How Hard Water Damages Your Plumbing and Appliances
Hard water is no stranger to most households across America. This silent invader affects 85% of homes in the United States every day, wreaking havoc on pipes, plumbing fixtures, and water-using appliances.
Should you become a victim of hard water, you must understand exactly what it is and how it affects your plumbing and appliances. This will help you determine the correct measures to put in place to fix or prevent any problems that may arise.
First off, what exactly is “hard” water?
In short, “hard water” is used to describe water that contains relatively high amounts of dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium, and a host of trace metals. When rainwater falls from the sky (usually in a pure form), it absorbs the hardness minerals from rocks and soil, which changes it from soft to hard water.
Okay, so how does it affect my household?
Hard water can be a nuisance because of the minerals it contains and how they react to cleaning products and certain surfaces. These hardness minerals usually leave white chalky scum around your pipes, faucets, sinks, showerheads, and in toilets. And yes, it looks as nasty as it sounds. Hard water can also make it difficult to create a good lather using even the best-quality soaps and shampoos available. Instead of making a sudsy lather, hard water leaves soap scum on your skin, in your hair, and on bathroom walls and shower doors.
Other effects of hard water include:
- Increased wear on clothing during washing, leaving them discolored, dingy and stiff
- Less effective clothes washing because of the lack of suds
- Spots and cloudiness on glasses and dishes
- Film and scale buildup on ceramic tile and fixtures
- Difficulty rinsing off soap and shampoo completely, leaving skin and hair feeling dry and itchy
What about my plumbing and appliances?
Mineral deposits from hard water can cause buildup on tubs, shower, sinks, faucets. But that’s only a small scratch of the surface. Those minerals can gradually build up inside pipes, fixtures, water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers. Once they accumulate in those areas, they can clog pipes and create major problems throughout your plumbing system, from reduced water flow to increased pressure on pipes and fixtures.
This limescale buildup might affect some appliances, causing them to operate less efficiently and wear down faster. And the result? Higher energy bills, more (costly) plumbing replacements and repairs, and damaged appliances.
Keep in mind that certain types of plumbing are more susceptible to clogging than others. Copper, PVC, and PEX pipes are more resistant to hard water buildup and corrosion, but they can still get clogged or completely blocked by scale deposits.
How do I know if my water is hard?
White limescale buildup on plumbing fixtures (or any of the other signs mentioned above) is usually a good sign that your water is hard. If you suspect that you have hard water, you can simply shake up a small amount of dish soap and water in a closed container. If the mixture doesn’t create a lot of suds, you probably have hard water.
The most precise method, however, is to test your water with a DIY test kit (sold online or at local home centers or hardware stores) or send a water sample from your tap to a local lab to be tested. Be sure that you understand the nature of the test, the water condition being measured, and the significance of the test results.
Another way to obtain an estimate of water hardness is to check your annual water quality report to see if your water provider has reported any instance(s) of water hardness in your water supply.
What is the best solution to hard water?
While there are many products available that can be used for dealing with hard water, your most complete and effective option is to install a whole-house water softener.
A water softener is a tank located between your water source (for instance, your municipal water supply’s mainline or a groundwater source) and the internal plumbing that runs throughout and services your home. Inside the tank is an inorganic softening medium – a resin or crystalline substance – suspended in a saltwater solution. As water flows through the softener, the hardness minerals in it are swapped out with the sodium in the medium itself through a process known as ion exchange. The hardness minerals are effectively removed from the water before it reaches your appliances and plumbing fixtures. And just like that, your water supply is free from those dreadful hardness minerals.
You can choose between a salt-free softener and a salt-based system. Just make sure that you know the differences between the two, so you can pick the one that works best for you.
Springwell Water Systems offer some of the best salt-free and saltwater softeners on the market, so you can check them out at www.springwellwater.com, or contact us directly for help choosing the best system for your specific needs.
Hard water continues to be a major problem for most Americans, damaging plumbing and appliances and leaving mineral buildup on fixtures and surfaces. However, with a quality water softener, you can prevent those nasty stains and buildup and protect your plumbing and water-using appliances. Good luck!