You’re probably familiar with hard water vs. soft water. What you might not know is the effect that hard water can have on your plumbing. If you have hard water in your area, you’ve noticed the soap scum and crusty mineral deposits on your fixtures, but the problems often go deeper than that. But fear not, there are plenty of ways to deal with the problem of hard water and keep your plumbing in good health.
How Is Hard Water Different From City Water?
Water is considered “hard” when it contains a high concentration of minerals. This is determined by the quality of the soil where the groundwater is stored. Water hardness is measured in grains of minerals per gallon; anything over 7.0 gpg is considered hard. To find out whether your area has hard water, take a look at this map published by Homewater 101.
“In Southwest Florida the well water is pretty hard compared other parts of the country and what we have in a lot of areas is a high concentrate of sodium. Besides tasting bad it also causes metals to rust and the only way to treat this is a RO (reverse osmosis system,” said John Verhoff, Owner/Head Nerd of Plumbing Nerds.
While certain places in the country are making extensive move to city water from well water, city water still needs to be treated. City water is typically treated with chlorine or bleach, which is a watered down version of chlorine. In Southwest Florida the city water average temperature is much warmer than the rest of the country so the chlorine is needed to help keep the bacteria at bay. There are also high amounts of calcium and magnesium in city water which can cause faucets to drip, leak or stop working when they harden inside of the faucet.
Does Hard Water Cause Problems?
While most people don’t drink the hard water in Southwest Florida due to the harsh taste and sometimes sulfur-like smell, the good news is that hard water poses no risk to your health as long as the well has been properly maintained. Hard water can also potentially be good for your health if it has the correct balance of minerals.
The bad news is that those minerals can cause a few other problems. For one thing, soap doesn’t lather as well in hard water as it does in soft water, meaning that you’ll need to use more of it and you might end up with unsightly soap scum in your shower and sinks. If your water is extremely hard, you might even end up with dingy-looking clothes and limp hair, since the soap doesn’t rinse out as easily. People with light colored hair may notice an orange or rust colored tint to their hair from the water. You may also notice white spots or a film on your dishes and drinking glasses after washing them.
All those minerals building up on your clothes, hair, and dishes are also building up inside your pipes. This leads to clogs and reduced water flow. You’ll also find that your shower heads get clogged up from time to time and need cleaning. Scale buildup in your water heater can lead to increased utility bills, and hard water can even reduce the lifespan of your toilets.
How Can You Solve These Problems?
The obvious solution is to install a water softener. These handy units use a special variety of salt to neutralize the minerals in the water and stop buildup before it starts. They can even be customized, so if you prefer, it can only soften the hot (or washing) water, while leaving your cold (or drinking) water untouched. The only trouble is that a softener can be expensive and it will slightly increase your utility bills.
If a water softener isn’t the best choice for you, there are other ways to deal with scale buildup. For households with hard water, vinegar is your best friend! Plain white vinegar is excellent for cleaning mineral scale off of your fixtures. You can even use vinegar as a rinse agent in your dishwasher and in place of fabric softener in the washing machine to prevent buildup on your dishes and clothes. If mineral buildup is affecting your coffee maker, just run some vinegar through it to clean it out.
There are also commercial products such as CLR that can be used to deal with scale buildup. You shouldn’t run a commercial cleaner through your coffee maker, but it’s great for unclogging shower heads and cleaning scale off the faucets and sinks.
Let The Plumbing Words Solve Your Hard Water Problems
If you’ve decided it’s time for a water softener, or if your hard water is causing other problems, the Plumbing Nerds will know the solution. Just give us a call at 239.471.7557 or schedule an appointment online for a consultation.