Water is known as the universal solvent. Given enough time, it can dissolve more substances than any other known liquid. It should be no surprise that water in the home can contain some of these dissolved materials, which can lead to hard water problems.
Hard water refers to water that contains dissolved calcium and magnesium.
There is a scale used to measure the hardness of water. Under the general guidelines, if the water contains no to 60 mg/L of calcium, then the water is considered soft. Calcium content of 61 to 120 mg/L is moderately hard and 121 to 180 mg/L as hard. Anything above that is known as very hard water.
Water supplies that rely on groundwater are the ones usually affected by hardness. This is because the water interacts with the minerals naturally found in the soil and rocks.
What are some of the hard water problems?
Fortunately, hard water does not affect how potable the water is. Hard water problems do not include safety in consumption. However, households can still experience hard water problems. Here are some of the common issues associated with it:
1. Hard water can leave residue on the appliances.
The mineral deposits can stick to the surfaces of household items like pipes, toilets, and faucets. It can be unsightly and cause the equipment to age faster.
One of the most common signs of hard water problems is the formation of stains in sinks, bathtubs, and toilets. Removing these blemishes can be done by specifically formulated cleaning agents. However, it can be an inconvenience and quite difficult when the build-up or scales are extreme.
Aside from the aesthetic problems, hard water problems can be in the form of the inefficient performance of appliances. Pipes can have a lower water pressure because of the mineral build-up inside the pipes. In these cases, replacing the pipes can be quite expensive.
The same thing happens with toilets. When you flush the toilet, water comes out of holes in the toilet rim. Hard water can cause these to clog and make it difficult to get water in the toilet bowl.
2. Hard water affects the ability to interact with soap, making it difficult to clean.
You can tell if the water is hard if using soap makes it feel like there is a leftover film on your hands. This is because the soap reacts with the calcium found in the water to form a residue. The effect is that you tend to use more soap to get things, like laundry, dishes, or even hair, clean.
Hard water problems hit the chore of laundry. When doing the laundry using hard water, the clothes are affected by a yellowing or graying of the fabric. It is also more difficult to wash away the grime. Because it is harder to get the dirt out, you tend to wash the clothing more thoroughly or longer. It can cause the fibers to weaken faster, making them look threadbare.
Hard water problems can also manifest in the dishwasher. Not only do you need more detergent, but glass items tend to have white spots or residue on it.
3. Hard water can cause your skin and hair to feel stiff and dry.
The presence of calcium and magnesium in the water can dry out your skin and cause hard water problems. It is also harder to shampoo your hair because of the way the minerals interact with soap. Whenever you rinse yourself, there is a mineral deposit left on your skin. It will continue to build up as you use the hard water.
Those with color-treated hair can experience hard water problems more significantly. The dye job tends to fade faster, so touch-ups happen more frequently.
Although hard water is generally considered safe, it can cause problems for those with skin conditions like sensitive skin, psoriasis, and eczema. They need to have soft, moisturized skin – which is the exact opposite of what hard water can give them.
The dryness of the skin can lead to irritation and flare-ups. If the skin is damaged, it is more prone to infection because the bacteria can enter the body through the cracks in the skin.
4. Hard water can damage heating equipment.
Cooling towers and boilers make use of water to control the temperature. Hard water can reduce the efficiency of the heat transfer, making it more expensive to run. Over time, the mineral deposits can also cause the equipment to corrode. Hard water problems can lead to higher maintenance costs and a shorter lifespan.
5. Hard water has a different taste than soft water.
With over 80 percent of households in the US making use of hard water, it is the taste that most people are probably used to. Hard water can take on a subtle flavor because of the minerals it contains.
Hard water problems can be encountered when it comes to using the water for cooking or drinking because the mineral flavor can impart itself into recipes.
For example, coffee made with hard water won’t taste as pure because your palette also tastes the minerals it contains. Also, it can affect the cooking process. For example, the minerals can affect the effectiveness of yeast. Without the full ability to ferment, it can be more difficult for doughs to rise.
How can hard water problems be solved?
The most common way to remedy hard water problems is to install a water softener. Water softeners chemically treat the water through the ion exchange process.
The ion exchange happens by changing the positively charged minerals calcium and magnesium with other positively charged minerals like sodium.
At the heart of a water softener are small plastic beads called resin. These are negatively charged, which attracts the positively charged minerals. In effect, the magnesium and calcium are trapped to address the root causes of hard water problems.
To ensure that that water softener can work continuously and that the beads do not lose their effectiveness, salt is added to the beads.
There are other water softeners that do not make use of salt. Instead, the regeneration process uses potassium-chloride. While this type of water softener reduces the amount of salt used, it is generally seen as less efficient in solving hard water problems than salt-based water softeners.
The problem with water softeners is that it produces a lot of wastewater. If this waste is not properly disposed of, it can be a cause of pollution in the area.