While you've probably heard about hard water and soft water before, you may not know what these terms actually mean. Soft water is what naturally falls from the sky in the form of precipitation, but it becomes hard when it travels through waterways and absorbs minerals such as calcium and magnesium. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, hard water can be found in approximately 85% of American homes. Therefore, it's likely that your home has hard water, too. Here are six things you need to know about hard water and how it can be harmful to both your health and home.
Can Cause Dry Skin and Hair
Because of its high concentration of minerals, hard water can make it difficult to fully rinse soap from your skin. Additionally, the minerals in hard water can cling to your skin and absorb its natural oils, making it feel dry and irritated. This can be especially problematic for individuals with sensitive skin or other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. On a similar note, hard water can wreak havoc on your hair, hindering your ability to rinse out shampoo and therefore leading to excess buildup. This residue can make your hair appear dull and limp and make it difficult for moisture to penetrate the follicle, leading to dry hair that is more susceptible to split ends and breakage. Some other tell-tale signs of hard water are straw-like hair, color-treated hair that fades quickly and difficulty creating lather when shampooing. Using a water softener can leave you with softer and silkier hair by removing calcium and magnesium ions from your water and replacing them with sodium ions, which don't interfere with your water's efficacy.
Can Discolor Your Clothing
In addition to impacting your hair and skin, hard water can also cause your clothing to fade by leaving behind mineral deposits. These deposits make it harder for detergent to do its job, leading to a buildup of debris on your clothing that can make it appear dull, discolored or faded. If you find that your clothing comes out of the washing machine feeling stiff or having a gray or yellow tint, hard water may be responsible. Hard water can also cause the ends of your clothing to fray and wear out quickly. A recent study discovered that using soft water to wash your clothing can reduce detergent use by approximately 50% and allow you to decrease the water temperature by 40 degrees without sacrificing your clothing's cleanliness. This translates to lower costs and higher energy savings.
Can Wear Down Appliances
Hard water forms scale deposits on your appliances that may cause them to wear down faster than soft water would. From your hot water heater to your freezer's ice maker, a buildup of minerals can decrease these appliances' efficiency and therefore cause your utility bills to skyrocket. According to the American Water Works Association, hard water can cause your washing machine to deteriorate approximately 30% faster than usual.
Can Leave Spots on Your Dishes
Have you ever taken glassware out of your dishwasher only to find that it's covered in white spots? The culprit isn't your dishwasher but hard water, which deposits minerals onto your dishes and leaves a cloudy film. To prevent these spots, reduce the amount of dish detergent that you use, as a thick layer can attract minerals from the hard water. You can also turn up the water temperature, as warmer water evaporates more and therefore makes it harder for hard water to leave behind mineral deposits.
Can Damage Your Pipes
If you have steel, copper or PVC pipes in your home, the minerals in hard water can build up inside of them over time. Although you won't be able to see this accumulation, it may cause plumbing problems such as low water pressure and reduced water flow. Hard water can cause your pipes to wear down faster, thus leading you to spend more money on repairs. Some signs of clogged pipes include small particles in your sink water and cracks in your pipes caused by excess pressure.
Can Increase Risk of Kidney Stones
While hard water can't directly cause kidney stones, several studies have shown that hard water can increase their risk of developing. Kidney stones form when your urine contains too much calcium for your body to be able to dilute it. Because hard water has high levels of calcium, consuming it can be a contributing factor in developing kidney stones.
Hard water can wreak havoc on many aspects of your life without you even knowing it. While there are many solutions that can combat hard water's negative effects, these are only short-term fixes. Installing a device that softens your water is the most effective and permanent resolution to fight against hard water stains. Use this information to familiarize yourself with hard water's harmful effects and determine if it's running through your household pipes.