Hard Water Solutions
You have probably heard people complain about “hard water”, or you may have hard water issues yourself. But how bad is hard water really, and what should you do about it, if anything?
Hard water is what happens when there is a high amount of minerals or sediments – mostly calcium – in your local water supply. It is an extremely common issue. Hard water is not hazardous to your health – in fact, the added minerals can be beneficial – but it can cause other problems that range from minor annoyances like stains that remain on your dishes after washing and soaps that won't lather, to deposits that build up on shower heads or inside pipes and water heaters, causing them to corrode and clog over time.
Luckily, there are ways to minimize the problems hard water can cause in your home.
Cleaning with Vinegar
White vinegar is an inexpensive and fast way to remove hard water deposits or stains in less than hour. This is a good solution if your hard water problems are not serious. Fixtures can be soaked in a 1:1 vinegar/water solution, and dishwashers or coffee makers can be run through for one cycle with a 1:1 vinegar/water solution to remove deposits.
Flushing Water Heaters
Once a year, usually in the spring, it is a good idea to flush your water heater whether or not you have hard water, but especially if you do. This will remove the sediment that builds up at the bottom of your hot water heater tank and prolong the life of your heater. The manual for your water heater should have instructions on how to do this safely.
Water Softening Products
There are a number of commercial products meant to help mitigate the effects of hard water. For drinking water, there are ion exchange filters, which can either attach to a faucet or the top of a water pitcher. To soften laundry water, there are non-precipitating water conditioners which trap minerals in the water.
But you may instead choose to opt for a home-wide solution. You will need to do some research first. First, to decide if it is worth the expense, consider if you are paying more or spending too much time and effort to “clean up” after the costs of hard water in your home. Next, you will need to know how much water your family uses per month so you can buy the appropriate amount of softener. Then you will have to consider any health conditions your family members may have. The most common and effective types of water softeners are ion exchange softeners, which use sodium chloride (table salt) or potassium chloride to “soften” the water. Since some health conditions are worsened by adding these to their diets, if anyone in your household has such a condition, you will want to choose the other option or add a reverse osmosis (RO) filter to your water softener system as well, to remove the chemical after the water is softened.