You might think that hard water, which is naturally rich in minerals, would be a good thing. While hard water isn’t inherently bad, it can become a nuisance for homeowners.
That’s because hard water contributes to mineral buildup in pipes, on faucets, and on shower heads, leaving us running to buy a descaling product at the hardware store. Adding to the annoyances, hard water can leave unsightly water spots on dishes, make fresh laundry feel stiff, and leave your hair feeling greasy.
If hard water has you at your wit’s end, fear not, Florida homeowner. Read on to learn what exactly hard water is, how to test for hard water, and how you can soften the water in your home.
What Is Hard Water?
Water that’s considered “hard” contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, along with other metals and minerals. The good news is that hard water is in no way harmful or dangerous. The bad news is that hard water can cause scale buildup in your home’s pipes or any system in your home that uses water.
Hard water may not be harmful or dangerous, but it is a nuisance. Any homeowner with hard water can tell you how frustrating it can be when your dishes have watermarks, your laundry doesn’t feel quite clean, and your shampoo won’t lather!
Water hardness is typically reported in milligrams per liter (mg/L) as calcium carbonate as follows:
- Soft water: 0 – 60 mg/L
- Moderately hard water: 61 – 120 mg/L
- Hard water: 121 – 180 mg/L
- Very hard water: 180 mg/L or higher
How To Test For Hard Water
Most owners are all too aware that they have hard water in their home. But if you’re not sure if you’re dealing with hard water or another issue, there are a few different ways you can test for hard water in your home.
1. Perform an easy soap test
Take a clean glass or plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Fill the bottle ⅓ of the way with water from the faucet, aiming for 10 ounces. Add 10 drops of dishwashing liquid and shake well.
Did the water get soapy quickly? Is the water below the layer of suds relatively clean? If so, your water is likely fairly soft. If the water did not get soapy, or if it only created a shallow layer of suds with cloudy water underneath, your water is likely hard.
2. Buy A Hard Water Test Kit From The Hardware Store
Many hardware stores sell DIY kits that test for hard water. When looking for kits, make sure it specifically says it tests for water, since some only test for overall quality and safety.
Many of the test kits will be simple wet-strip tests, much like you would use to test the water in a pool or spa. Depending on the test kit you buy, you will likely fill a container with water from the faucet, set the test strip in the water, and compare the resulting color with the test kit’s chart.
3. Call The City And Get The Facts
If your home’s water comes from the city or municipal supply, you can call the water utility and ask for a water quality report. You may even be able to find the report online. Most reports are fairly technical, but they can provide an idea of how hard the water is in your area.
How To Soften The Water In Your Home
There are numerous ways you can soften the water in your home depending on your needs. For example, boiling water will remove some of its hardness as will certain ion exchange filters that attach to faucets. Adding non-precipitating conditioner to your laundry can help avoid your clothes from feeling starchy and using vinegar while cleaning your dishes can reduce water spots.
While these will all offer some relief from hard water, we highly recommend investing in a water softener as this will soften the water in your entire home easily.
What Is A Water Softener And How Does It Work?
Put simply, a water softener is a special type of filter. The filter works to remove calcium and magnesium in hard water via plastic beads. Water softeners routinely clean themselves through a process called regeneration.
Water softeners typically have these three components:
- A mineral tank: This is where the water filtration takes place and the hard water is softened.
- A brine tank: This is where a salt or potassium solution is stored.
- A control valve: This is the device that controls the flow of water in and out of the mineral and brine tanks during the regeneration process.
The water is softened and incoming hard water passes through plastic beads (typically made of polystyrene) in the mineral tank. The plastic beads have a negative charge, which attracts the positively-charged minerals from the water. Now, you have beautiful softened water.
Investing In the Right Water Softener for Your Home
So, you’ve decided to invest in a water softener – but how do you choose which one to buy? Let’s start with the basics.
Types of Water Softeners
Ion-Exchange Water Softener
One of the most common types of water softeners is an ion-exchange. This type of water softener replaces the calcium and magnesium in the water with salt, potassium, or hydrogen.
This type of water softener contains a mineral tank and brine tank. The hard water passes through the mineral tank bed and the hard mineral ions are exchanged for sodium, potassium, or hydrogen ions. Once the mineral tank bed is saturated with the hard minerals, the system goes through the regeneration cycle which flushes a brine solution throughout. The hard minerals are then washed down the drain and the process starts again.
Things To Consider
With these systems, the softened water will contain either sodium, potassium, or hydrogen. Sodium is used due to its availability and low cost, but individuals who are concerned with their sodium intake or on a low-sodium diet may want to choose another water softening system.
Another consideration is the effect salt can have on the environment. Potassium, although more expensive, is widely considered to be a better option for the environment.
Salt-Free Water Softener
Another type of water softening system to reconsider is a salt-free water softener. These systems don’t use chemicals to remove hard minerals from the water. Instead, these systems use nanotechnology to alter the structure of the molecules in the water so they are no longer scale-building.
Then, the water goes through a filtering media, restructuring the molecules as they flow through the tank. This new structure descales any existing mineral buildup in the plumbing system.
Things To Consider
These systems don’t use chemicals, so they address the issues that arise with the ion-exchange water softeners. These systems also require less maintenance than the others and don’t waste water since there is no regeneration cycle.
Find The Right Water Softener For Your Home At Sansone
Adding a water softening system to your home provides significant benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about the right water softener for your home or want to learn about installation, contact Sansone today. We provide comprehensive plumbing services to South Florida homeowners and beyond and can take care of your hard water woes.
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