Is Your Home’s Water Hard or Soft?

Whether a home gets its water from a private well or a municipal water supply system, the water itself can typically be classified as either hard or soft. Hard water is so named because it contains a higher concentration of dissolved minerals (most commonly, calcium and magnesium) that it has picked up along the way to the supply reservoir or well. Soft water simply contains a lower concentration of these minerals (or virtually none).

While hard water isn’t a health risk (it may even have some significant health benefits), it can negatively impact a home’s plumbing system and be a general nuisance to the people who live there. That’s why many homeowners install a water softener, which removes the mineral ions from the water before it is distributed throughout the home.

For those who are unsure whether their home needs a water softener, this article will describe the most common indicators of hard water and how it can affect a home.

Visual Clues – Spots, Scale, and Soap Scum

One reason homeowners don’t like hard water is the visible residue it leaves on their fixtures and dishes. As hard water evaporates on any kind of surface, its mineral content will be left behind. This is most often found as cloudy patches or white spots on dishes and other surfaces where water has air-dried.

This residue can eventually build up and form a crusty scale deposit if it’s not cleaned off. This is most commonly found on faucets and showerheads. The minerals in hard water can also bind to soaps, creating a soap curd that clings to surfaces, leaving behind a film of soap scum in sink basins, tubs, or on shower walls.

What Hard Water Feels Like?

Many people are also not fans of the way hard water feels on their skin – even after it’s dried. Hard water typically makes it harder to get a good, sudsy lather from soaps, often leading people to use more soap than would otherwise be necessary. And the film of soap curd and mineral scale that hard water leaves on other surfaces also tends to stick to skin and hair, clogging pores and affecting the body’s natural pH levels.

This can make skin feel dry and itchy and make hair flat, “dead,” or difficult to manage. Minerals and soap curd can also become lodged in fabrics, wearing them out faster and making them feel rough, stiff, or scratchy.

Hard Water’s Effects on Pipes and Fixtures

The above issues can be troublesome and annoying, to say the least, but the real trouble with hard water is the damage it can do to a home’s plumbing system and water-using appliances. Mineral scale can accumulate inside supply and drainage pipes alike. In supply pipes, this can severely constrict water flow, cause overly high-water pressure, and corrode the pipes; in drainage pipes, it can contribute to clogs and leaks. In some cases, the problem can become so severe that re-piping the whole home is necessary.

Mineral scale can also jam up valves and damage internal components of fixtures and appliances. This can degrade appliance performance and efficiency and lead to breakdowns or major issues, particularly in water heaters, laundry machines, and dishwashers.

If homeowners are having trouble with their plumbing systems and water-using appliances or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, hard water may be to blame. If in doubt, they can contact a reputable local plumber to test their water for hardness and advise them on available solutions.

About John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning

John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning have been a trusted and highly rated industry leader since 1996. Their licensed and background-checked technicians always arrive on time in fully stocked trucks, ready to provide personalized solutions and honest, up-front prices. Call today for water testing and water softener installation in Lincoln, NE!

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