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Hard Water

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that contains a high level of dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium.

The opposite of this is soft water, which contains none of these dissolved minerals.

What Causes Hard Water?

Hard water is caused by processes similar to what causes you to have a high level of iron content in your well water – you either have calcium and magnesium deposits underneath your property or your water source was exposed to magnesium and calcium deposits.

When rain falls, the water flows down into the soil. As it moves down through the soil, it comes into contact with calcium and magnesium and dissolves it, carrying it with it until it hits a water aquifer. If your well connects to this water source, you end up having hard water.

Areas of Maryland and Virginia are Prone to Hard Water

The mid-Atlantic region – which includes Virginia and Maryland – tends to have a layer of bedrock that is calcium-based. Because of this, we frequently deal with homes and businesses that have hard water problems.

It doesn’t mean it is guaranteed, but if your home shows some of the signs listed below, you should have your water tested.

Does Drinking Hard Water Have Any Negative Health Effects?

The EPA classifies hardness as a secondary contaminant, meaning water treatment plants are not required to remove it from the water and it is not considered generally harmful to your health.

What are Signs of Hard Water Problems Around the Home?

Because hard water is composed of magnesium and calcium, most of the signs you’ll see around your home reflect the heightened presence of it. These usually appear in three ways: stains or build up of some kind, water not reacting the way it should when used, or appliances and equipment becoming less effective or breaking down.

Water Spots

One of the easiest signs you can spot is the presence of water spots on your dishes after you wash them. This is caused by two things: either the reaction that hard water has when it interacts with your dish soap or the deposits that magnesium and calcium leave behind when water containing it dries and evaporates.

Soap Reaction

Hard water reacts with soap and makes the soap less effective. This is because the calcium and magnesium in hard water over powers the soap and leaves behind soap scum.

This causes two annoying effects: (1) it is harder to get a good lather and (2) you have to use a lot more soap, containing softening agents, in order for the soap to be effective.

Skin Irritation

Following up on the previous sign, this residue left after soap interacts with the hard water dries on your skin, which causes your skin to dry out and irritates it.

Damaged or Stained Clothes

Hard water can leave behind stains on your clothes after you wash them, thanks to how it reacts with the laundry detergent. You’ll see this in the form of white or gray streaks on the colored clothes you wash.

In addition, hard water can damage your fabrics. Clothes gradually become gray or yellow, fibers weaken and tear more easily, and some stains and build-up can be harder to wash off.

Mineral Build Up Around Fixtures / White Scale

One of the obvious signs you have hard water is the white scale build up (also called lime scale) that appears on the outside of faucets, on shower surfaces, on areas where water drains, and so on.

Clogged Pipes and Lower Water Pressure

The calcium and magnesium that your hard water contains can build up in your pipes as scale deposits. As this accumulates, it begins to choke off the water flow, decreasing the water pressure. If this goes on too long, it can obscure your pipes, sometimes extensively, leading to costly replacement.

Water Heater Problems

The same scale deposits that can build up in your pipes can also build up inside your hot water heater. This scale forms on the heating elements, making them work harder and harder to heat your water. You’ll notice by longer wait times when you turn on the hot water, increased energy costs or when your water heater fails. This problem is even worse if you have a “tankless” water heater.

Appliance Wear-and-Tear

The same scale deposits that build up in your pipes build up everywhere else water touches. Hard water leads to lower life spans for common appliances, such as washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators with water dispensing systems.

How Do You Treat Hard Water?

Hard water issues are treated by installing a water softener, also known as a water conditioner, at the point of entry of water into your house.

Water softeners use a mechanical process called ion exchange to eliminate hard water. When hard water enters your home, the water softener exposes it to charged resin beads containing sodium ions that attract the calcium and magnesium in the water. When these ions are attached to the resin, the resin beads then release the sodium ions back into the water as part of the ion exchange process, and soft water then flows through your pipes.

Carroll Water does sell and install most water softener brands, including EcoWater, to meet your needs.

Want to Confirm You Have a Hard Water Problem and Find the Right Way to Treat It? Request a Free Water Test.

Water-Related Diseases: Arsenicosis – World Health Organization
Basic Information about Arsenic in Drinking Water – Environmental Protection Agency – 9/17/13
Arsenic in Drinking Water – Natural Resource Defense Council – 2/12/09
Radium and Your Drinking Water – The Department of the Environment, State of Maryland – 7/9/15
Basic Information about the Radionuclides Rule – Environmental Protection Agency – 3/6/12
MTBE – American Cancer Society – 7/17/14
Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) – Environmental Protection Agency – 11/15/14