Archive for August, 2019

Top Effects of Hard Water on Hair

Posted by Rayne Water

Most people who live in a location with hard water and don’t have a water softener have experienced the negative effects of hard water on hair – although they may not be aware of it. Unbeknownst to many, the mineral content of hard water has the ability to impact not only your appliances, household surfaces and clothes, but also your hair, including how it looks and feels. 

If you’ve ever traveled to another city, state, or country, you may have noticed that your hair reacts differently during your stay. It might have been more buoyant, low maintenance, or had a healthier shine. While it’s easy to overlook these changes, it usually isn’t the vacation experience or the hotel shampoo that’s affecting your hair. It is the water itself.

Understanding the effects of hard water vs soft water on hair is important. The first step in this process is education, so you can know what constitutes water hardness and the effects it can have. Next, this knowledge can equip you to make a change. For example, if you find the impact of hard water frustrating and it’s causing hair damage, it may be worthwhile to look into solutions such as whole home water softener that can provide soft water throughout your whole house. This system is a comprehensive and cost-effective solution if you live in an area with hard water, so you don’t have to endure the negative effects and damaged hair any longer.

What is Hard Water?

Don’t know how to tell if you have hard water? Our experts can help. Hard water is simply tap water with high mineral content. While it can be defined in a couple of different ways, each method is a measurement of the mineral content of the water. This mineral content is most commonly expressed as grains per gallon (GPG).

Here are the thresholds that define whether water is hard or soft:

As indicated by the scale, the hardness of your water is directly tied to the mineral content. Water with a greater concentration of minerals is considered harder, while tap water with a very small amount of minerals in it is considered softer.

How Does Water Become Hard?

The natural water cycle of our Earth is very complex, but it’s useful to review in order to understand how water acquires mineral content. 

When rain falls to the Earth, the water is considered soft since it has only trace amounts of minerals in it. Once the precipitation hits the ground and begins moving through the soil, it acts as a solvent. As the water moves through soil that has a high concentration of minerals, it picks up those mineral ions. It is this mineralized water that will eventually end up in the water source for your residential location.

The most common minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium. These minerals are found in chalk and limestone, which is abundant in certain areas of the United States. In other areas, the soil is rich in iron or manganese, both of which can also contribute to the mineral content in the water. In consequence, the hardness of the water coming out of your faucet depends on the type of soil in your area, resulting in a strong regional variation to the hardness levels.

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How Hard Water Affects Your Hair

The most common signs of hard water on hair are all a direct result of the mineral content in the water. Hard water will affect how your hair looks, feels, and even how much volume it has. If you live in a location with hard water, many of these effects will be familiar to you.

Dry Hair

Dry hair can be incredibly frustrating. Once hair becomes dry, it also becomes weak and brittle. This is because dry hair lacks the protective function of the natural oils that strengthen your hair. As your hair becomes frizzy and brittle, it can also become very difficult to style or manage.

Hard water causes hair to dry out by making the shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizing treatment(s) that you apply to your hair less effective. This occurs during your showers when the minerals in your hard water coat your hair follicles. Your moisturizers won’t be capable of penetrating this mineral buildup, resulting in dry hair.

Dull Hair

Everybody wants their hair to look vibrant and lustrous. Unfortunately for many people, the water coming out of their shower head is causing their hair to become duller in appearance. 

Hard water causes your hair to appear dull because of mineral buildup. As you wash your hair with hard water, over time the excess minerals contained in the water begin to coat the hair follicle. This mineral buildup can cause a dull, matte appearance.

Less Body

When the excess minerals in hard water coat your hair follicles, they begin to add weight to it over time. This causes your hair to have less volume and to appear limp. To counteract this, people may use volumizers, but these products may prove to be less effective due to the very same mineral buildup that is weighing down your hair.

Reduction of Hair Color

Whether you stick with your natural hair color or choose to color your hair regularly, washing your hair with hard water can result in faded, dull hair color. People that color their hair and shower with hard water will notice that their hair color fades more quickly. Even individuals that keep their natural hair color may experience color fading or changes to their natural color. 

Weak Lather

Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get your shampoo to produce a good lather? The reason is the mineral content of your water. Soap has a number of negative reactions when it comes in contact with hard water. The high mineral content in hard water reduces the number of water molecules available for the formation of a lather, resulting in a weak lather.

