What is Hard Water And Why is it A Problem?
Hard water is any water high in mineral content compared to water lower in mineral content referred to as soft water. Hard water is formed as water travels through deposits of limestone and chalk. Limestone and chalk are made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates. As these carbonates dissolve in water they make water "hard." The more calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water the higher the level of hardness.
The biggest problem with hard water is the costly breakdowns it can cause to boilers, cooling towers and other equipment that handles water in both residential and industrial applications.
In domestic use, hard water impedes almost every cleaning task from doing the laundry to washing the dishes, from bathing to personal grooming. For example, if you wash your clothes in hard water your clothing may look duller in colour and lose their soft-to-the-touch feel. This is because soap curds lodge in fabric during washing to make fabric stiff and rough. And because hard water impedes full cleaning soil and dirt is left behind, making the clothing look duller in colour. Using hardwater for laundry can shorten the life of your clothing. Crockery and glasses can come out spotted or coated in a light scum when dry. Hard water may also create a film on glass shower doors, shower walls, bathtubs, sinks and faucets. Hair may feel sticky and look dull when washed in hard water. And to top it all off, mineral deposits left in pipes can restrict water flow.
Many synthetic detergents are incompatible with hard water because the active ingredient in the detergent is only partially activated when used in hard water. Bathing in hard water causes a thin film of sticky soap curd to be left behind on the skin. The thin layer of film reduces the cleaning of soil and bacteria which are then left behind on the skin. Soap curd also hampers the return of skin to its normal, slightly acid condition, and may lead to itchiness or eczema. If soap curd is attached to the hair the hair may become hard to manage, lose its luster and feel lifeless.
Hard water also gives rise to inefficient and expensive operation of appliances that rely on water for use. For example, any water-using appliance that increases the heat of the water can cause the calcium and magnesium minerals in the water to harden into a scale which can reduce the efficiency of the appliance. Pipes flowing water to or from appliances or recirculating water within an appliance can become clogged with scale which leads to a reduction in water flow and eventual (and sometimes costly) replacement of pipes. Problems with red and black stains in dishwasher and dishes.
Indications of Water Hardness
Hard water is most easily recognized in domestic applications by a lack of suds forming when soap is agitated in water, and by the formation of lime scale in kettles and water heaters.
The hardness of your water will be measured in grains per gallon, milligrams per liter (mg/l) or parts per million (ppm). A single grain of hardness equals 17.1 mg/l or ppm of hardness.
The table below shows a breakdown of hard water classifications:
|Classification||mg/l or ppm||grains/gal|
|Soft||0 - 17.0||0 - 1|
|Slightly hard||17.1 - 60||1 - 3.5|
|Hard||120.1 - 180||7.1 - 10.5|
|Very Hard||> 180||> 10.5|
To summarise Hard Water Problems, they include:
- Stiff, greyish laundry
- Mineral (or soap scum) deposits on dishes and glassware
- Excessive soap usage and necessity for fabric softeners
- Dry, itchy skin and scalp
- Difficult to manage hair
- Extra work in the form of scrubbing to eliminate soap curd on bathtubs and shower screens and walls
- Increased energy and possible replacement costs as a result of scale build-up in pipes and in appliances
If you wash items of clothing in hard water they will typically come out looking discoloured and feel rough and scratchy. The minerals that cause water to be hard often group with certain soils and create insoluble salts which are almost impossible to remove in a normal laundering process. Soil found in clothing added to the wash can be a major culprit in supplying water hardening minerals to the wash cycle. Ongoing laundering of clothing in hard water is reported to damage the fibres and shorten the life of clothes by as much as 40%.
Hardwater, when mixed with soap in bathing will leave a film of sticky soap curd (sometimes referred to as scum) on your skin. This soapy film can inhibit removal of soil and bacteria from the skin. Soap curd can also leave your skin feeling itchy as it prevents your skin from returning to its normal, slightly acidic condition. Soap curd on hair can make your hair dull, lifeless and difficult to manage.
Hardwater may cause spotting and filming on crockery when used to wash crockery, especially in a dishwasher. The temperature of the water directly affects the release of minerals from hard water. The hotter the water the more minerals, and therefore the more spotting and filming occurs. Spotting and filming is not necessarily a health risk. But does affect the appearance and lifespan of your crockery.
Hard Water Problems in Hot Water Systems and Pipework
Hard water is a major source of reduction in efficiency and increase in running costs of appliances that rely on water use. When hard water is heated it forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals (Limescale deposits) that can affect efficient operation and even lead to failure of water-using appliances. As stated earlier in this article, pipes can easily clog with scale formation that impedes water flow and will eventually lead to replacement of pipes. And as far as your pocket book goes, it is not uncommon to see Limescale deposits increase energy bills by as much as 25%.
Limescale in Solar Heating Systems
Limescale build up is also a common occurrence in Solar heating systems used to heat swimming pools. This concentration of Limescale will reduce the efficiency of the electronic pump and cause a lower level of performance throughout the entire system. A low cost solution to correct the water balance is to install a magnetic water conditioner before the pump to prevent Limescale build-up and remove existing Limescale through prolonged use.
Hard Water Benefits
First of all, hard water is not harmful to your health. The National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) actually states that drinking hard water contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium dietary needs. They go further to say in some instances, where dissolved calcium and magnesium levels are very high, hard water could be a significant source of needed calcium and magnesium in the human diet.
The ideal solution therefore is not necessarily to remove all hard water from your home or equipment but to alter its state so the calcium stays in the water but doesn’t form Limescale.
If you have identified a hard water problem we are here to help. Call our office or send an email to management and we will be in touch to answer your questions and provide an effective solution.