Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hard Water 101: What it is, How to Tell if You Have it & How to Live with it

Hard water literally means water that is "hard" or difficult to create lather or suds in when using soap or even detergent. This is cause by higher mineral content in the water. Folks who live in mountainous regions or use well water usually have hard water, but according to Borax website, over 85% of homes have at least slightly hard water.

Jolie Kerr, The Hairpin's Ask a Clean Person columnist offers this wonderful description of hard water:
Hard water contains a high mineral count. It's not harmful to humans, though it is harmful to machinery in that those minerals build up, leaving what's called "scale" or "fouling" — colloquially, we often refer to it as scum. Hard water also doesn't play as nicely with soap as does soft water, resulting in a distinct lack of lather without the aid of a water softener designed to reduce the calcium, magnesium and etc etc etc minerals that are found in hard water.

A sure way to know if you have hard water is to contact your local municipal water supplier. (Find them via Google.) They should have a water quality report on their website or available by request. They could probably answer your hard water question over the phone too.

Hard water can't affect your health but it can make life a little difficult, especially when you're trying to wash clothes. Borax website explains: "When you add detergent to hard water, some of the detergent combines with the calcium and magnesium granules that settle to the bottom of the washing machine, where it washes harmlessly down the drain without cleaning your clothes."

A solution for hard water in laundry is to add 1/2 cup of washing soda (or Borax, if you dare- there's some evidence that it might not be safe) to your wash at the same time you add the laundry detergent. You can buy cruelty-free washing soda on Amazon or make your own washing soda from baking soda.

Hard water can make your hair and skin look less than awesome too. The minerals leave a crusty, dry-looking and feeling build up. Hard water also doesn't let your shampoos and moisturizing soaps work as well.

The simplest solution is to install a water filter in your shower. New Wave makes a great shower filter for under $35. It's easy to install and as a bonus it filters chlorine, which can affect your health. Check out Free People blog for 3 more tips for beating hard water hair.

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