Difficulty Washing Out Soap

Washing the shampoo out of your hair can be difficult in areas with hard water. Hard water causes the scales that make up your hair follicles to stand up, which can make your hair feel rough when you aren’t in the shower and leave a soapy residue. This damage on your hair follicles makes it more difficult to completely wash out the shampoo you have used.

The leftover traces of shampoo in your hair can have a detrimental effect on your scalp.  Shampoos and soaps react with the minerals in hard water to form soap scum. Some of this is left behind on your scalp when you finish a shower. This thin film of soap on your scalp can cause a number of issues, the most common of which is dry skin resulting in dandruff or blocked pores. 

Addressing Your Hard Water

If the health of your hair is important to you, you will probably want to explore a solution to the problems caused by hard water. As we’ve seen, the top effects of hard water on hair can be frustrating. Hard water causes your hair to become drier, appear dull, and have less volume. In areas with hard water, your hair color can fade faster, and you may notice that you have to use more shampoo to produce the lather you want. At the same time, that shampoo is more difficult to wash out, which can lead to skin irritation on your scalp.

Most of the recommended solutions for the effects of hard water on hair are temporary. Many involve the use of a light acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. This acid is used to strip the mineral coating from your hair. These temporary solutions may not actually solve the problems caused by hard water and can lead to further damage to your hair.

It’s also important to remember that hard water affects much more than your hair. Some of the top issues – from problems with household surfaces to effects of hard water on skin – include:

The most effective method of addressing the effects of hard water is to install a water softening system. So what does a water softener system do exactly? Water softening systems are installed at the main water line coming into your house, ensuring that all of the water used in your house is softened.

These systems function by replacing mineral ions with sodium ions. Periodically, the minerals that have been removed from your hard water are flushed from the resin medium that exchanges mineral ions for sodium ions. This allows your water softener to remain operating at peak performance.

Modern water softening systems are a comprehensive solution to hard water. Water softening systems don’t use any chemicals to complete the ion exchange process. Instead, these systems rely on the natural polarity of water molecules and minerals to strip the minerals from your hard water. This ensures that the soft water coming into contact with your hair is free from any additional chemicals that might cause damage.

Closing Thoughts

Hard water is simply water with high mineral content. It’s formed as groundwater moves through soils are that are rich in minerals, the most common of which are calcium carbonate and magnesium. Water is considered harder or softer depending on the actual mineral content in the water, with harder water having a higher mineral content.

The minerals contained in hard water are deposited on surfaces that the water touches. This can include bathroom fixtures and surfaces, and you can large differences between a hard water vs soft water shower. However, it also includes our hair and skin. Most people who use hard water will have hair that is drier, as the mineral buildup on the hair follicles blocks moisturizers from penetrating into your hair. 

Alongside dryness and a frizzy appearance, shampooing your hair regularly in hard water will also make it appear to be duller in color and may even lead to hair loss. The coating of minerals that affects the appearance of your hair will also weigh it down, causing it to appear limp and possibly even result in hair breakage. If you have color-treated hair, the minerals in hard water will cause your hair to lose color more quickly as well.

The most effective method to fix a hard water problem is to install a water softener for your whole house. A water softening system will not only eliminate the problems that water hardness causes for your hair, but also eliminate the many issues that hard water causes throughout your house. To learn more about water softening systems for your whole house, please contact Rayne today.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/hardness-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
  2. https://www.hairbuddha.net/save-your-hair-from-hard-water/
  3. https://www.instyle.com/hair/hair-products-tools/rosie-huntington-whiteley-conditioning-hair-mask
  4. https://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/blog/posts/how-your-water-affects-your-hair/
  5. https://sharpologist.com/2015/07/water-hardness-effect-lather.html

 

Is It Safe to Drink Hard Water?

Posted by Rayne Water

If you live in an area with hard water and don’t own a water softener, you may wonder about the different effects that hard water and soft water really have. Most people are unfamiliar with these potential impacts, but in reality, the effects of hard water can be far-reaching and affect many areas of your household and life. Understanding the effects of hard water is important for individuals that come in contact with it on a daily basis. 

Hard water can affect household surfaces, appliances, and even your skin and hair. However, there is no need to be alarmed. Understanding more about these effects can help you make an informed decision about whether addressing your hard water is a worthwhile investment. Solutions such as a whole home water softener is an option that can allow you to enjoy the benefits of soft water. Before you make that decision, learn more about what hard water is and the effects it can have. 

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water with relatively high mineral content. The most common types of minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium; both of which are readily found in the Earth’s crust. Hard water usually contains these and other minerals, but may also contain some types of metals such as iron.

Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (GPG). GPG is a unit of measurement for the actual content of minerals contained in your water. The thresholds for water hardness are as follows:

Water hardness varies depending on your location, as one of the main factors that affects the mineral content is the type of soil that the groundwater moves through in the natural water cycle. 

The hardness of water develops as it moves through the soil. When water is in its initial natural state as rain, it contains only trace amounts of minerals. Once it begins to move through the soil, it acts as a solvent, picking up mineral ions along the way to your local municipal water source. The resulting hardness of your water is thus dependent upon the minerals of the soil that it has moved through in this cycle. For example, if the soil around your water source is chalky or has limestone, the chances are high that you will have hard water since these contain larger quantities of minerals.

There are a number of common signs that indicate hard water presence in your home, which we will cover below. However, these symptoms will not give you an idea of how hard the water actually is. The most effective way to find out if you have hard water is to have it tested by a professional company. 

Impacts of Hard Water on Your Body

One of the main negative consequences of hard water appears in how it affects your body, which occurs from your contact with water in the shower, bath or sink. 

The biggest impact of using a hard water vs soft water shower is how bathing in that water affects your skin and hair. Here are some of the most common effects of hard water on skin and hair:

Dry, Brittle Hair

Showering in hard water on a daily basis will dry out your hair over time, since mineral deposits form on your hair follicle. These mineral deposits create a layer that doesn’t allow moisturizers in your shampoo and conditioner to penetrate the hair follicle. The hard water buildup on hair leaves hair dry and brittle, allowing it to break easily and feel frizzy and unkempt.

Dry, Itchy Scalp

Hard water can also dry out the skin of your scalp since soap will react with the mineral ions in hard water and create a film. This film is hard to rinse out, leaving traces of it after your shower is done. Overtime, this will cause skin to be itchy and potentially contribute to dandruff. 

Skin Irritation

Bathing in hard water will also lead to dry skin. The soap scum formed by hard water leaves traces of soap on your skin, irritating it long after your shower is over. Bathing in hard water also puts your skin in contact with calcium, which may upset the delicate balance of your skin’s moisture levels. If you are already prone to eczema, the minerals in hard water can act as an additional irritant that contributes to flare-ups.

Flat, Dull Hair

The minerals in hard water also weigh down your hair. As mentioned, washing your hair in hard water will coat your hair follicles in a thin layer of minerals over time. These minerals add additional weight to your hair causing it to have less volume. This mineral layer will also affect the color of your hair. Most people who shower regularly in hard water will consequently have hair that is dull in appearance. If you dye your hair, the colors can fade faster, requiring more frequent visits to the stylist to achieve the color you want.

Effects of Hard Water Around Your House

The impact of hard water can also be readily seen throughout your household. Just a quick look at your bathroom fixtures, surfaces, and appliances can expose the negative effects of hard water. Let’s take a look at some of the most common impacts of hard water around your house.

Soap Scum

If you live in an area with hard water, soap scum will form on surfaces that come in contact with soap and hard water due to a reaction between the soap and the mineral ions. Soap scum usually appears as a white discoloration across surfaces where soap and hard water come into contact – most commonly bathroom counters, showers, sinks, faucets, and fixtures. 

While soap scum isn’t harmful on its own, it is unsightly. Getting your bathroom surfaces and fixtures looking new will take frequent cleaning. Soap scum that isn’t cleaned up can also serve as a breeding ground for mold, particularly in damp areas where it’s likely to form. 

Scaling

Hard water can leave behind something known as limescale, which is a coating of minerals left behind by hard water when it dries. Not only is limescale unsightly, but it can also impact your appliances and fixtures. As this scale builds up on the nozzles of your shower head or dishwasher, it will slowly reduce the flow of water. Most people that live in areas with hard water will periodically have to remove their shower head and soak it in vinegar to break apart this scaling and return the fixture to its normal functionality.

Water Spots on Dishes

Ever wonder why your dishes have white spots on them after they come out of the dishwasher? The answer is hard water. When your dishes are washed with hard water, the minerals in the hard water are left behind as they dry. While these unsightly spots aren’t dangerous to our health, they can be frustrating to remove. 

Worn Out Clothing

Washing your clothes in hard water will contribute to a reduced lifespan of the fabric. This is due to a buildup of minerals on the fabric in your clothes over time. This mineral buildup weakens the fabric, making it brittle and more prone to breaking. Additionally, the mineral buildup can cause your clothes to fade more quickly. You might notice white streaking on some of your dark clothes after they come out of the washer, which is another result of the minerals left behind.

