Hard water is water that has high mineral content compared to soft water. It is formed when water percolation occurs through deposits of limestone, chalk, and gypsum. These deposits are mainly made up of calcium, magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates, and sulfates.
It may have various health benefits if you drink hard water. However, it can pose critical problems in industrial settings, where water hardness is monitored.
This is to avoid costly breakdowns in boilers, cooling towers, and other water-handling equipment. You can detect hard water by a lack of foam formation when soap is added to water and by the appearance of limescale in kettles and water heaters.
Your water’s hardness is determined by the concentration of multivalent cations in the water. The cations are positively charged metal complexes with a charge greater than 1+.
Since you want soft water at home, here are a few ways on how to filter hard water at home.
Let’s get started.
How to Tell if Water is Hard?
When the water travels through pipes and into your home, the minerals can create limescale and other mineral build-ups. You might have noticed white spots or marks around water fixtures or on your dishes. These are dried mineral deposits that come from the water. They are not dangerous, although they can be frustrating and unsightly.
Here are a few other signs you have hard water:
- Due to mineral buildup in the spout and pipes, you might notice reduced water flow.
- Since your appliances have to work harder due to limescale, your energy bills could be higher.
- The minerals can cause your hair to become dry and difficult to style. The same can happen to your skin — you could be seeing mineral deposits on your skin after a shower.
- Minerals affect soap and shampoo significantly, decreasing suds and lather and creating soap scum that’s difficult to wash off. Your laundry could lose color and not be cleaned efficiently because the minerals prevent water and detergent from foaming.
- You can quickly test your water to see if it’s hard. Fill a bottle halfway with water and add three squirts of dish soap. Shake it well and inspect the foam; if it dissolves quickly, your water is hard.
Is Hard Water Bad for Me?
Concerning your health, hard water is harmless. You can drink it and can even use it around the house for activities like watering your garden, general lawn care, etc. However, it can be an inconvenience for household use, such as cleaning.
Hard water serves as a dietary supplement for calcium and magnesium. Studies have shown a weak relationship between water hardness and heart disease in men up to a level of 170 mg calcium carbonate per liter of water.
The maximum and minimum levels of calcium (40–80ppm) and magnesium (20–30 ppm) in drinking water, and a total hardness expressed as the sum of the calcium and magnesium concentrations of 2–4 m mol/L. Some studies correlate domestic hard water usage with increased eczema in children.
After hard water is softened with an ion-exchange softener, all hardness minerals are removed. As a result of the sodium content of softened water and the potential benefits of drinking hard water, some individuals may be advised by their physician not to install water softeners.
Instead, they should soften only hot water or bypass the water softener with a cold water line, usually to a separate faucet at the kitchen sink to provide unsoftened water for drinking and cooking.
The Softened-Water Eczema Trial (SWET), a multicenter randomized controlled trial of ion-exchange softeners for treating childhood eczema, was undertaken in 2008. However, no meaningful difference in symptom relief was found between children with access to a home water softener and those without.
Can you Filter Hard Water?
Yes, you can. Hard water filtering may require some equipment, which includes a small ion exchange water filter. Some models attach to a kitchen faucet, while others come in pitchers for you to store drinking water.
The softened water often has a better taste, but the effect depends on the exact minerals in your water.
- This “filter” does not remove most contaminants unless the device has a secondary filter (such as carbon filter or reverse osmosis.
- Most coffee lovers dislike the taste of soft water coffee. Look for a filter model with a switch-off valve so that you can keep your hard water brew.
How do you Soften Hard Water?
Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and other metal cations in hard water. The resulting soft water requires less soap since it is not wasted bonding with calcium ions. Soft water also extends your pipes’ lifetime by reducing or eliminating scale build-up in pipes and fittings.
Therefore, water softening is usually achieved using lime softening or ion-exchange resins. Additionally, water softening is achieved using nanofiltration or reverse osmosis membranes where large amounts of water are involved.
The following are several methods you can use to soften hard water;
This is an effective method for a whole house. These systems generally come with two tanks:
- Resin tank.
- Brine tank.
There are also systems available that come with dual tanks. This will reduce downtime when the system regenerates by having an additional resin tank ready.
Resin tank– It is where the hard water enters the system. The water comes in contact with tiny salt-covered resin beads. As water surrounds these beads, hardness ions (magnesium and calcium) are exchanged for salt ions, such as potassium or sodium ions.
Brine tank-When using a brine tank, the salt trades places with hardness ions and minerals are flushed out of a wastewater drain. You revive it by adding bags of salt to the brine tank.
2. Reverse Osmosis
This system forces water through multiple fine filters, which remove any solid contaminants such as chemicals and organic materials. It also filters out calcium and magnesium ions.
This system is an excellent choice if you want soft, contaminant-free water without added salt. However, it will only provide water for one point in your home unless you install several devices.
