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Understanding Hard Water: Problems and Solutions

The term hard water refers to water that contains a high concentration of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium, which are commonly found in groundwater sources that feed municipal water systems. Studies indicate that as much as 85% of the water sources in the United States are considered hard, making hard water a common issue that homeowners must address. The best way to determine whether you have hard water and which water softening treatments are best for your home is to discuss your water and your plumbing’s condition with your Vancouver plumber.

The Difference Between Hard and Soft Water

Hard water is simply water containing a significant amount of dissolved calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.

When water falls as rain, it is soft, meaning it is free of mineral content. As water passes through the rock and soil of the ground, however, it picks up minerals along the way. When this water reaches the reservoirs from which municipal water systems draw their water, it is carried into homes and businesses, bringing along the dissolved minerals it has absorbed.

The hardness of water is measured in grains of hardness per gallon; soft water contains zero to one grain per gallon, with the hardness of water increasing with higher number of grains per gallon. Water with a value higher than 10.5 grains per gallon is considered very hard.

The Problems Caused by Hard Water

Soft water and hard water behave very differently and have different effects on clothing, your body, dishware and your plumbing.

Some of the problems caused by hard water include:

  • Because it contains dissolved minerals, it carries these minerals with it when as it travels through a plumbing system and results in buildup along the interior of your pipes and drains, which reduces the available volume for flowing water and can result in low water pressure and frequent clogs.
  • This mineral buildup can also occur on taps, faucets, showerheads, and inside appliances, affecting their function and causing corrosion that limits their longevity.
  • Hard water makes it more difficult for soap to work properly, meaning clothes and dishes are more difficult to clean, often leaving a filmy or spotty residue.
  • When hard water is the only option a daily shower routine can even make skin and hair feel drier. Who wants that?

The Best Solutions for Hard Water

If your water is very hard, it will affect many aspects of your plumbing and even diminish your everyday comfort at home. The best solution for hard water is to soften the water as it enters your home using a water softening system.

Water softening systems typically work via a principle called ion exchange, which removes the calcium and magnesium in the water and replaces it with sodium, producing soft water for use in cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The system must be periodically recharged by filling the brine tank where the ion exchange takes place with salt. While installing a water softening system does require an upfront investment, as well as periodic maintenance and salt costs, a water softener can help you save even more by protecting your plumbing and your belongings – an investment well worth it.

If you have questions about hard water and the best water softening system for your home, your Vancouver plumber has the answers you need to make the right decision. You can take a look through our other articles or contact us for a FREE job estimate.

Mr. Rooter iconAbout the Author: Steve Ferree, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver

Steve has been a trusted Mr. Rooter owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver since 1999. With over 20 years to back him, Steve has experience with a wide range of plumbing related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in drain cleaning, sewer repair, re-piping, and more.