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What is Hard Water?

"what is hard water" blog header If you’re a Utah local, chances are you are aware of hard water in your life. But what exactly is hard water? Why is it so bad? Whether it’s already a common issue in your home, or you just want to know if you have it, we put together all you need to know about hard water. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Hard Water?

The term “hard water” refers to water that is high in mineral content while “soft water” refers to water that has less than one grain per gallon (gpg). Here are the different levels of hard water:

  • Slightly Hard: 1 to 3.5 GPG
  • Moderately Hard: 3.5 to 7 GPG
  • Hard: 7 to 10.5 GPG
  • Very Hard: 10.5 GPG or Higher

The level of hardness of your water may depend on the exact area and season. It may even differ from year to year. Salt Lake City’s water hardness is at about 13 grains per gallon. 

Hard water is a natural result of minerals accumulating during the water cycle. Common minerals found in hard water include calcium and magnesium, as well as other trace minerals. The more dissolved these minerals become, the “harder” the water, which is why different geographical areas have different levels of hardness. Utah, for example, has higher levels of hardness than other states because the calcium levels are high.

How Do I Know If I Have Hard Water?

hard water stains on faucet

You may be unsure if you have hard water, but it won’t be hard to miss if you know what to look for. Common signs of hard water include:

  • White, chalky residue on dishes/dishwasher
  • Buildup on faucets
  • Stains on white porcelain
  • Dry skin or flat hair
  • Low water pressure

While you can easily see these signs, you still may not know how hard your water actually is.  Lucky for you, there are ways to measure your hard water. 

Find Your Hard Water Level:

You can perform a quick online search and enter your ZIP code to get your hardness levels, or grab a water test strip. To perform one of the easiest hard water tests, you will need: a clean plastic water bottle, pure liquid soap, and tap water. Fill the bottle one-third full, add a few drops of pure liquid soap and shake for a few seconds. If there is a distinct lack of fluffy bubbles and the water appears cloudy and/or milky, your water is hard. 

Each home can be a little different when it comes to hard water levels, but there are tools that can tell you the average for your general area. If you’d like to know exactly how hard your water is in your home specifically, contact us for a free home water evaluation.

Is Hard Water Bad?

Hard water is safe to drink and wash with, but over time it can lead to inconvenient or costly problems. These include:

hard water buildup in pipe

  • Ugly stains in sinks and tubs: Mineral buildup can leave stains and residue on certain materials, like porcelain. 
  • Appliance damage: Just ¼ inch of hard water buildup in your hot water heater can result in 40% higher energy usage.
  • Clothes/Linen replacement: Hard water can make your fabrics feel rough and look dull. 
  • Clogged pipes: Hard water can have an effect on your water flow. Over time, the minerals will begin to clog the pipes, reducing the amount of water that can flow through. This can cause problems not only with water pressure, but lead to bursting pipes later down the road.
  • Lime scale buildup: If you have a solar heating system, most often used to heat swimming pools, limescale can build up. Similar to the hot water heater, even a small build up can lead to a loss in energy efficiency.

So, while hard water doesn’t pose a health risk, it’s best to treat it to prevent any foreseeable issues. 

Can I Treat Hard Water?

Yes! You can treat hard water with either a water softener or conditioner. Each one poses its own benefits and can be used to reduce the hard water levels in your home. 

Water Softener 

The most common way to treat hard water is with a Water Softener. This is a water filtration system that filters out the hard water minerals in your water. Water softeners use salt to remove minerals from the water in your home. Their prices range but require salt regularly. They can last anywhere from 10-20 years. Slight maintenance is required to keep them working their best.

water softener tablets

Water Conditioner

Unlike a water softener, a water conditioner does not remove the hard particles from your water supply. Instead, it conditions the water and changes its chemistry to prevent build-up. They are similar in price to a water softener, but don’t require any regular salt maintenance. 

Between a conditioner and a softener, there is no one answer to which is better. You should make your decision based on your budget, how hard your water is, and which works best for your home.

Call Shamrock

At Shamrock Plumbing, we understand how important it is for you to have soft water.  Our plumbers are friendly, professional, and dedicated to your satisfaction. Contact us today to put an end to your home’s hard water problem and invest in a water softener. We’ll have one of our experts come to you, assess your situation, and get your issue resolved in a timely manner.

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