Hard water is a common bane in homes across America. While not hazardous to your health, that tell-tale phantom residue can shorten the life of your appliances and strain your plumbing system. In this article, we’ll discuss the cause of hard water, how it affects your plumbing and what you can do about it.
What Is Hard Water?
Hard water isn’t the result of bad pipes or chemical contamination but is a natural consequence of the ancient seabeds that covered much of North America prior to humans entering the picture. In current times, water entering the atmosphere as rain or snow has low mineral content. As precipitation settles on the earth, it seeps into the ground, absorbing minerals from the underlying base of limestone and soil as it passes.
The presence of these minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium, determines water hardness. The United States Geological Survey classifies water containing 121 milligrams of calcium or more per liter as hard water. Calcium within the water interacts with heat and soap to produce a stubborn buildup that stains sink basins and tubs, clogs showerheads and reduces the efficiency and lifespan of water heaters.
How Does Hard Water Affect Your Plumbing Fixtures and Hard Surfaces?
Hard water mixes with soap to produce soap scum instead of lather, which creates a sticky, smelly film that covers bathtubs and shower tiles. Soap scum also causes dishwashers to produce foggy glasses or plates and makes freshly laundered clothes appear stiff and dingy.
When heated, those calcium particles solidify to create limescale. This chalky deposit covers sinks, drains and countertops. It also accumulates on showerheads, sink faucets and hose bibbs. That same mineral buildup reduces the efficiency and lifespan of internal plumbing and appliances. Over time, this accumulation process occurs inside of pipes, narrowing the path water travels, reducing water pressure and increasing the possibility of clogs. As limescale accumulates and settles in a water heater, the buildup settles at the bottom of the tank, interfering with the heating elements and making the water heater less efficient. Hard water also reduces the lifespan of your water heater by speeding up the rate of corrosion of the replaceable anode rod, and then the tank itself.
Test and Solve Hard Water Problems
If you notice a chalky buildup in sink basins, hard water is the likely culprit. To confirm suspicions, mix tap water and dish soap in a jar and give it a shake. If suds refuse to form, you have a hard water problem.
To tackle the surface-level effects of hard water, reach for distilled white vinegar. A vinegar-soaked rag can banish the phantom streaks plaguing showers, sink basins and countertops. Add vinegar to laundry machines and dishwashers to beat soap scum and limescale buildup. To restore and degunk showerheads, hose bibbs and faucets, attach a plastic bag filled with vinegar to the spout and leave it for 30 minutes to an hour before removing and rinsing.
No vinegar solution can completely solve the problems caused by hard water, nor can it eliminate the internal damage it causes pipes and appliances. For those cases, you’ll need to contact a reputed plumber for a whole-house water-softening solution that prevents hard water problems and mineral buildup altogether.
If you think hard water is stressing your plumbing and appliances, consider bringing in full-service plumbers. Rather than offering a specific product or solution, a licensed plumbing company that takes a consultative approach will test your water, provide an unbiased assessment and offer the most suitable recommendation. As an established business with a reputation for client satisfaction, Atlas Home Services thoroughly investigates your plumbing issues and describes all repair solutions before beginning any work. Contact us for an accurate assessment of your hard water problems today.