Many local residents have wondered why their dishes are left with a chalky residue after washing or why their soaps and shampoos don’t lather like they should. The culprit could be the water flowing through your taps.

Known as hard water, this common household challenge is characterized by high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Although it’s generally safe for everyday consumption, hard water can be a silent troublemaker in your home, affecting everything from your appliances to your personal comfort.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of hard water — uncovering what it is, how to identify it, and, most importantly, how you can mitigate its pesky presence in your daily life. Whether you’re a long-time sufferer of hard water or just curious about your water’s quality, this guide is here to demystify the signs, science, and solutions surrounding this hard-to-ignore issue.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is created when water percolates through soil and rock, which can contain calcium and magnesium carbonates. As it travels into the ground, it dissolves the minerals it touches. The concentration of these minerals can vary depending on the geographical region and composition of local rock and soil.

Once the water dissolves these minerals, it carries them to its final point of use which is often to municipal water systems or wells.

Here are a few telltale signs of hard water:

  1. Residue on Dishes and Glassware: If you notice a white, chalky residue on your dishes or glassware after washing, it’s a sign of hard water.
  2. Reduced Soap Lather: Hard water can make it difficult for soap to lather, leading to higher soap usage and less effective cleaning. Ever feel like your skin isn’t smooth or your hair doesn’t feel silky and clean in the shower? That’s hard water!
  3. Scale Buildup on Appliances: Appliances that use water, like kettles and coffee makers, often develop a white, scaly deposit in areas with hard water.
  4. Dry Skin and Hair: The minerals in hard water can strip moisture from your skin and hair, leading to dryness.
  5. Laundry Problems: Clothes washed in hard water can feel stiff and look dull due to the minerals binding to the fabric.

How do you know for sure how hard your water is?

If you’ve found yourself experiencing any of the above “symptoms” of hard water, it is very important to understand just how hard your water really is.

Most water softener systems need to be programmed accurately to run at peak efficiency to create soft water, and knowing the hardness of your water is a very important programming element.

First, it’s necessary to understand how hard water is measured.

Units of Measurement: Water hardness is typically measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L) or grains per gallon (gpg). One grain per gallon is approximately equivalent to 17.1 mg/L.

