October 25, 2019
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that has a higher mineral content of magnesium and calcium carbonates. Drinking water in England is generally hard, although the water hardness levels vary across different locations. Water hardness levels are determined by how much magnesium and calcium minerals are in the water; the more magnesium and calcium mineral deposits, the higher the hardness levels.
Hard water is perfectly acceptable for use as drinking water. When it is bottled for sale, it is referred to as mineral water. However, there are many disadvantages to having hard water in your home. Hard water can cause damage to heating systems and pipework as well as creating limescale staining in kitchens and bathrooms. 16 million UK households have hard household water, and a popular solution to the effects of hard water is installing a water softener.
How Hard Water is Formed
Rainwater is naturally soft but becomes hard when it comes in contact with certain types of rock. When water passes through rock, it dissolves some of the minerals and these minerals change the water quality.
When water flows through rock that contains magnesium or calcium carbonates (CaCO3) such as limestone, chalk, flint and sandstone – it collects some of the calcium and magnesium ions which make the water hard. This means areas with a higher limestone and chalk geology typically have hard water, as you can see from the map above.
Because both magnesium and calcium are important to a healthy diet, there has been evidence to suggest that there are some health benefits to drinking hard water. However, these health benefits are very minor and hard water can, unfortunately, cause issues around the house when it comes to cleaning and maintaining pipework.
The Effects of Hard Water
Whilst there are no health risks to drinking hard water, it is damaging to appliances, the pipework in your home and can cause dry skin and hair. As well as being an inconvenience in everyday life, over time the effects of hard water can become costly. A few ways that hard water affects households include:
- Causes dry hair and skin
- Soap cannot lather as effectively
- Hard water can cause the build-up of soap scum and limescale
- Clogs water pipes
- Damages taps, sinks, showers and kitchen appliances
- Causes limescale build-up in washing machines
- Prevents dishwashers from cleaning effectively
Rainwater is naturally soft, it’s only when it passes through certain types of rock that it becomes hard. Whilst hard water has a high mineral content, soft water, on the other hand, has low mineral content. Soft water is typically found in areas where rain falls on impervious rocks low in calcium content.
Soft water is safe to drink and when it is bottled for sale, it is referred to as spring water. However, because of the increased sodium content in softened water, individuals on low-sodium diets are advised not to drink softened water. To make hard water soft, each calcium and magnesium ion is replaced with sodium ions. This results in a small amount of additional sodium in very hard water that has been softened. For this reason, softened water should not be used to mix up bottled milk for babies, but naturally, soft water is fine or this purpose.
The Benefits of Soft Water
Around 60% of people in the UK live in a hard water area. There are no health benefits to drinking soft water, but it makes household cleaning and maintenance much easier.
For people who don’t live in one of the UK’s soft water areas, a water softener is often a popular choice. A water softener is a water treatment system that, through the process of ion exchange, reduces the hardness of the water. Water softening is a great way to improve the quality of your household water, making chores and cleaning easier.
Some of the benefits of soft water include:
- Softer hair and skin
- Household cleaning is easier
- Improved energy efficiency of boilers and electric showers
- Save money throughout the home on cleaning products, energy and appliances
If you have hard household water, the best way to overcome the negative effects is to invest in a water softener. A water softener is a device that’s linked up to your water supply and through the process of ion exchange, turns your hard water to soft water. During ion exchange, the calcium and magnesium minerals in the water are replaced by sodium ions which makes the water soft. The more magnesium and calcium in the water, the more sodium that’s needed to make the water soft. To recharge a water softener, you will need to add water softener salt. The salt is not added to your water but contains the sodium needed for the ion exchange process to work inside the water softener.
There are a number of alternative devices that are mistakenly described as water softeners and which are typically hooked up to your water heaters or showerheads. There are not, in fact, water softeners but in some cases, they may help to slow down the speed at which limescale builds up in the water heater or showerhead.
Looking for a water softener?
As East Anglia’s favourite water softener suppliers, Kind Water are the best people to call if you’re looking to improve the water quality in your home.