Boiling is a quick and cheap way to fix hard water for consumption purposes. However, it only addresses temporary hardness and not permanent hardness. The latter contains dissolved calcium sulfate that boiling will not remove.
Boiling precipitates the dissolved minerals out of the water. Since boiling removes the water’s calcium content, the result is softer water.
4. Install a Faucet Water Softener
To keep your installation costs low, you may choose to get just a faucet or an under-sink softener, which the easiest and most convenient way to fix hard water.
You can use sodium or potassium chloride-based softeners that hold and suspends a softening medium that softens hard water as it flows.
Moreover, you can use salt-free water softeners, which transform mineral ions into crystals that become suspended in the water. This can then help reduce the risk of scale build-up on your fixtures and plumbing pipes.
How do You Soften Water Yourself?
Even if hard water is not a major health concern, it can cause you some minor skin irritations. It also becomes more than a nuisance since it leads to long term corrosion damage to your water pipes. If the plumbing corrodes for a long time, it can leach toxic chemicals and metals into the water, such as lead.
Let’s delve into several ways you can soften your water;
1. Boil if it’s Temporary Hard Water
Boiling works only if your water is temporary hard since the minerals in hard water are completely dissolved.
2. Remove Soap Scum Using a Hard Water Cleaning Aid
The minerals in hard water react with the chemical contents of soap to create “soap scum.” Also known as lime soap, soap scum is the white substantial build-up you find on water fixtures. It also tends to accumulate on sinks, drains, tiles, and tubs. To fix these hard water side-effects, use a cleaning formula designed for hard water.
3. Use Washing Soda When Doing the Laundry
It’s a type of chemical that consists of carbonic acid salt (sodium carbonate). It helps soften both temporary and permanent hard water. It rids-off the dissolved calcium and magnesium in hard water. The removal of these mineral ions from the water results in softer water. This helps make it easier for soaps to lather up.
4. Use Distilled White Vinegar to Remove Hard Water Stains
Using vinegar as a water softener is only ideal for cleaning. You may also use it as a cleaning aid for hand washing clothes. Soak fixtures with limescale build-up in a bowl of distilled vinegar for at least an hour. You can also use some vinegar on appliances and surfaces to remove the film and spots.
5. Use a Magnetic Water Conditioner
They use a magnetic field to condition water. However, they don’t completely soften water. They may already be suitable for homes that have slight to moderately hard water. These devices are usually connected to the main water line, whereby the field alters the properties of impurities in the water.
Effects of Hard Water
Hard water occurs when there are magnesium and calcium present in your plumbing system. These minerals cause several issues that, while not necessarily unhealthy, can negatively impact your quality of life, as well as the health of your plumbing system.
The following are the negative and positive effects;
- There is also some evidence that calcium and magnesium in drinking water may help protect against gastric, colon, rectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Also, magnesium may help protect against esophageal and ovarian cancer. Hard water may also serve a protective role against atherosclerosis in children and teens.
1. Causes the build-up of scale on pipes and other appliances
If you notice this, you very likely have hard water. Mineral deposits start showing up on your faucets and showerhead. It also occurs on appliances like your coffee pot and dishwasher. This buildup is not only unsightly, but it can cause a foul taste in your water.
2. Your hair and skin become Rough and dry
Because of the excess of calcium and magnesium in the water, taking a shower can leave your skin feeling dry and your hair feeling slimy right after you step out. The water isn’t able to nourish your skin or hair at all, so when you dry both, your skin may feel chapped and your hair brittle.
3. Clothes tend to fade
Hard water impacts your clothes washer, too. It strips the color away from your clothes much faster than treated water would. Your clothes and bedding may even feel scratchy due to the extra mineral substance.
4. Your sinks and bathtubs form stains
The mineral residue from hard water can certainly begin to stain your sinks and bathtubs. While relatively easy to clean off, let’s face it—nobody wants to clean their bathroom every single day! A water softener will resolve this issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you filter hard water for drinking?
Hard water filtering can be done through a carbon filter or reverse osmosis. Other forms of filtration don’t remove most contaminants.
2. Can you filter calcium out of water?
Reverse osmosis uses controlled pressure to isolate hard water ions. Purified water is then pushed through a filter, leaving calcium and magnesium behind. An advantage of this method is that it doesn’t replace hard water ions with new molecules.
3. What is the most common way to soften hard water?
The most effective way to address hard water is with a water softener. Water is softened when tiny resin beads collect calcium and magnesium through a process called ion exchange. The resin beads are charged with sodium or potassium ions.
4. How do you soften hard water in the shower?
Aside from installing a shower head filter, you can also consider adding bath salts or baking soda to your baths as a way to counter the drying effects of hard water, but then, you’d be taking a bath instead of a shower.