Is It Safe to Drink Hard Water?

When it comes to the properties of hard vs soft water, one of the most common questions people have is whether it’s safe to drink hard water. The answer is yes; it is safe to drink hard water. The consumption of hard water has not been linked to negative health consequences, which means drinking and cooking with the water from your kitchen tap is technically fine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study that concluded that the calcium and magnesium found in hard water can actually be beneficial in certain circumstances. For individuals that lack the dietary variety and quantity to provide sufficient levels of calcium and magnesium, hard water may provide an important mineral source.

However, the findings of the WHO should be understood in the context of the developing world, where many communities and individuals lack proper nutrition. In developed countries, such as the United States, our diet typically provides sufficient levels of calcium and magnesium, making the minerals found in hard water unnecessary. 

All in all, hard water is not harmful to consume for the average person. However, as reviewed, the mineral content of hard water can significantly affect other areas of your home and health, which is why it’s important to understand these unique properties. 

Solutions for Hard Water

The easiest and most effective way to avoid the negative impact of hard water on your body and around your house is through the use of a water softener. Water softening systems utilize a natural process to replace the mineral ions in hard water with sodium ions, resulting in luxuriously soft water that is safe for your skin, hair, and appliances. Water softening systems can easily be recharged, allowing them to run at peak efficiency over time.

The advantage of a water softening unit is it gives you soft water throughout your entire house. This means that every appliance and fixture will have soft water running through it. This can eliminate equipment damage from hard water over time, as well as the buildup of soap scum and scaling on surfaces in your bathroom and kitchen. 

Closing Thoughts

Hard water can be frustrating and unsightly, but it isn’t unsafe to drink. The top effects of hard water on our health actually involve the external surfaces of our body, such as our skin and hair. 

Showering with hard water can result in dry, brittle hair that lacks volume and is dull in appearance. Hard water also makes it difficult to completely wash out soaps, leaving a thin layer of soap on your skin or scalp that can irritate the skin and cause it to feel dry. 

Aside from the health impact of hard water, it can also have a significant impact around your house. Hard water will result in the formation of soap scum on surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom. Over time, it will also produce scaling that can reduce the water flow coming out of your shower head and dishwasher. 

The most effective way to minimize the impact of hard water is to eliminate it entirely with a water softening system. Water softening systems remove the mineral ions contained in hard water, allowing soft water to flow through your entire house. To learn more about how installing a water softener can address hard water problems, please contact Rayne today.

Sources:

  1. https://water.usgs.gov/owq/hardness-alkalinity.html
  2. https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/hardness.pdf
  3. https://4perfectwater.com/blog/6-ways-hard-water-impacts-your-life/
  4. https://www.skillingsandsons.com/blog/can-drinking-hard-water-cause-health-problems
  5. https://www.culligan.com/ca/home/solution-center/resources/effects-of-hard-water-on-hair-and-skin

 

Hard vs Soft Water Shower Effects

Posted by Rayne Water

 

*Reviewed by Ken Christopher, Senior Vice President at Rayne Dealership Corporation

Unless you are familiar with the differences between hard and soft water – either if you have been shown previously or own a water softener – it is likely that you don’t know the impact that hard water can have on both your house and body. 

Areas where water frequently comes in contact with surfaces and fixtures will display the most common effects of hard water. Typically, the most obvious signs are found in kitchens and bathrooms.

The signs of hard water in bathrooms can be found on shower fixtures in the form of soap scum and scaling. However, this residue isn’t the end of hard water’s effects in your shower. You may be surprised to learn hard water in your shower can also affect the health of your hair and skin. Learn more about all of the potential effects of hard water so you can understand if it may be in your home and what solutions are available, such as a whole home water softener

What is Hard vs Soft Water?

Chances are you have heard of hard or soft water, but you may not have a firm grasp of what makes water “hard” or “soft”. The difference between hard and soft water is the mineral content of the water. Hard water will have a greater concentration of minerals, while soft water has a very low amount of minerals. 

Hard water forms when groundwater makes its way through the Earth’s soil. As water moves through soil that is rich in minerals, it picks up those mineral ions. The minerals found in hard water mostly consist of calcium and magnesium, which are commonly found in chalky soil and limestone, but can also contain others such as iron and manganese. The final composition of minerals in hard water will depend on the soil around the water source for your municipal supply. 

The mineral content of hard water can vary and is measured in grains per gallon (GPG). The hardness level is classified on a sliding scale from “soft” to “very hard”. 

