Hard Water

July 23, 2009

The pros and cons of Hard Water

Hard water, whilst not a health risk can create a large number of problems for us because the inherent large numbers of dissolved minerals which make the water ‘hard’ in the first place build up in our pipes, taps and appliances. The high mineral content in hard water also stops our soaps and detergents doing their job. The main two components of hard water are calcium carbonate and magnesium. The higher the content of these two minerals, the ‘harder’ the chemistry of the water.

The harder the water, the more prominent the problems associated with it. Even after washing, our clothes, skin and hair can feel and look lifeless and rough. Our dishes, especially if you use a dishwasher, can be covered in hard to clean off stain spots or cloudy film on glasses. Our hot water systems are more at risk as the heat will intensify the situation. Pipes and appliances blocked with scale causing ineffective flow or complete failure are commonplace. If left untreated, the cost from an increase in charges from our energy suppliers can be as much as 25% – more overall if our systems fail and we have to renew appliances, pipework and even boilers.

So are there any benefits of Hard Water?

Sure. We all need calcium and magnesium in our diets and hard water can provide part of that, especially in areas where the mineral content is extremely high. If we could remove some of the minerals and change the properties of the calcium ions to stop the formation of limescale, this hard water would actually be pretty good for us and our appliances etc.

Is there anything we can do to lessen the effects of Hard Water?

We don’t have to do much to lessen the effects of hard water…

– There are detergents specially formulated to work with hard water, washing powders and other soap products that are specially formulated to deal with different degrees of hardness.

– Reducing the temperature of our boilers to around 50 degrees will ensure that deposits are reduced but also give us plenty of hot water for showers and baths.

– Most dishwashers today have the facility to include rinse aids which will help combat the effects

– Using one of many water conditioners, water softeners or even electromagnetic systems attached to your pipes can help further.

How do you know how hard your water is? Ask your supplier. Municipal water suppliers will have this information for you. If your water is from a private supply then there are numerous testing kits on the market to do self testing.

Classification mg/l or ppm grains/gal
Soft 0 – 17.1 0 – 1
Slightly hard 17.1 – 60 1 – 3.5
Moderately hard 60 – 120 3.5 – 7
Hard 120 – 180 7 – 10.5
Very Hard 180 & over 10.5 & over

There are a variety of ways to treat hard water including carbon filters, softeners, reverse osmosis and electromagnetic conditioners. Some work better than others and obviously cost will also be a major issue. Unfortunately a good deal of sodium is added during the ‘softening’ process which is not great for our health and so filters and the electromagnetic conditioners are considered the best answer as reverse osmosis is quite an expensive option.

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Problems with Hard Water

Hard Water is high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium which is not a health risk, but is a problem because it can cause mineral build-up in water pipes and heating systems. But there are solutions to the problems. Choosing a correct laundry detergent, reducing your boiler temperature, use of water conditioners, water softeners […]