What is Water Hardness & How to Remove Hardness from Water?

Perhaps, you are beginning to notice some whitish, limescale deposits around your plumbing fixtures like faucets, sinks, and shower, as well as your household appliances. Do you notice that you are beginning to use more soap or detergent than usual lately? Do you find thick residues of soap on your skin, bathroom, and kitchenware after washing? All these are signs that your water is hard. The good news is that you are not alone. According to reports, over 80% of water supply in America is hard water.

What is Hard Water or Water Hardness?

Hard water is water that has a composition of one or more highly minerals dissolved in it. When water percolates through salts of calcium and magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates and sulfates such as deposits of limestone, chalk, or gypsum, the result is hard water. Ferrous iron, oxidized into ferric form is another mineral that might be present in hard water.

What makes Water Hard?

The amount of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium carbonate that is present in water is what causes water hardness. Calcium bicarbonate causes temporary water hardness, because, at a high boiling temperature, the bicarbonate becomes insoluble carbonate. Hardness caused by other minerals is permanent. Excess of these minerals usually prevents soap from lathering and exposes our household, plumbing, and appliances to corrosion or clogging, which may lead to frequent repairs.

Effects of Hard Water

Apart from inconveniences as one of the effects of hard water on health, certain health risks have been associated with hardness of water. According to the international journal of Preventive Medicine, regular exposure to a high concentration of hard water minerals could result in several negative effects on health. High levels of calcium and magnesium can affect several organs in the body.

Cardiovascular disease is potentially the most severe effect of consistent exposure to hard water. Some other international journals also associate heart disease, high blood pressure, reproductive failure in adults, and growth retardation in children to the effects of hard water. Another easily recognizable impact of hard water is skin irritation. This is because certain soaps, cleansing, and showering products don’t properly dissolve in hard water. So, this leads to eczema in children and other irritation on the skin.

What Are the Effects of Hard Water in Your Home?

Besides the possible health risks of water hardness, does hard water corrode pipes? Does hard water affect washing machines?

The truth is that hard water also has adverse effects on homes. The minerals present in hard water leave scales and dumps when they run through the pipes, appliances, and plumbing in homes. These dumps clog pipes, and as a result, home appliance run with less efficiency leading to higher energy bills, reduction in the life span of home appliances, and possibly, damage. Clogs as a result of hard water can also lead to corrosion, leaks in pipes and frequent repair, which translates to increased expenses on maintenance.

Stains are another mess caused by hard water. Hard water can leave rust stains in sinks, showers, faucets, and bathtub, which becomes a nasty sight to the eyes. The dirty of stains on fixture also increase household cleaning cost, and if ignored destroys the beauty and decency of plumbing fixtures.

Hard water can also affect your laundry appliances and clothes too. It causes clothes and bedding to lose color faster than they should. The minerals in hard water also make your clothes and fabrics to scratch and wear out quickly.

How to Detect Hard Water

Proper water testing in a laboratory is the most efficient means of how to determine water hardness. If you are connected to a public water supply, then you could ask your supplier about the hardness level of your water. Specific laws enforced by the government mandates them to provide such reports often. In a case where you are connected to a private well, and you noticed some of the ill effects of hard water, you should get your water tested to determine the hardness level. Knowing the level of hardness in your water will help in determining the kind of hard water treatment solution required.

Purchasing water testing kits sold by water treatment/supply companies are also useful in the test of water hardness. The testing kits are simple do-it-yourself kits that will help you determine the hardness level of your water.

How to Remove Hardness from Water

Picking a hard water treatment solution to remove hardness from the water in your home can be very tricky for certain reasons. Water softening devices remove hardness from water through a process known as ion exchange. What happens is that calcium and magnesium minerals, which harden water are removed and replaced with a more-or-less equivalent amount of sodium. However, the introduction of sodium into the water also comes with its challenges, especially to sodium-sensitive people. Sodium not only adds taste to water; it has the potential of causing age-related disease in adults like hypertension and high blood pressure. Therefore, choosing a solution to water hardness demands specific precaution.

Here are some available methods of treating water hardness;

Package water softener

There are two categories of package water softeners. They are, precipitating and non-precipitating water softeners. Precipitating water softeners comprises of washing soda and borax. This type of water softener forms an insoluble precipitate with water hardening minerals. It makes the minerals unable to interfere with the cleaning efficiency of products, but it leaves the water cloudy and with build-up on the surfaces. It also increases the alkalinity of cleaning solutions, which may damage skin and other materials they might touch.

Non-precipitating water softeners sequester water hardening minerals with complex phosphate without leaving any build-up or increasing the alkalinity of the water. When used correctly they help dissolve soap cord for a specified period.

Mechanical water softening units

This kind of water softener is permanently installed on the plumbing system to remove water hardening minerals continuously. They operate on a process known as ion exchange, which works by swapping the water hardening minerals with sodium as water flows through it. A resin bead attracts the calcium and magnesium, which harden water, releasing sodium into the water in the process. When calcium and magnesium saturate the resin bead, a recharge is needed. A recharged is done by passing a salt (brine) solution through the resin, then the water hardening minerals are discharged into wastewater. The amount of sodium added to Water treated by an ion exchange process according to the Water Quality Association is 8mg/liter to each grain of hardness removed per gallon. Such level of sodium might become a health risk for some sodium-sensitive people, so caution must be taken in determining the best hard water treatment. In which case, a softener can be installed for hot water lines used for bathing and bypassed for cold water lines used for drinking and cooking.

Despite mixed reactions about the effects of hard water on our health, it is better to stay safe and implement suitable health measures where necessary. However, the adverse effects of hard water are a matter of concern if you need your household appliances and fixtures to serve you adequately and longer without the extra cost of unnecessary repairs and replacement. Therefore, we recommend getting a water hardness treatment option for a good, healthy household water supply.

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