The classifications for hard water are:

To provide a visual example, if you were to take a gallon of water with a hardness of 5 GPG and collect the total mineral content of the water, the resulting minerals would be roughly the size of an aspirin tablet. If a gallon of water had a water hardness rating of 10 GPG, the content of minerals in that gallon of water would equal approximately two tablets of aspirin. 

The same exercise with a gallon of soft water would produce a relatively miniscule amount of minerals. This is important because the minerals contained in hard water are the same that end up coating the surfaces of your shower, the dishes in your dishwasher, the clothes in your washer, and even your hair and skin.

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How Does Hard Water Affect Your Shower?

There are substantial differences when taking a hard water vs soft water shower. As discussed, the minerals contained in hard water will coat the surfaces of the things they touch, including faucets, shower heads, and shower doors, as well as your hair and skin. Let’s take a look at the specific effects that come from taking a shower in hard vs soft water.

Soap Scum

Soap scum is one of the most common results of hard water in your shower area. It’s white or chalky in appearance, hard in texture and is created from a reaction between soap and the calcium and magnesium ions that are in hard water. The end result is an insoluble substance that coats hard surfaces (eg. shower head, handles, tub, and shower door). 

One of the most challenging aspects of soap scum is keeping areas affected by it clean. Soap scum is resilient and difficult to remove, yet forms quickly in areas where soap comes in contact with hard water. In contrast, soft water lacks the mineral content necessary to form soap scum. In the end, the most effective way to eliminate soap scum entirely is to use only soft water in your shower area.

Limescale

Limescale is formed simply by the passage of hard water over time. It is a whitish, hard substance that builds up on surfaces that come into contact with hard water, so you’ll typically find it on your shower head, faucet, or shower handles. As an example, if you look closely at the nozzles in your shower head, you might notice a whitish substance that is slowly closing off the openings. That whitish substance is limescale, and the buildup will slowly restrict the flow of water out of your shower head.

Removing limescale isn’t easy. The minerals that form limescale are tough to remove with an abrasive pad alone, and attempting to wash it off may also remove some of the finish from your shower fixtures. A temporary solution for shower heads is to remove the head and soak it in a mild acid such as vinegar or lemon juice for an hour. Since soaking for long periods of time is difficult with a permanently installed faucet, addressing your limescale problems can be a headache over time. 

A more permanent solution to limescale buildup is to eliminate the source of limescale itself: hard water. Transitioning to soft water in your shower will get rid of limescale entirely since soft water has very low mineral content.

Hard Water Stains

Have you ever pulled your dishes out of the dishwasher and noticed that there are white spots on them? Those are mineral deposits left behind by hard water. In addition to dishes, another area where you’ll see these white spots is on glass shower doors. Moreover, the mineral deposits on your shower door may combine with limescale and soap scum to form an unsightly mess. Cleaning these deposits will require an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Unfortunately, mineral deposits will continue to form in areas that come in contact with water, unless you transition to soft water. 

Damaged Hair

Another significant impact is the effects of hard water on hair. Hard water damages hair by leaving behind mineral deposits that coat the hair follicle, which then serve as a barrier to moisturizers and conditioners. With mineral deposits on the follicle, moisturizers can’t penetrate it, which can leave your hair brittle and dry over time.

Those same mineral deposits can also weigh down your hair, causing it to lose volume and become more difficult to style. Additionally, it can affect the appearance of your hair, as hair washed in hard water tends to look more dull and flat in color. If you have color-treated hair, it will fade faster if washed continually in hard water. 

Dry, Irritated Skin

In addition to the impacts on your hair, the effects of hard water on skin are also pertinent when regularly showering in hard water. These effects are caused in two ways. The first is by reacting with the soap you are using, which leaves behind a film on the surface of the skin. In turn, this film of soap leaves the skin feeling dry and causes skin irritation. This can be particularly problematic on sensitive skin, such as your scalp.

Hard water also leaves behind mineral deposits on your skin. These mineral deposits can cause irritation by altering your natural moisture levels, which is especially problematic for individuals that have sensitive skin or suffer from eczema. The minerals can also clog pores, especially on sensitive skin like your face. The end result is irritated, reddened, and dry skin.

How is Soft Water Different?

The negative impact of hard water in the shower environment affects everything from the fixtures in your bathroom to washing the hair and skin on your body. The good news is that all of the negative effects of hard water on your shower can be eliminated by transitioning to soft water. 

