A prevalent annoyance in homes across the United States, hard water doesn’t have a good reputation, and with reason. But it is safe to drink. Here we’ll discuss what hard water is, why it’s viewed as a problem, and the potential plumbing issues it can cause.
What is hard water?
Water is, by nature, a great solvent which means it readily absorbs or picks up minerals from the surfaces it flows over. This includes layers of gypsum and limestone, rocks abundant with calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that give water its hardness.
Because a large amount of the United States’ water supply comes from groundwater, rural areas and cities have hard water — nearly 85%, in fact. While there are several different minerals in the water, its hardness is determined by the calcium carbonate grains per gallon (gpg):
Soft: Less than 1 gpg
Slightly hard: 1 to 3.5 gpg
Moderately hard: 3.5 to 7 gpg
Hard: 7 to 10.5 gpg
Very hard: More than 10.5 gpg
Why do people see hard water as a problem?
Dry skin after bathing: The extra mineral content pulls moisture from your skin — ironic, right? — and makes you reach for moisturizers and lotions to deal with dry skin. Plus, soap and skincare products don’t fully rinse away, leaving behind a residue.
Flat, dull hair: The left behind residue also coats hair strands, making it harder for conditioners and hair masks to soak in and replace the lost moisture. In turn, your hair looks flat, dull, and not that great no matter how hard you try.
Soap won’t become a frothy lather: Hard water is known to counteract the active ingredients in soaps and detergents, stopping them from lathering as expected.
Dingy laundry: Removing stains and odors from clothes, bedding, and other fabrics is more difficult with hard water. The minerals also cause color fading and premature wearing of the fibers, causing tears and holes.
Cloudy dishes and glasses: Whether you wash and rinse dishes and glasses by hand or with a dishwasher, the hard water leaves behind cloudy spots or a film made up of calcium carbonate deposits.
More appliance repairs: The mineral deposits clog up water lines for appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, and washing machines. As the clogs block water flow, the rising pressure leads to leaks and breakdowns.
Drinking Hard Water Actually Has some Health Benefits
Current research and studies have shown that drinking hard water has health benefits, even if it doesn’t taste the best.
Improved heart health: The higher levels of calcium and magnesium in hard water have been linked to an increase in heart stimulation and efficiency in pumping blood through the body.
Stimulated immune system: A higher magnesium concentration may help stimulate the immune system and offer protection against all types of cancer and its development.
Better regulation of insulin production: Magnesium is responsible for helping to regulate insulin production within the body. Since diabetes often interferes with the body’s magnesium production, the additional concentration in hard water could help with insulin production.
Greater digestive health: People who suffer from stomach cramps and constipation may see improvement or relief by drinking hard water. Calcium and magnesium, when in the right combination amount, may relieve constipation while the magnesium reduces stomach cramps.
More nutrients for indoor plants: If you have indoor plants, many may benefit from absorbing the extra trace minerals in hard water to meet their nutritional requirements.
The Only Thing Hard Water Hurts are Your Pipes (Potentially)
Blockages and clogs: Drains frequently clog due to the limescale and mineral deposits, leading to standing water and plumbing backups.
Corroded pipes: Certain metals used in plumbing are more likely to react and corrode when exposed to excessive amounts of calcium and magnesium. The resulting weak spots in the pipes are points for leaks and breaks, leading to higher water bills and costly repairs.
Less water flow and pressure: The usual water flow from the taps in your home slowly becomes a trickle, at best. Except inside the pipes, the water pressure is building and unless repaired, may cause a broken or burst pipe.
Lower appliance efficiency: Any appliance that has a water line begins to work harder than it should to compensate for the reduced water flow. This increases the energy consumption and raises your utility bill.
Can I Treat Hard Water?
Sort of. Since hard water occurs naturally, it’s not cost effective for cities and municipal water supplies to fully treat the water, essentially removing the extra minerals. But, homeowners can alleviate the issues two ways.
First, schedule regular plumbing maintenance with a qualified plumber. They’ll look through the plumbing for clogs, build-up, water flow, and other issues before they become a problem. Second, consider installing a water softening system which filters out the hardening minerals. These systems give you more pleasant water to wash yourself and clothing with while improving the efficiency of water-using appliances.
Hard water isn’t the most pleasant water you can drink, but it’s perfectly safe for human and animal consumption. Have questions? Contact Moore Home Services today!