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Hard Water – the Causes and Consequences

floor of a shower stained with hard water Hard water is water that has a high mineral content, formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone and chalk, which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates. The more calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water, the harder the water becomes. For this reason, certain cities and counties within the same state can have varying degrees of water hardness. It is common for homes that have a well as the water source, but in some cities and townships, water can remain hard even after it is treated at a water treatment plant.

Generally speaking, drinking hard water doesn’t cause any health risks. The intake of calcium and magnesium in hard water can even be a benefit.

Bathing in hard water is the other discussion point that receives a lot of attention. Hard water requires more soap usage and is harder on hair (particularly long hair) due to the mineral content. Some people don’t like the feel of hard water compared to soft water when bathing.

Over time, hard water can lead to inconvenient, embarrassing and costly problems like brown or rust-colored stains in sinks and tubs. It also can stain clothing and linens to the point that certain items will need to be replaced.

Approximately 85 percent of American homes have hard water. It will leave mineral deposits in your water heater, on faucets, on dishes and on just about anything else after it dries, including your car.

Some Signs of Hard Water Include:

  • White, chalky residue or spots on dishes and in your dishwasher.
  • Clothes and linens develop a rough, dull look.
  • Minerals can stick to the surfaces of water pipes, build up on faucets, cause stains on sinks and tubs and lead to problems with appliances that use water.
  • Dry skin and flat hair – because soap just doesn’t lather or rinse completely away.
  • Low water pressure from showers and faucets due to clogged pipes.

What Are Some Things You Can Do to Alleviate Problems From Hard Water?

To take care of the problem entirely, installing a water softener in the home is the only option. But there are a few other things you can do to treat the symptoms:

  • Use vinegar to clean faucets and showerheads. Vinegar is effective in removing the lime buildup.
  • There are additives that are made for dishwashers that will help reduce the “cloudy residue” that gets on glasses and other dishes.
  • Draining your water heater annually will help reduce sediment buildup at the bottom.

If a hard water problem isn’t fixed, pipes may not be able to handle the buildup, causing a messy and expensive plumbing job.

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