More likely than not, the water coming out of every pipe in your home is hard water. Hard water is the is any water containing significant amounts of minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, lime and chalk. This stands in contrast to soft water, which is purified water without significant mineral content. Hard water seems normal and harmless enough—it’s drinkable, and its mineral contents make it taste better than soft water, which only contains sodium ions and a slightly salty flavor. But the minerals in hard water do more than just add flavor; there’s a growing body of evidence that hard water is harmful in more ways than one—to our clothes, our pipes, our skin, and our hair. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how fit your water is for the jobs you use it on.
With Soap and Clothes
Most of us are so used to hard water that we don’t notice how poorly it interacts with soap. But if you try bathing or washing your hands in soft water, you’ll notice the difference immediately. Soap doesn’t lather or clean nearly as well with hard water as it does with soft water, and this is because the soap must first neutralize the minerals in the hard water before it can start to lather. This means you need more soap to clean the same amount of dirt. At the same time, this neutralization leaves behind the soap scum that we’re all familiar with—that scum isn’t an issue with soft water!
That soap scum can also harm your clothes. Detergents don’t do as good a job cleaning the clothes, which leads you to need to use more detergent than you would need to with soft water. It just isn’t cost effective. Also, the hard minerals and increased use of detergent can dull colors and even damage fabrics.
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With Plumbing and Other Containers
Potentially even more dangerous is hard water’s effect on plumbing systems. It slowly deposits mineral layers into the pipes, narrowing and even potentially clogging them. At the same time, however, overly soft water can be corrosive and leach lead out of pipes, which can make your water supply very dangerous. Finding a balance between softness and hardness is very important here.
The mineral deposits caused by hard water also show up when hard water is boiled in tea kettles and other containers. In addition to being unsightly, these deposits can make the container walls poorer at conducting heat, causing more heat to be needed and ultimately larger electricity bills. You’ve also undoubtedly seen this buildup on sinks, bath tubs, shower heads, and everywhere else water runs regularly. It’s a nuisance that isn’t a problem with soft water.
With Skin and Hair
Lastly and perhaps most unexpectedly, hard water causes a number of problems to your skin and hair. Because soap doesn’t lather as well with hard water, it creates a layer of scum on top of your skin instead of helping to remove dirt and grime like you’d want it to. It’s the same kind of scum that accumulates all over bathroom and shower fixtures.
This is bad for your skin, however, because of soap’s drying effect. The longer soap stays on it, the more your skin will dry out; with a layer of soap scum on your skin because of hard water, the soap has plenty of time to really damage the skin. This scum, aided by a warm shower’s effect of opening pores, can also get into said pores and cause acne breakouts or even skin infections.
That problematic hard-water induced soap scum is also bad for your hair. can cause hair to look dull and sticky, but most of us wouldn’t know our hair could look better as we’ve never showered in soft water. Shampoos and conditioners very well in soft water, allowing them to really carry out their intended effects of cleaning and strengthening hair. Many experts even believe that this makes hard water the cause of hair thinning and breakage.
If hard water has so many adverse effects, why is it so ubiquitous and its use so widespread? Ultimately, the answer may be financial. Distilling water is very expensive and demands a lot of labor, and as long as people remain ignorant to the harmful effects of hard water, those in charge of maintaining the water supply have no reason to put in the effort and money to change. There’s no push for change. But there’s an increasingly strong indication that hard water is ill fit for all of the tasks we use it for, and the time to make a push for change may be around the corner.
Learn more about Hard Water: http://www.hardwater.org/