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Hard water may be one of the most common plumbing problems across the country. An incredible 85% of the United States has hard water, so there’s a strong likelihood that you live in a state with hard water problems. So, let's take a look at the differences between hard and soft water, why it’s important to recognize the signs of hard water, and what hard water solutions are available. 

Hard Water vs Soft Water

Despite its name, hard water is neither “hard” nor ice. So what is hard water? It is water that contains a large number of minerals. This happens because, before reaching water supply pipes, it passes through soft rock like limestone, chalk, or gypsum, and in the process, it picks up naturally occurring minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Some people think hard water has a better flavor than soft water, but, you would not want to wash with it. When you shower with hard water, you may not feel clean and your hair can have a dull appearance. Washing your clothes with hard water will make your garments grimy over time, and washing dishes with hard water will leave spots and stains when the water evaporates. These are called "hard water stains."

Soft water, on the other hand, passes through hard rock such as granite and will sustain a very small amount or no minerals during the movement. Because of this, soft water has outstanding cleaning ability. It is what gives soap that nice, creamy lather. And with soft water, your dishes will be shinier, your hair will be more vibrant, and your clothes will get cleaner after a cleanse. Major appliances tend to have a longer life span in homes that have soft water. Also, soft water may increase the energy efficiency of these appliances. This is because soft water requires a small amount of energy turnout. Best of all, you will not have to re-wash your dishes to get them sparkling clean. 

How is Hard Water Measured?

Water hardness is measured in GPG (grains per gallon). The visual below shows how water hardness differs across the country. Even if you don’t live in the “very hard” or “extremely hard” water zones, you may start to see the effects of hard water at around 7 grains of hardness. You can test your water using a hard water test kit (check out the best hard water test kits here) or by contacting your municipality if you are on city water.

As you can see, the majority of California has hard to very hard water. Sacramento hard water levels are at 9 GPG, which puts the area right in the middle when it comes to water hardness levels.

Water Hardness Map
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Map courtesy of Whirlpool

Is Hard Water Bad For You?

Hard water has been found to have no ill effects on the human body and actually can be quite good for you. Hard water can be a dietary supplement for calcium, magnesium, and other necessary minerals. There has been some evidence that hard water can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but there has not been enough substantial research to correlate the two. So, while hard water is not a problem for the human body, the same cannot be said for plumbing and household appliances.

What Are The Effects Of Hard Water on Plumbing Systems?

Due to its mineral deposits, hard water leaves a white residue on anything it comes into contact with, such as dishes, sinks, and glassware. When soap mixes with the calcium deposits left behind, it can produce soap scum. When this accumulates, especially in your shower and sink, it can be difficult and time-consuming to remove, which can have a devastating effect on plumbing and drainage systems. That's because these deposits will also build up inside your pipes and constrict the flow of water to faucets and showerheads.

Additionally, hard water can have expensive consequences. Besides scale buildup, hard water can put stress on plumbing systems and contribute to rusting while limiting the effectiveness of cleaning agents. The dishwasher and water heater may operate less efficiently due to the mineral buildup. Appliances may use more energy, costing more money in the long run. In fact, according to the American Water Works Association, hard water can cause a washing machine to wear out 30% faster.

Hard Water Treatment Options

Chemical hard water solutions do not remove the issue, but instead hide some of the effects of hard water, such as soap scum. This is only a temporary solution since these cleaners do not remove the root cause and some cleaners can be harmful to your pipes, your health, and the environment.

Mechanical hard water solutions achieve a more desirable and longer-lasting effect. Water softeners can be added to your plumbing system. This adds sodium ions to the water, which displaces the minerals in hard water. When implementing an ion exchange water softener for hard water treatment, a water filter is advised since the sodium ions can make your water taste salty. If you struggle with health issues, such as edema and high blood pressure, you should highly consider installing a water filter since excess sodium can contribute to these problems. 

Boasting some of the most highly skilled plumbers in Sacramento, Express Sewer and Drain can serve all of your plumbing needs. Whether you’re looking to install a water softener, a water filter, or both, we can provide the answer for your hard water solutions. Contact us now to set up an appointment or learn more about our services.

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Topics: Home Plumbing