City metro area ranks on the higher side.
What Does Hard Water Mean For You?
As alluded to above, hard water is (for the most part) safe to drink and wash with. Due to it’s high proportion of minerals (like calcium and magnesium), it helps in fulfilling important dietary needs. Culligan, an industry leader in water filtration systems, also reported that “hard water health effects have been linked to lower cardiovascular disease mortality.” With this said, we’re still not advocating for the consumption of hard water over soft water though. Surprisingly, it has a much larger impact on other areas of your daily life.
Have you ever traveled to another city and immediately noticed that your hair feels different after washing it? Well, that’s not an illusion, this is a perfectly realistic possibility. With water hardness levels ranging from city to city, you can get a better wash in one city rather than another. For one, cities with a higher level of hard water will make it much more difficult to style your hair.
Additionally, you very well may notice color-treated hair fading quicker. All of those minerals built up in hard water are capable of changing the color. All in all though, it’s important to note that this doesn’t cause any physical damage to your hair. It just may require you to alter your morning routine, such as looking into dry shampoo, pre-shampoo treatments, or even limiting the number of washes you have each week.
Not only is hard water going to make it tough to style your hair in the morning, but it can also dry out your skin. This causes clogged pores, flaking and itching. The science behind this is revolving around when it reacts with soaps. This interaction forms salts that tend to remain on your skin afterwards. In addition to dry skin, this can eventually lead to acne and blemishes, and in some cases, can result in dermatitis.
Clothing, Dishes and Fixtures
Aside from negative effects on your skin and hair, one of the most noticeable signs of hard water is when you do laundry or the dishes. You may notice your clothes don’t seem completely clean and may even see some soap scum left behind. It’s also possible for clothes to becomes discolored over time. In short, there’s a lot of issues hard water can have on your laundry. Hard and scratchy towels, irritated skin that can’t even be helped by any special soap that you try and of course, having to use more detergent to get the job done!
The effect on fixtures and dishes is rather straightforward as well. You’ll notice mineral stains in the bath tubs, sinks, toilet bowls and so on. You’ll find yourself continuously cleaning faucets and showerheads from the mineral buildup. And when you go to do the dishes, all of a sudden, there is a cloudiness look that doesn’t seem to go away unless you continue to work on it! In the end, it’s not hard to know when you’re witnessing higher levels of hard water. Plus, with the help of the map above, you’re able to back it up with numbers!
How to Go From Hard Water to Soft Water
Since hard water is such a widespread issue and typically location-dependent, it can seem like a tough problem to tackle. However, your best bet right now is looking into installing a water softener system. These systems utilize a process known as ion exchange, which does get fairly technical in scientific terms with words like polystyrene beads. In essence though, water softeners are designed to remove the minerals that lead to all of the negative effects discussed above. The logic behind this makes perfect sense as well, since you’re intending to go from hard water to soft water. Hard minerals like calcium and magnesium ions are being replaced with soft minerals like sodium or potassium ions. You’ll save some money by not having to continuously purchase extra soap and detergent! Plus, you’ll immediately notice everything seems to be cleaner and much more vibrant.
Need a Plumber?
Since we work with fixtures every single day (in addition to being Kansas City residents), we see the negative effects of hard water. Whether that be through spotting mineral buildup when we go to do a drain cleaning or hearing first-hand from homeowners, we know there are higher levels of hard water in the Kansas City area. Luckily, there is a fairly easy solution to this issue!
If you’re ever in need of a Kansas City plumbing company that has experience in both the residential and commercial sectors, don’t hesitate to give our team a call. Anything from just needing advice to wanting a free quote, we’re always happy to help!