Water is water. Surely, there can’t be all that much of a difference as long as it has the H2O chemical composition, right? If you have ever found yourself thinking in this way, it’s time for a practical chemistry lesson. The reality is that some water is known as “hard water,” and it can do serious damage to your appliances.
When water moves through soil and rock, it sometimes picks up and absorbs traces of the rocks and minerals it encounters. Calcium and magnesium are the most common culprits. The more of these minerals there are in your water, the harder it becomes.
The overabundance of these minerals can make a noticeable difference in your daily life, affecting your personal grooming as well as the effectiveness of your home appliances. You may not feel clean even after rinsing due to the film that hard water leaves. For the same reason, your clothes may look dingy, and your tiles and tub may develop a drab film that seems impossible to remove.
If hard water negatively affects your skin and your home’s surfaces, it probably comes as no surprise that it is not good for plumbing and appliances either. Over time, mineral deposits can clog your pipes, necessitating a costly visit from the plumber. In addition, appliances such as your water heater, dishwasher and clothes washer can also fall victim to hard water-induced mineral deposits. Considering the amount of money you invest in these devices, it can be both disturbing and frustrating to homeowners when they are forced to call in a professional for dishwasher, water heater or washing machine repair simply because of water that is high in minerals.
Hard water is estimated to affect 85% of U.S. homes to one extent or another. Because its impact is so widespread, solutions have been developed that can protect you and your appliances. If you are willing to install it, you can obtain a mechanical water softening system that attaches directly to your home’s plumbing. These ion exchange devices add salt to your water, thus “softening” it. Another solution is the packaged variety, which contains chemicals that bond with the magnesium and calcium to neutralize their effects. These packaged softeners come in two types: precipitating and non-precipitating. The precipitating softeners are made of borax and washing soda; the non-precipitating types use phosphates to soften the water and are usually used in laundry loads.
As a homeowner, it is in your best interest to find out if you have hard water and act accordingly. Testing kits can be easily purchased. Alternatively, get a plastic bottle and fill it halfway with warm water. Add five or six drops of dish soap and shake well. If it foams with soap suds when you open the cap, you most likely don’t have a problem. If you have minimal bubbles, you probably do have hard water. Take steps to correct the situation and your appliances and skin will thank you.