Many people are reluctant to send in a water sample for analysis, since many companies will use it to sell someone a water softener or plumbing service even if there isn’t anything wrong. However, hard water is a problem you want to have resolved because of the havoc it wreaks on your life and your appliances. Here are three signs you may be dealing with hard water and the impact that it has on you, your property and your plumbing.
The Water Tastes Weird
People may have complimented you on serving mineral water when you served tap water. This isn’t a common sign of hard water, but tap water that tastes like well water is. Well water is, by definition, hard water since it carries all the minerals it naturally comes with. The calcium, iron and magnesium in hard water is not specifically bad for you, but hard water scaling in pipes can facilitate bacterial growth that is a risk to your health. If the water has a metallic taste, that is a sign of too much iron and either represents hard water with high iron levels or iron pipe corrosion.
When you try to add drink mix to tap water, you have to add more in order to have the right level of flavor when you have hard water, because the minerals alter the ability of the water to create a balanced solution. If your water tastes like dirt, it could be dirt leaking into the water delivery pipes or very hard water. Water that smells like rotten eggs could be natural sulfide gas or bacteria in the water you really don’t want to drink.
If your water has previously tasted fine, then the mineral scale is harboring bacteria and you need to consult with a plumber to flush it out and prevent the problem from recurring. One solution would be installing a Fleck water softener to eliminate the “hard” minerals before the water is distributed to the rest of the house.
Extra Work to Get Out the Stains
When you do laundry, you have to add extra bleach or soap to get stains out of your clothes; this wears out your clothes faster and causes them to fade at an accelerated rate. Your sinks require extra scrubbing to lift up white residue. If you want clean dishes, you have to add rinse agent, use more detergent, run it on a heavy duty cycle for moderately dirty dishes, use hot water instead of cold or all of the above.
Those with hard water also have to use more soap to clean their bodies because soap doesn’t lather up as well with hard water, and you need more water to rinse the lather away. The soap scum and hard water stains can facilitate mold growth and bacterial growth on the walls that require you to clean them more often. Washing with the extra soap for a prolonged period of time can leave your skin dry and irritated, often causing people to use moisturizer on their skin instead of installing a water softener.
The Poor State of Your Plumbing
Your shower looks like it perpetually has soap scum on the walls unless you thoroughly clean, and the water faucets have a white layer around the head. Your shower head is prone to clogging with mineral deposits. These deposits throughout the plumbing system result in lower water pressure, so you may have to wash longer or flush more than one time to get things fully clean. Your toilet has brown, reddish or thick white stains on the porcelain that isn’t due to someone’s last bathroom trip. If this same red staining reaches the clothes washer, it could stain your clothes as badly as leaving a red baby sock in a load of white undergarments.
One result of hard water is the way it accelerates the rusting of your pipes. If you have slight reddish tinted water now that is getting worse with time, that red isn’t just hard water staining but rust from your pipes. And the difficulty you face getting stains out of clothes and off dishes is repeated with hard water stains in your pipes, which is why extra scrubbing is necessary to lift up the discolored stains left by hard water. You can use vinegar to break it up temporarily, but only a Fleck water softener or similar system that removes the deposits will fix it over the long term.
Another way to reduce the buildup of hard water sediments in appliances is to use vinegar. Since the mineral most responsible for hard water is calcium, a strong alkaline, using a strong acid like vinegar will completely dissolve it. This works especially well with caulked up shower heads and coffee makers. Simply run a vinegar solution through your coffee machine and it should be free of all calcium deposits.
Scale deposits can build up inside of older steel pipes like plaque in your arteries until it cannot carry water to the destination or bursts. This isn’t as much of an issue with PVC or copper pipes. However, it can be an issue in the water connection that feeds your dishwasher and ice maker. Then there’s the fact that the sediment builds up faster in the hot water heater.
If your water tastes weird, it could be the direct result of minerals in the water or due to bacterial growth facilitated by the water scale. If it takes extra soap, run time or effort to get anything in your home clean, you probably have hard water. If the water itself leaves stains of any color, you have hard water and it is damaging your plumbing. When your plumbing itself is corroding, or deteriorating at an accelerated rate, you have hard water, and should invest in a water softener to reduce the risk of ruptured pipes in an older home or water pressure falling to unusable levels, whether for your ice maker or shower.