I think my home has hard water. How do I fix it?
Skillings & Sons water system professionals are often asked how to get rid of spots on dishes or soap scum that collects on shower walls. These are caused by hard water, a standard water quality issue across New England, especially those that use well water. Fortunately, there are affordable and easy to install options that will reduce the hardness of your water and get rid of that nasty scum in your bathroom. The first step in solving hard water problems is a water test.
What is hard water?
Hard water is defined as a type of water contamination in which dissolved minerals with a positive electrical charge are found within the water. These are primarily calcium and magnesium and sometimes iron and manganese.
Hard water is created when water deep below the ground flows through bedrock and picks up minerals. When these dissolved minerals pass through a home’s plumbing system, they leave deposits on pipes, appliances, and dishes. Hard water also reacts with soaps, reducing their studying and cleaning abilities, and creates a soapy residue on bathtubs, clothes, and skin.
Is hard water bad for me?
Hard water is not known to pose a health risk, but it can cause damage to appliances and reduce the water flow through your home plumbing system. You may also find you are using more water to reclean dishes that come out of the dishwasher with residue or running another cycle on your washing machine because the clothes didn’t seem to get clean.
What is a water softener?
Many homeowners opt to install a water softener to fix their hard water problem. Water softeners treat water by using a chemical process called ion exchange, switching the positively charged minerals with other less harmful positively charged minerals, such as sodium. Water flows into the home and the water softener, flushing over small plastic beads, also known as resin. These beads carry a negative charge, which attracts the positively charged minerals, like calcium and magnesium, as the water passes through the tank. The minerals are replaced with sodium that comes with a salty brine solution stored in the water softener. Once the resin is saturated, the water softener flushes and recharges the resin.
Water softeners are effective, efficient and affordable ways to remove hardness, but there are some things to consider before installing one. A home needs a safe way to dispose of the waste brine. If not disposed of properly, it could cause contamination of a well or other water body located downhill from the softener disposal area. Softening also adds a slight amount of potassium or sodium to the home’s water, which can be a health concern for some. Also, the process will not work properly if there are certain particles in the water, such as clay or iron bacteria.
Are there other treatment options?
Membrane separation is low-cost and requires little space and chemical treatment, but creates a fair amount of waste water in the process. The most common membrane separation filter uses reverse osmosis, which can remove tiny particles from the water. This is an excellent water filtration choice if you are looking to filter a limited amount of water, such as for drinking and cooking. Because the majority of the water that enters the filter becomes “reject water” and is wasted, using membrane separation for the whole home is not always practical. Unfortunately, hard water can damage fixtures and appliances used for more than drinking and cooking water, which needs to be considered before selecting this option. Learn more about water treatment.
Magnetic and electronic filters don’t remove the mineral particles but instead change the hard water characteristics to prevent scaling, mineral build-up and other negative effects of hard water. This method is controversial in its effectiveness and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services says it does not have enough information on these proprietary filters to judge whether or not they work.