  • 0-60 mg/L (0-3.5 gpg): Soft water
  • 61-120 mg/L (3.6-7 gpg): Moderately hard water
  • 121-180 mg/L (7.1-10.5 gpg): Hard water
  • Over 180 mg/L (over 10.5 gpg): Very hard water
Understanding the Numbers: The hardness level will usually be listed as a range or an average. Here’s a general guideline for interpreting these numbers. The first step in measuring the hardness of your water is to identify whether you are on city water or well water. If you’re on city water, you can find your water hardness from your City’s Water Report. Finding the Water Hardness Information:
  1. Locating the Report: Most municipalities publish an annual water quality report, often referred to as a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). You can usually find this report on your city’s official website or by contacting your local water utility. You can also go to The Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database to find your report.
  2. Navigating the Report: Once you have the report, look for sections labeled “water hardness,” or “mineral content”. If you cannot find it, you can call your local water supply’s office and ask them to provide that to you over the phone.
Keep in mind that water quality can vary, and it’s important to get the most up-to-date information possible. If you are on a well or if you’d like to conduct your own test, you can do the following: Water Testing Kits: Water testing kits are readily available at most hardware stores or online. They come in various forms, including test strips, color disk kits, and digital testing meters. Test strips are the simplest; you immerse them in your water sample, and they change color based on the hardness. The color is then matched to a chart provided with the kit to determine the hardness level. Digital meters provide a direct reading of the hardness in grains per gallon or parts per million. These kits offer a more precise measurement of water hardness compared to the DIY soap test and can give you an exact number on the hardness scale. Professional Testing: Tri-County Water employs Water Quality Association (WQA) Certified water specialists to test your water at home, which offers several advantages compared to using a test kit purchased online. Here are some key reasons:
  1. Professional Expertise:
    • A Certified water specialist has undergone rigorous training and certification processes. Their expertise ensures a thorough understanding of water quality issues and the ability to interpret test results accurately. This professional insight goes beyond what a standard home test kit may provide.
  2. Comprehensive Analysis:
    • Professional water testing involves a comprehensive analysis of various water parameters, not just hardness. A WQA Certified specialist can assess factors like pH levels, total dissolved solids (TDS), and the presence of specific contaminants. This holistic approach provides a more complete picture of your water quality.
  3. Customized Solutions:
    • Based on the detailed analysis, a certified specialist can recommend tailored solutions for your specific water quality concerns. This personalized advice takes into account the unique characteristics of your water, ensuring that any treatment options suggested are well-suited to address your particular situation.
  4. Equipment Accuracy:
    • Certified water specialists often use high-precision equipment for testing, ensuring accurate and reliable results. This level of accuracy is crucial for making informed decisions about water treatment options and understanding the nuances of your water quality.
  5. In-Depth Interpretation:
    • While test kits provide numerical results, a certified specialist can offer in-depth interpretation. They can explain what each result means in terms of water quality, potential health implications, and the specific actions needed to improve or maintain water conditions.
  6. Real-Time Assessment:
    • Having a specialist visit your home allows for real-time assessment of your plumbing system and water usage patterns. This on-site evaluation can uncover localized issues that may not be apparent from a water sample alone, contributing to a more accurate diagnosis.
  7. Quality Assurance:
    • WQA certification signifies adherence to industry standards and ethical practices. Choosing a certified specialist provides assurance that the testing process follows established guidelines, promoting transparency and reliability in the results.
  8. Access to Follow-Up Services:
    • A Certified water specialist can provide ongoing support and follow-up services. If you encounter issues with your water treatment system or have additional questions, you can rely on their expertise for guidance and assistance.
While online test kits offer convenience, the expertise and thorough analysis provided by a WQA Certified water specialist deliver a more robust and personalized approach to understanding and addressing your water quality concerns.
So, what’s the solution to hard water? Water softeners have been recognized as an effective solution for tackling hard water challenges. These systems are designed to remove the minerals that cause water hardness, primarily calcium and magnesium, through a process known as ion exchange. Advantages of Using Tri-County Water:
  1. Efficient Ion Exchange Technology: The core of EcoWater’s softeners is their ion exchange resin, which effectively replaces hardness ions with sodium or potassium ions. This process transforms hard water into soft water, ensuring that the water in your home is more compatible with soap, reduces scale buildup in pipes and appliances, and is gentler on skin and hair.
  2. Customized Water Treatment Solutions: Understanding that every household’s water quality and usage demands are unique, Tri-County Water often offers a range of models and sizes. This customization ensures that homeowners can find a water softening system that matches their specific water usage and hardness level, leading to more efficient and cost-effective water treatment.
  3. Long-Term Savings: While the initial investment in a water softener may seem significant, the long-term savings can be substantial. By preventing scale buildup, water softeners extend the lifespan of plumbing systems and water-using appliances. Additionally, softened water enhances the efficiency of soaps and detergents, meaning you’ll use less and save money over time.
  4. Ease of Maintenance: EcoWater softeners are designed for easy maintenance. Features such as high-capacity resin tanks and user-friendly controls make the upkeep simple, ensuring that the systems continue to function effectively with minimal intervention.
Incorporating a water softener into your home, especially from a trusted brand, can significantly alleviate the everyday hassles associated with hard water. With the right system in place, you can enjoy the benefits of soft water, including longer-lasting appliances, more effective cleaning, and improved personal comfort. Our team at Tri-County Water can help you identify if you have hard water and point you in the right direction to understand exactly how hard it is. We can also help you find the perfect water treatment system that addresses your specific water quality concerns. Call us at (260) 286-7617 and speak to a water professional today.