Hard water: what is it and how can I control it?
Hard water is basically water that has too much calcium and magnesium in solution. There can be other minerals present, but the majority of hard water issues are due to the calcium and magnesium content. Water that has passed through limestone or chalk deposits in the ground, will pick up the minerals as it moves through the strata. Rainwater is always soft, meaning the only mineral in the water is sodium. This is why so many people like to wash their hair in lakes and streams, due to the fact that the water is rain water running off the land. Therefore the water is soft and interacts with the soap and shampoos properly, allowing a full rinse of the soap and dirt off the body and the hair.
Unfortunately hard water can be a nuisance to the average homeowner. The presence of the minerals in the water prevent common soap and detergents from working properly. Clothes washed in hard water will eventually become gray and dingy looking due to the build-up of what the industry refers to as soap curds. The soap curds are particles of soap, mixed with dirt, that do not dissolve in the washing process. The presence of calcium and magnesium causes the soap to remain un-dissolved and not functioning properly, therefore allowing dirt particles to remain and cling to the soap curds. In addition, clothes will become stiff feeling due to the build-up of soap curds as well as the incomplete rinsing associated when washing with hard water. When using hard water to wash your body or hair a film will be left on the body and hair that will feel stiff and unclean.
It is extremely difficult to wash human hair or any type of animal fur due to the presence of the soap curds remaining after several rinses. This causes most individuals to become frustrated when trying to wash anything with hard water. People tend to discover that they have hard water once they attempt to wash up in the water.
Due to the presence of minerals in the water, pipes, vessels, tanks etc, will result in mineral deposits that can clog up the plumbing systems. These mineral deposits will cause additional maintenance, as the water is used, and the pipes and other equipment starts to fill with the mineral deposits.
What is interesting, is that the drinking of hard water and its use in cooking has NO health hazard associated with it. In fact, some studies have shown that the use of hard water will enhance the required levels of both calcium and magnesium in humans. Without the level of sodium present in hard water, individuals with heart or blood pressure concerns are positively affected when drinking hard water.
The treatment of hard water is a nuisance, and if used in a residential home, normally requires treatment to satisfy the homeowner.
The following is a summary of actions, that can be taken, if you feel that you have a hard water issue;
a.) There are several testing agencies that will test your water for free. If the water is being supplied by a municipal water supply, they will have the testing of the water already performed and the hardness calculated. If the water is being supplied by an independent source, such as a artesian well, then the testing should be done by an independent testing lab. In many instances, the contractor that promotes hard water softening equipment, will be happy to test your water in hopes of selling one of their water control systems.
b.) Once you have determined that your water is too hard for use in the household, there are different methods of treatment.
a.) Treatment can be chemically performed by adding chemicals into the hard water to force the precipitation of the calcium and the magnesium out of the water. Unfortunately this produces a by- product of precipitated particles that will need to be disposed of. In addition, most of the chemical additives will increase the sodium content of the resultant water.
b.) Treatment can also occur with a mechanical system. This is the preferred method. This mechanical system utilizes a bed of synthetic beads that are saturated in sodium The hard water passes, mechanically , through the bed of synthetic beads, and in the process there is an exchange of ions, resulting in the sodium leaving the beads and being replaced with a particles of calcium and magnesium. Eventually the bed of synthetic beads becomes saturated with calcium and magnesium and must be washed out or regenerated by a backflow of water with sodium added. The reverse chemical reaction occurs, and the resultant backflow water is disposed of.
c.) What must be considered if a mechanical system is used, is the amount of sodium that is present in the newly treated water. In some cases with individuals with high blood pressure or heart conditions, the amount of sodium must be controlled. In this case, there is the possibility that a separate cold water line be installed in the household, that is mechanically plumbed to by-pass the water softening equipment, and provide the original hard water for drinking and cooking. This would eliminate any concern that the treated water, which contains higher levels of sodium than the untreated would negatively effect an individual that has health issues.
It is recommended that if you have hard water, you consult with a professional water specialist to verify the issue, and to recommend any treatment. Once this initial investigation is performed, and the resultant recommendation is that the water be treated, request a reference to a number of local, professional water treatment specialists that can install a mechanical system. Like having a pool contract with a pool company, the installation and maintenance of the water softening system can then be the responsibility of the contractor you have hired to install and monitor the system.
Other than the inconvenience of hard water, there is no reason not to purchase a home or property that has this water issue. The water can be treated to provide the proper PH level and the individuals in the household will not be negatively affected. Of course, like with all problematic issues, the solution will cost a few dollars, but the results will far outweigh the minimal cost of the water softening systems.