You often hear the words ‘hard water’ being thrown around when discussing the water supply in households; however, it is such a common form of water that very few bother to acknowledge the ill effects that come with it. In fact, many homeowners aren’t aware of the negative impact it has on one’s home and health until they see some common signs of hard water around the house.
What is Hard Water?
When there are minerals present in water, it is considered ‘hard’. Calcium and magnesium are the two common minerals found in hard water which are picked up from rocks and soil when the water travels to the treatment plant. Although it is difficult to identify hard water just by its appearance, the biggest giveaway can be found in the form of mineral deposits (otherwise known as scale) that appear on surfaces when water evaporates on them. You may have noticed a chalky buildup on faucets and bathroom fixtures, inside kitchen appliances such as kettles and coffee makers, as well as your flooring after mopping it. All of these are indications that you are dealing with hard water.
The Negative Effects of Hard Water on Your Health/Body
Consuming hard water and bathing in it on a regular basis will ultimately have a negative impact on your health and body. This is especially true with water that contains very high levels of minerals because, when consumed in excess, magnesium and calcium are potentially damaging to cardiovascular health, reproductive organs, skin, etc.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the potential health effects of hard water on your body and health.
Malformations of the Central Nervous System (CNS) are birth defects related to the spinal cord or brain. They occur in fetuses during various stages of pregnancy and lead to several medical disorders and health complications in newborns, as well as later stages of their life. While there is no hard evidence linking CNS malformations to regular consumption of hard water, studies of water supplies in different geographical areas have shown a higher rate of mortality from the central nervous system malformations where hard water is common. However, as a precaution or preventative measure, it is advisable to drink purified water at home.
Disorders of the heart or blood vessels are diagnosed as cardiovascular diseases. They can be caused by a number of health and lifestyle factors including high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, etc. Some of the most common types of cardiovascular diseases are strokes, heart failure, arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. While the association between hard water and cardiovascular disease has been inconclusive in some regional areas, multiple large-scale studies have reported a potential link and therefore, medical experts advise refraining from consuming hard water.
Regular washing of your hair with hard water leaves a buildup on the scalp which ultimately clogs your hair follicles. Additionally, it leads to dryness and flakiness of the scalp, thus resulting in itchiness. Over time, the calcium buildup will deter your hair growth and cause hair loss. Many believe that the act of boiling hard water will get rid of its mineral content, however, this is false. Therefore, the only solution here is to install a water softener.
If you find that your skin is dry/itchy after you shower, this is a common effect of hard water. In children, studies have shown a direct correlation between eczema and bathing with hard water. Another reason behind skin irritation caused by hard water is the use of products (soaps, shampoos, shower gels, etc) that don’t dissolve properly because of the high levels of minerals in the water. This means that the residue from these products remains on your skin, thus causing dryness and irritation.
Health Problems Related to Excess Magnesium in the Body
Magnesium in the body is important because it helps to regulate nerve and muscle functions, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Depending on one’s age and gender, the recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300-400 mg whereas some households with high levels of the mineral contain twice the amount in their drinking water supply. There are many symptoms one may experience when there is excess magnesium in the body including nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, and diarrhoea. Extremely high levels of the mineral in your body (which is sometimes caused by consuming supplements) can be fatal.
What Happens When You Clean With Hard Water?
Your home, and many things in it, are affected by hard water in a lot of different ways. From causing damage to appliances to unsatisfactory cleaning results; using hard water to clean your home comes with its own set of negative effects.
Here’s a look at some of the most common ways in which hard water is doing more harm than good to your home.
Clogged Plumbing Fixtures
The buildup of scale inside your water pipes will begin to clog them over time while also posing a potential health risk by way of accumulating bacteria (thus contaminating the water running through your plumbing). Further consequences of clogged water pipes include damage caused to appliances that use water; the reduced pressure along with mineral deposits interfere with the smooth functioning of certain household appliances which, in turn, shortens their lifespan.
Poor Laundry Results
As we mentioned earlier, the minerals in hard water do not allow soaps and detergents to dissolve properly. The same holds true for your laundry which results in a detergent buildup on your washed clothes and linen, thus leaving them feeling stiff and sometimes rough to the touch. Even an extra rinse in the tub won’t help if your washing machine is using hard water to clean your laundry. Additionally, your clean laundry will come out looking dull because of the residual detergent present on the fabric.
Spots on Glassware/Dishware
Whether you are using a dishwasher or washing dishes by hand, you will notice water spots on the surface once they have dried up. These stains are caused by mineral deposits which can only be removed by washing them yet again, only this time, with soft water. On the other hand, you can minimise spots on your glassware and dishware (after they are washed with hard water) by wiping them dry immediately with a clean, lint-free cloth.
Stained, Dull Looking Sinks & Faucets
Your sinks, bathtubs, and faucets are generally the biggest victims of hard water, and also the first indications of the same. When you notice that these specific components of your home are covered in water spots or chalky buildup even after cleaning your sinks and faucets, hard water is, without a doubt, the cause.
How to Convert Hard Water to Soft Water
Fortunately, there is a simple, effortless way to get rid of hard water in your home, and make way for soft, safer, manageable water! All you need is a water softener that does all the work for you to convert hard water to soft water. Once installed, your water supply will run through this unit or tank that contains resin beads which work to get rid of the mineral, thereby softening the water that eventually comes out of your faucets, showerheads, etc.
How Do Water Softeners Work?
Thanks to an ion exchange that takes place inside the resin tank, minerals in hard water are eliminated or trapped, allowing only soft water to flow through your pipes. This process occurs because the resin beads are negatively charged while the calcium and magnesium present in the water are positive charges; when in close contact, the cations and anions are attracted to each other and so, the minerals cling to the resin beads, thus converting hard water to soft water in your home.
While water softeners are definitely a long-term solution for getting rid of hard water in your home, at some point, the resin beads become covered in minerals and therefore, lose their ability to attract cations. This is when saltwater is introduced from a separate tank to clean off the scale buildup on resin beads. The water is then flushed out via a drain or discharge pipe, and the resin beads are good to go.
Over time, the salt pellets that help with regenerating the water dissolve and hence, require more pellets to be manually added into the tank. Most water softeners come with a display that indicates when you need to replenish the saltwater to ensure a continuous supply of soft water in your household.
If you want to keep your home and family safe from the negative effects of hard water, you will need to take that one, simple step to convert hard water to soft water in your home! It’s a one-time investment that requires little spending and manual work every few months but you certainly can’t put a price on the benefits of using, drinking, and cleaning your home with soft water!