Hard water and how it can be filtered
Do you notice mineral stains on your clean clothes or whitish spots on your utensils after taking them out of the dishwasher?
Do your faucets have mineral deposits or have your water heaters, showerheads, and other water appliances been breaking down more often?
Chances are you are among the 90% of US homesteads that use hard water.
This article focuses on what make water hard, how to get rid of hard water, and answers the question, “is hard water bad for you?”
Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.
Causes of hardness in drinking water
So, what are the causes of hard water?
Hard water is that which contains significantly high amounts of minerals, predominantly calcium and magnesium. The water picks up these minerals during the water cycle, as it flows from the source into your home.
The ‘hardness’ is determined by how much dissolved minerals the water has. When the amount of calcium carbonate exceeds 200 mg/l, the water is identified as hard. While these minerals are rarely harmful to human health, residue buildups can wreak havoc on your home appliances, significantly shortening their lifespan.
Water hardness levels
“What is the hardness of water in my area?”
This is a common question for many, especially those looking for viable solutions to get rid of the ‘mineral problem.’
But before you find the ideal filters for hard water, you must first understand the different hardness levels.
Below is a general classification of water hardness in the United States.
Calcium Carbonate mg/l
Water Hardness Level
0 to 60 mg/L
61 to 120 mg/L
121 to 180 mg/L
more than 180 mg/L
Seeking the services of an independent laboratory that tests for hard water, is the best way to find out the extent of your problem. However, since these tests are often expensive, you can take a DIY approach.
A simple test would be putting some water into a bottle, adding a few drops of any liquid detergent, then shaking the bottle vigorously. If you have clear water and an impressive amount of suds, good news! Your water is soft.
However, if you notice cloudy water with few soap bubbles, it’s only wise to get a hard water filter for house and save yourself the stress of dealing with avoidable plumbing issues.
Why is drinking hard water bad for me?
Generally, there isn’t any substantial evidence that hard water for drinking has detrimental effects on human health. In fact, many experts say that it provides alternative dietary supplements to people with mineral efficiency.
However, what happens when the hardness of water scale goes beyond the 180mg/l mark?
Here are some potential health risks of drinking hard water in excess.
- Risk of kidney dysfunction
According to this research, prolonged consumption of hard water could be detrimental to kidney function. Over time, you risk diabetes, renal failure, cerebrovascular disease, and other life-threatening conditions.
- Dry skin
Bathing in water with excess calcium and magnesium can cause dry skin. While various skin products that work on dry skin exist, leaving it unattended can cause itchiness and scaling. For people who generally have dry skin, cracking might occur leading to bleeding and skin infections.
Furthermore, using hard water has been associated with an increase in eczema. A Lancet research shows that there were higher cases of Atopic eczema in areas where water has high mineral content. Additionally, another research conducted in Japan concurred with the Lancet report, stating the same findings.
- Dry hair
Did you know that hard water can cause hair to break and fray? The excessive minerals are damaging to even the most lustrous hair, making them brittle and causing them to fall off easily.
Apart from destroying the hair follicles, hard water may cause scalp itchiness and lead to dandruff.
And that’s not all!
Water packed in calcium and magnesium has other unpleasant consequences, which include:
- Scale buildup
Mineral deposits on your showerheads, boilers, coffee machines, and other home fixtures/appliances are inevitable if hard water flows through your faucets. Once a buildup occurs, your precious appliances are likely to get damaged.
And if your water use goes beyond culinary activities and into, for instance, gardening, you are likely to notice the stains on the sprinklers. Basically, you will have chalky discolorations wherever the water spills.
- Unpleasant tea/coffee
Using hard water to brew coffee or make your favorite cup of rosemary tea is only a recipe for disaster. The high mineral contents will plague its flavors and you will end up with a dull cup.
- Unsightly glassware
Hard water will leave spots on your dishes and other utensils, needing you to rewash. In this case, purchasing a water filter is a surefire way to eliminate these unwanted minerals and enjoy a better quality of life.
How can I clean and soften hard water?
Eliminating the chalky white buildup or any of the excess minerals requires you to soften the water.
But exactly how do you go about it?
Below are various hard water softening techniques that ensure you enjoy mineral-free water that tastes amazing and doesn't produce limescale that damages your household appliances.
Let’s delve into the specifics.
Ion-exchange water softening
As its name suggests, this is a water softening technique where a resin sucks in ions that cause limescale and in exchange, release alternative ions that do not compromise the quality of water.
In this case, the resin found inside the water softener is packed with sodium ions and once it traps the calcium and magnesium ions, it will switch them up with the sodium ions.
After numerous purification cycles, the sodium ions will deplete and a regeneration process happens. Here, brine is forced through the resin, flushing out the calcium and magnesium and allowing it to suck in the sodium ions again.
Salt-free water conditioning: Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Salt-free water conditioning is a softening technique that does not use sodium.
A reverse osmosis system falls under this category, leveraging its RO membranes to do away with minerals that cause water hardness. During the purification process, the water is forced through these membranes - which are semi-permeable - stripping it of all minerals including those responsible for hardness.
Due to its robustness, the RO is a preferred whole house water filtration system. That way, families can hydrate well and use household appliances like dishwashers, coffee makers, and washing machines for prolonged periods without worrying about consuming toxins or appliances breaking down.
Salt-free water conditioning: Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) / Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC)
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) is another viable method of how to soft water, without the need for sodium.
Also known as Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC), this hard water filtering method is widely used in limescale treatment. These systems have microscopic sites where crystallization of calcium and magnesium happens, ensuring that the minerals cannot attach to appliances or pipes.
Unlike RO systems, these purifiers do not demineralize the water. So, you will taste the salts when hydrating but you will not experience scale since they cannot stick to showerheads or any other appliances.
Salt-free water conditioning: chelation
Chelation is another water conditioning technique that binds calcium and magnesium ions, making them unable to attach to fixtures. This technology leverages agents such as citric acid to condition the water and prevent a buildup of scale.
Are there any disadvantages to the water softener?
While softened water provides an array of benefits, it has a few downsides. For instance:
- It may mess with dietary mineral requirements
People suffering from mineral deficiency, and especially those who do not consume enough calcium and magnesium might experience potential health risks while using softeners. However, an excellent alternative is putting these individuals on a meal plan that boosts their mineral levels. With food as their primary source of minerals, they can enjoy optimal health and better-tasting water.
- Causes alkali soils
Soft water that’s high in sodium but lacks other minerals is not appropriate for farming. It results in alkali soils that do not support plant life.
Generally, hard water doesn't have debilitating effects on your health. However, it is a nuisance to any homeowner as you will need to constantly call in a plumber to fix blocked faucets and replace damaged showerheads.
For these reasons, the importance of finding a filter that effectively sieves out calcium, magnesium, and other excessive minerals cannot be over-emphasized.
RO systems provide the protection your household appliances and fixtures need against limescale. They feature multiple filtration stages and are an ideal option for those looking to improve the quality of municipal water and those wondering how to purify well water.
At Filterway, ensuring you access high-quality water throughout your home is our utmost priority.
And so is maintaining your appliances!
We are an online store, selling whole house systems that guard your family members against bacteria and pollutants found in water. We are also dealers in high-quality replacement cartridges, helping you maintain top-notch water quality throughout the year. Our friendly customer agents are at your service, helping single out the ideal cartridge for your purification system.