Hard water is everywhere. The vast majority of homes throughout the county are served by municipal water suppliers that carry hard water. So what exactly is “hard” water, what are its benefits and drawbacks, and what can you do about it?
Hard water is any water containing a significant quantity of dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. Hard water is not a health hazard. In fact, it contributes toward our calcium and magnesium dietary needs. Assuming there are no contaminants or pollutants contained in it, hard water is completely safe for people, pets, plants, and lawns.
But drinking and water constitute only a small portion of our water use. Washing, bathing and appliances consume the rest and that’s where hard water can create problems.
- Clothes laundered in hard water can look dingy and stiff when air-dried and are often left with soap scum or detergent residues. Hard water also reduces the cleaning power of detergents, because more detergent is used to soften the wash water, leaving less available to clean the clothes. Continuous washing in hard water can reduce the life of a garment by up to 40 percent.
- Bathing with soap in hard water leaves a film of sticky soap curd on the skin and may prevent soil and bacteria from washing away. Soap curd interferes with the return of skin to its normal, slightly acid condition, and may lead to irritation.
- Hard water also contributes to inefficient and costly operation of water saving appliances mainly dishwashers and water heaters. Heated hard water forms scale and calcite build up on the inside of tanks and pipes. This can lead to increase energy bills by as much as 30%.
So how can we lessen the effects of hard water?
The most common solution is a mechanical water softener, which can be permanently installed into the plumbing system to continuously remove calcium and magnesium. For some their first thought when they hear the word water softener is salty water and slick skin. Today’s modern systems have all but cured the salty water problem. For those without dietary restrictions drinking softened water is not an issue. Fixing slick feeling skin can be corrected through proper softener calibration and reduced soap usage.
The second common water treatment option is electromagnetic water conditioners. These systems are sold by a variety of different companies and their popularity seems to come and go. Here at Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air, our experience has been somewhat poor with these systems and we are currently not installing. These systems work by modifying the electromagnetic charge of molecules in the water.