What is Hard Water? Water is considered hard if it has a high concentration of dissolved minerals like magnesium and calcium. These elements can be picked up by groundwater as it passes in and around soil and rocks. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (GPG), parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). The Water Quality Association considers water to be hard if it has more than 17.1 ppm or 1 GPG. According to a U.S. Geological Survey, 85% of the water in the United States is considered hard water.
Signs of Hard Water If your home has hard water, you’ll notice mineral deposits, stains or a white film on surfaces like porcelain, enamel, china, stainless steel, tile, chrome, fiberglass, and glass. You may notice stains or build-up on bathroom fixtures, dishes, and sinks. In addition to magnesium and calcium, manganese, brass, iron or copper can also be present in the water. Manganese stains look brownish or black, while iron-rich water leaves deposits that look red or like white slime. If you notice blue or green stains around your plumbing fixtures, your water may be slightly acidic, which can erode brass or copper pipes.
Problems caused by hard water
While hard water doesn’t pose a health risk, the buildup of mineral deposits it leaves behind can reduce efficiency of water pipes and water heaters, and also make soap and detergents less effective.
Clothes look dingy and wear out fast Washing clothes in hard water can make them look dingy, feel scratchy, and actually damage the fibers. According tohardwater.org, it can even shorten the life of your clothes by as much as 40%.
Clogged showerheads Mineral deposits from hard water can build up around the openings in your shower head, causing clogs that reduce the water pressure of your shower.
Soap scum or “soap curd” on tubs, showers and other surfaces Hard water prevents soap from cleaning and dissolving completely. Instead, the soap bonds with the minerals in the water to form a film or “curd” that sticks to everything and causes a soap scum ring in the bath tub.
Cleaning is more difficult The hard deposits left behind after hard water dries are called lime scales. These minerals are difficult to remove, and can even cause chemical reactions that make cleaning products less effective.
Permanent damage to glass shower doors In some cases, mineral deposits can become so bad that there is a chemical change that permanently damages the material. For example, if you have a glass shower door with a white, cloudy residue that never seems to come off completely, those stains may be permanent because the chemicals have etched the glass.
Damage to plumbing fixtures Plated plumbing fixtures that are discolored from mineral buildup are often beyond restoration, because the chemicals eat through the coating. You may see mineral build-up around drains, faucets, and on shower heads. These deposits can damage the rubber washers that seal the fixtures, creating leaks that can cause even more damage.
Damage to appliances Appliances that use water, like coffee makers, washing machines, ice makers and dishwashers, can have lime scale build up around the valves and seals, which leads to water leaks.
Spots and streaks on dishes and glasses Washing glasses and dishes in hard water can cause spots, streaks, and a cloudy film to develop. Although they don’t post a health risk, they can be difficult to remove and can make your dishes look like they’re not clean.
Dull, lifeless hair Washing your hair in hard water can cause build-up that makes it tangle easily, look dull and feel rough.
Skin irritation and film Showering or bathing in hard water with soap can leave a film on your skin, which can prevent the removal of dirt and bacteria. This film can also irritate skin.
Clogged water pipes Lime scale, made up of magnesium and calcium deposits, can build up in your plumbing system and reduce the flow of water through the pipes. PVC and copper pipes are not as susceptible to this problem, but it is a big issue for steel pipes. Over time, your home’s water pressure will be lower, and as the water flow slows down the buildup of lime scale will speed up until eventually your water pipes are completely clogged. Once they become completely blocked, your pipes will have to be replaced.
Increased water heater energy consumption Lime scale can build up inside your water heater, reducing its efficiency and life span. The mineral deposits on the heating element can make it take longer to heat water, which means your water heater will have to work longer. Lime scale buildup from hard water can also reduce your water heater’s life span by 25 – 40%,