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What Is Hard Water?

What Is Hard Water?
Mature woman with itchy and dry scalp

What is hard water? How do you know if your home contains it? Why is it important to understand your home water? Hard water can be tough on your home, skin and wallet. The tell-tale signs include things, such as water spots on dishes or glasses, soap scum in the shower and sink, dulled hair and clogged pores, scratchy or hard clothes after the laundry, increased difficulty in household chores or reduced water flow and pressure.

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In fact, nearly 85% of people in the U.S. have hard water! Fortunately, homeowners have options (such as installing a water softener) to reduce the impact of hard water. Learn more about the causes and solutions for hard water.


Hard water is a natural result deriving from minerals (i.e., calcium and magnesium) accumulating during the water cycle. In particular, the water contains dissolved compounds of calcium and magnesium or occasionally other metallic elements. The more calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water, then the harder the water becomes, which is why certain cities or counties within the same region have varying degrees of water hardness. Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are in all around us. Things such as chalk, limestone and marble contain these minerals. In fact, most of the underlying elements of our planet are made from limestone. These minerals remain the underlying cause of hard water.

As a result, hard water:

  • contains a high mineral content.
  • forms in well water.
  • forms in city water.

For reference, the degree of hardness standard was established by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and the Water Quality Association. Typically, water hardness remains expressed in grains per gallon (or gpg). One grain is equivalent to 17.1 milligrams of calcium or magnesium dissolved in one liter of water. Therefore, as mineral deposits build up inside pipes or appliances they start clogging home systems. For example, a small amount (such as 5 grains of water hardness) may cause an 8% efficiency reduction and an 8% increase in cost for water heaters.

Originally, hard water referred to the soap wasting properties of hard water. Hard water makes cleaning difficult because the “hardness” prevents soap from lathering by causing the development of an insoluble mineral contained within the water. As a result, the dissolved calcium and magnesium salts remain responsible for most scaling in pipes or water heaters. Plus, the minerals create problems with laundry and cleaning the kitchen or bathroom.



Rest assured, hard water is safe to drink. However, hard water does yield a few health considerations. For example, the minerals contained included in hard water may cause dry or itchy skin. Minerals in hard water have a positive charge, while our hair and skin have a negative charge. As a result, these charges attract each other and the minerals linger on your skin. This results in dry skin. Plus, the minerals are difficult to rinse out, which means the dry, itchy skin does not go away.

Also, hard water is one of the causes of a flakey scalp. The minerals in the water react with most soaps and shampoos, which reduce their effectiveness and produces soap scum. It is likely to produce a downward cycle where your water makes your hair dry, frizzy, and unmanageable. In turn, many people wash their hair MORE, which further damages your hair and scalp! It might not only be dead skin, but also calcium deposits shaking out as well.

In addition, certain studies linked hard water exposure with childhood development of eczema, which affects about 10% of the U.S. population.


Properly installed water softeners create better water quality and extend the life of appliances, such as the washing machine. Water softeners remove the minerals from the water to make it “softer” by using one of three basic means: chemical softening, membrane separation softening and cation exchange softening. For residential needs, then most water softening is done via cation exchange. Additionally, water softeners can be installed at the point of entry (i.e., where the water enters your home) or the point of use (i.e., faucets).

A water softener counteracts the impact of hard water.



In fact, testing is the only way to determine the hardness of your water and how to clean it.

Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency established guidelines that all professionals (and homeowners) need to follow in order to protect their families from contamination. However, testing is not a DIY activity. To learn more, then the Water Quality Association offers a variety of resources to make an informed decisions for your family.

SolvIt has the expertise to test you home water and has partnered with Costco to make the experience as easy as possible.

For a free in-home water analysis and proposal on the water treatment solution that’s right for you, contact SolvIt today. SolvIt provides our water quality solutions to all of our local service areas.