Perhaps you thought water was just…water? And beyond that, maybe you’ve simply questioned whether water is drinkable or not. But besides that, have you ever thought about whether or not you have hard water?

What is Hard Water?

Don’t worry, hard water is not your fault. In fact over 85% of households in the U.S. experience some degree of hard water – which is basically just tap water with a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Water picks up these minerals as it passes through limestone and chalk deposits underground. 

Luckily, hard water isn’t harmful or dangerous to your overall health. It’s just not ideal for our plumbing systems or water-based appliances. When hard water passes through, its effects include limescale build-up, clogged pipes, and crusty, dirty faucets or showerheads. It also makes soap less effective, putting more pressure on your water system and taking double the time to wash anything properly. 

Sounds like a pain! Nevertheless, you can easily analyze how hard your water is.

How to Test if You Have Hard Water

Local water quality reports

If you live in a region where water is supplied from a local utility, you can either check their report online or call to get an idea of water hardness in your area. It might not be exact to the water coming out of your tap but it will be close. Hard water is measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L). This is the scale used by the U.S. Geological Survey:

DIY Test

There’s a simple way to check if you have hard water on your own. First, get a clear water bottle or container. Fill up at least 12 ounces (360 mL). Then add 10 drops of pure liquid soap and shake it up to mix the soap and water together. 

Afterward, it’s time to check the suds. If there are plenty of suds that form at the surface with clear water underneath – then it’s soft. But if you don’t get many suds after shaking and the water is cloudier – that’s an indication of hard water.

Advance Testing

If you want to go a step above or just analyze the DIY accuracy, you can purchase a hard water kit from a home improvement store. Alternatively, you can test through an independent, accredited laboratory. They’ll even go a step further and check for contaminants or bacteria.

7 Signs of Hard Water

Besides testing for hard water, there are the signs to look out for:

  • Dry skin or hair: your skin is itchy and your hair is dull and flat.

  • Foggy or dirty dishes: dishes rinsed in hard water will have spotty, chalky spots.

  • Laundry issues: your clothes will be stiff or scratchy because hard water makes it hard to rinse laundry detergent.

  • Soap scum build-up: soap will cling and crust from everywhere to your showerhead, bathtub, and sink.

  • Appliance damage: your water-based appliances will likely have limescale or calcium mineral deposits and you may notice your laundry machine or dishwasher breaking.

  • Low water pressure: water flowing from your tap will likely clog over time and not run as smoothly or steadily.

  • Taste or smells off: as you drink from your tap you may notice that it tastes sour and sulfuric or smells metallic.

What Should I do if I Have Hard Water?

So now you’ve confirmed that you have hard water and you want to do something about it. The best and most practical step is investing in a water softener. Water softeners are also known as in-house filtration systems. Through an ion exchange process, it will remove the calcium and magnesium (the minerals that make water hard) and replace it with other ions such as sodium or potassium.