Depending where you live in the country, you are more likely to have either hard or soft water in the home.
Bbypnda, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There are no adverse health problems that arise from hard water, but over time, the water leaves mineral deposits behind on any surface or material that it touches. Eventually, it will wreak havoc on pipes, appliances that use water, and the overall appearance of your home.
What Are The Differences Between Hard And Soft Water?
Water contains chemicals and minerals, and the concentration of these minerals determines the hardness of the water, specifically calcium and magnesium in hard water. The higher levels of these minerals, the harder the water is. On the other hand, softer water has higher levels of salt and sodium. These minerals in both hard and soft water are collected in rainwater as it travels through the ground and then used in the water system.
How Do I Know Whether My Water Is Hard?
You’re not able to tell whether your water is hard just by looking at it. It is most likely the feel or the effects of the water that make it easier to tell. If you have hard water, you may notice a chalk-like residue on your appliances or clothing or a slimy feeling on your hands after washing them with soap.
There is a ‘hard water test’ which is a quick and easy way to tell if your water is hard. You can do so by filling a bottle of water, adding some dish soap, and giving it a good shake. If the water is cloudy, milky, and without bubbles, then this would indicate hard water.
The Negative Effects Of Hard Water
- Stained Sinks, Bathtubs and Shower Floors
Soap scum will also build up on sinks, bathtubs and shower floors. Many homes with hard water have this mineral residue stain. This soap scum causes a layer to form on the ceramics, which will frequently need to be cleaned off to prevent it looking unsightly.
- Spots on Dishware
You may notice spots on glasses or cutlery when they come out of the dishwasher, which are calcium carbonate deposits. This is most evident on clear drinking glasses, as you can see the cloudy looking residue on the sides of them. Rinse aid, hard water specific detergent, and adding dishwasher salt are three simple solutions to prevent this, but the effect of hard water still may be present and tend to make the glasses look dirty, even when they have just been cleaned!
- Limescale Build Up on Taps, Drains, Showerheads, and Other Appliances
Mineral deposits will build up not only on taps, drains and showerheads, but on your other appliances such as your kettle, coffee machines, and dishwasher. This limescale build up in a kettle or coffee machine can also cause the water to have a different, unpleasant taste. Drainage Care UK, who are experts in blocked drains, would suggest regularly attempting to remove any limescale you notice from appliances to keep them in full working order.
- Frequent Plumbing Repairs
Steel pipes and hard water are not a good mix. The pipes become damaged easily due to the build-up of minerals in them, resulting in both a lowering of water pressure and a corrosion of the pipes. Some plumbing problems caused by hard water are able to be fixed by Do-It-Yourself jobs, but more often than not, you will need to call in a professional to resolve the issues.
- Mineral Stains on or Stiff Feeling Clothes out of the Washing Machine
Mineral stains on clothes or they feel stiff when they come out of the washing machine. This is due to the hard water’s minerals reacting with the detergent used in the wash and preventing it from working properly, this residue builds up over time and becomes more visible. It can also cause white clothes to look more yellow and dull.
Tips For Preventing The Effects Of Hard Water
Here are some tips on how to prevent hard water causing problems in the home without the need for harsh shop-bought chemicals:
- How to Remove Stains from Sinks, Bathtubs and Shower Floors
A mix of water and vinegar can be particularly effective for removing limescale. To do so, leave the mixture for around 15 minutes before rinsing it with water and wiping it dry. To get rid of tougher stains, apply baking soda before adding the water and vinegar mixture. If you have enamel surfaces, you need to be cautious as these surfaces tend to be susceptible to acid damage. Make sure you wash the vinegar mixture away thoroughly afterwards.
- How to Prevent Spots on Dishware
You are able to prevent a limescale build up both inside your dishwasher and on your glassware by using vinegar and baking soda. To do so, add vinegar to the Jet-Dry compartment of your dishwasher, so it will be released during the dishwasher cycle and remove the limescale build up. Adding baking soda to your regular cycle is a good preventative measure to stop this build up of limescale.
- How to Prevent Limescale Build Up on Taps, Drains, and Showerheads
Try to regularly remove any visible limescale build up you can see anywhere. This will stop the build up becoming unmanageable and prevent any further damage to taps, pipes, and so on. You can remove limescale on taps by filling a sandwich bag with a vinegar and water mixture and tying it to the tap with an elastic. Let it sit for 15 minutes and rinse thoroughly.
Removing limescale build up in a drain involves pouring half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda down. Wait five minutes and then pour boiling water down the drain. The limescale build up should then have been dissolved. If not, repeat this process.
- How to Prevent Limescale Build Up on Appliances
To prevent limescale build up in specific appliances, using a water filter device before putting water into your kettle or coffee machine will prevent this build up and minimise the unpleasant taste caused by limescale.
To rid your kettle of limescale, you can fill it half-way with vinegar. Then, pour water in to fill it to the maximum level. Let this mixture sit for an hour, before switching it on and boiling it. After this, pour away the liquid and give it a good thorough rinse. The limescale will have dissolved and drained away. You can also use this method in a coffee machine by running through a vinegar and water mix, but be careful to thoroughly rinse afterwards.
- How to Prevent Mineral Stains on or Stiff Feeling Clothes out of the Washing Machine
Being mindful with the types of detergents and soaps you use can prevent the negative effects of hard water on clothing. For example, you can purchase washing powder and detergents that prevent the negative impacts of hard water. Also, you can run a washing cycle with vinegar, which will dissolve limescale build up.
Still Experiencing Hard Water Related Problems?
If possible, it’s best to prevent using hard water altogether. A water softener integrated into your plumbing system is really the only way to resolve these issues, by stopping the problem at its source. But, to prevent the effects of hard water in taps, drains, and so on, it is important to be proactive and consistent in your efforts to remove limescale. The methods mentioned above are not a complete solution, but they will prolong the time that is needed before a plumbing repair is needed, or reduce the frequency of plumbing repairs.