Common Questions About Hard Water
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that contains a high level of dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. These minerals can come from a variety of sources, including leaching from rocks and soil and the dissolution of limestone and other 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 groundwater moves down through the layers of soil, it comes into contact with calcium and magnesium and dissolves it, carrying it as it continues to the groundwater aquifer. If your well connects to this water source, you end up having hard water enter your home. The hardness of the water is measured by testing the milligrams of calcium carbonate in the water.
Areas of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia are Prone to Hard Water
The mid-Atlantic region – which includes Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia – 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?
Hard water is not harmful to human health, but it can have some negative impacts on household appliances and plumbing systems. The EPA classifies hardness as a secondary contaminant, meaning water treatment plants are not required to remove it from the drinking water since it is not considered generally harmful to your health.
What are Signs of Hard Water Problems Around the Home?
- Stains or build-up on fixtures and appliances
- Water not reacting the way it should when used
- Appliances and equipment become less effective or break down
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.
Hard water reacts with soap and makes the soap less effective. This is because the calcium and magnesium in hard water overpower 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.
Since the hard water is causing the soap to leave residue, it can cause dryness and irritation on your skin.
Damaged or Stained Clothes
Hard water can leave behind stains on your clothes after you wash them, due 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 limescale) that appears on the outside of faucets, on shower surfaces, and on areas where water drains.
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 clog your plumbing, 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 to heat your water. You’ll notice when this occurs by longer wait times for hot water, increased energy bills, or when your water heater completely fails. This problem is even greater when you have a “tankless” heater.
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 into the water softener unit, it is exposed to charged resin beads containing sodium ions that attract calcium and magnesium from 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.
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Do You Have Signs of Hard Water?