3 Hard Water Problems And How To Handle Them

Does your home have hard water? Hard water is water that has a high amount of certain minerals, like calcium and magnesium. It's not usually a problem for you to drink or cook with hard water – the minerals found in the water are minerals that your body needs anyway, and people often pay extra for bottled mineral water that's not all that different from what you'd find in a home with hard water. But while the water may not cause any problems for your health, it can cause problems for your fixtures, appliances, dishes, and other things that you wash in the water. Take a look at a few different hard water problems and how to deal with them.

Buildup on Your Fixtures

One telltale sign of a hard water problem is the white buildup that you'll see on your faucets and metal drains. This is residue left behind by the calcium in your water, and while it won't hurt you, it's unsightly and it can take a toll on your fixtures, causing them to rust and wear out faster. Also, if you see the buildup on the outside of your faucets, it's probably on the inside as well, which means it can clog up your faucet and disrupt your water flow.

However, there's an easy way to get rid of the buildup. For small fixtures, like your showerhead or the filter in your sink faucet, just remove the fixture and soak it in a cup or bowl of vinegar. The acid in the vinegar counteracts the alkaline pH of the minerals. If you heat the vinegar, it will work even faster. For your drains, try flushing them out with vinegar to help keep them free of buildup and flowing freely.

Hard Water Stains

Another problem with hard water is that it can stain your clothes if you wash them in your home washing machine, or your dishes when you wash them in the sink or dishwasher. What many people don't realize is that the hot water heater can actually contribute to this problem. As time goes on, the heated minerals cause scaling inside the hot water heater that makes the water coming out of the heater more likely to stain.

It's the heat that accelerates the chemical reaction that causes staining, so one way to deal with the problem is to turn down the temperature on your hot water heater. Using lower heat will slow the scaling and help prevent staining. If you have a washing machine at home, try setting it on cold instead of hot when you wash your clothes. If you use a detergent specially designed for cold water washes, your clothes will get just as clean, you won't be as likely to see hard water stains, and you'll also save money and energy.

Soap Stains

Another problem that you may see is soap stains on your bathtubs, sinks, or even your dishes after a spin in the dishwasher. This happens because soap doesn't foam and dissolve easily in hard water. Soap molecules contain a negative charge on one end so that they can dissolve in water, but the calcium in hard water is positively charged. When the positive and negative charges meet, they cancel each other out, leaving the soap with no charge, and no ability to dissolve. The result is soap scum that sticks around.

Vinegar is useful for this problem as well — a solution of vinegar and water can cut through soap stains on your fixtures or dishes. To prevent the soap scum from building up in your dishwasher and staining your dishes, use a dishwasher additive that's formulated for hard water. These usually contain citrus acids that cut through the soap film. They also boost your dish detergent by resisting the positively charged calcium, allowing your soap to foam properly.

If you don't want to deal with the hassles of hard water, ask a plumber about your options for installing a water softening system in your home. Your plumber will know what kind of system will work best with your current plumbing setup.