Each of the impacts of hard water on your shower is the result of the mineral content in the water itself. Soap scum forms from the minerals in hard water reacting with soap. Limescale forms from mineral deposits left behind by the passage of hard water. Spots on your shower doors are the result of mineral deposits left behind as hard water dries. Your hair may be dry, damaged, and weighed down by the mineral deposits from washing with hard water. At the same time, your skin is left dry by a soap film and mineral deposits left on the surface of your skin.

The main difference between having a soft water vs hard water shower is that soft water eliminates each of these issues at the source. Remember that soft water has very little mineral content. By removing minerals from your water before they enter your shower, you’ll be sure to avoid unsightly limescale and soap scum, while also leaving your hair and skin better hydrated and less irritated.

Closing Thoughts

Hard water is simply water with a high number of mineral ions in it, which react with soap in your shower to form soap scum and leave behind limescale deposits that are unsightly and difficult to clean. Over time, those same deposits will limit the flow of water through your shower head and faucets, requiring you to clean them regularly if you want them to continue performing normally.

The surfaces of your body itself are also affected by the minerals in hard water. Those minerals coat your hair follicles, drying your hair and blocking moisturizers. In a similar fashion, mineral deposits dry out your skin and clog your pores. Soft water will allow your soap and shampoo to produce a better lather, yet allows the soap to be easily and completely cleaned from your skin. 

The easiest and most comprehensive solution to solve for the effects of hard water in your shower is a water softening system. A water softener addresses the problems at their source by removing the minerals in hard water before they enter your house, ensuring that each of your fixtures only comes in contact with soft water.

If you are interested in learning more about how a water softener can help address your hard water issues, please contact Rayne today.

 

Sources:

  1. https://water.usgs.gov/owq/hardness-alkalinity.html
  2. https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/hardness.pdf
  3. https://www.thespruce.com/soap-scum-information-1900291
  4. http://www.asu.edu/courses/chm233/notes/derivatives/derivativesRL2/soap.html
  5. https://www.dermaharmony.com/pages/hard-water-dermatitis

Expert Reviewer – Ken Christopher

A Guide to the Effects of Hard Water on Skin

Posted by Rayne Water

 

*Reviewed by Ken Christopher, Senior Vice President at Rayne Dealership Corporation

Hard water can have a number of effects throughout your household. If you have hard water, you are probably very familiar with soap scum – the product of a reaction between the minerals in hard water and your soaps. It can also be unsightly and difficult to clean. You may be familiar with limescale as well, a hard collection of minerals that gathers on fixtures that come in hard water in your home.

What you may not be familiar with is the effects of hard water on skin, which may be common if you don’t have a water softener. Like the surfaces of your household fixtures, the minerals left behind by hard water can also have an impact on your body and cause skin problems. These minerals can dry out your skin barrier, clog pores, irritate sensitive skin and cause flare-ups.

Hard water has long been linked to skin irritation, as it can affect your skin in multiple ways, both through the hard minerals themselves and their reaction with the soap that you use. This mineral buildup can produce dry, irritated skin and an itchy scalp that is common in areas with hard water. If you or someone you know struggles with these issues and wants healthy skin, it can be helpful to understand the difference between hard and soft water, how exactly it affects the surfaces it comes into contact with and what solutions exist, such as a whole home water softener

What is Hard and Soft Water?

Water that has a high mineral content is referred to as “hard” water, and water with a very low content of minerals as “soft” water. The two most common minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium, but it can also contain other minerals and metals including manganese and iron.

The formation of hard water occurs as it passes through soil that is rich in minerals, such as chalky soil or limestone. Since water is a solvent, it picks up mineral ions as it moves through these types of soils. The hardness of the water coming out of your tap is a result of the mineral content in the soil near your groundwater source. This is why some regions have hard water while others do not.

How Can You Tell if You Have Hard Water?

The most effective way to determine your water hardness is to test it. There are test kits available that can tell you exactly how hard your water is. These tests will express water hardness in terms of grains per gallon (GPG), a measurement of the quantity of minerals contained in the water. 

Water hardness is classified between soft water (water with less than 1 GPG of mineral content), all the way up to very hard water (which contains 10 or more GPG of mineral content). Any reading over 1 GPG is considered to be hard. It will range from moderately hard to very hard depending on the actual mineral content of your water:

Another way to find out if you have hard water is to check your local municipal water supply’s water quality report. This is typically a yearly report that contains in-depth information about your local water supply including a water hardness measurement and breakdown of the minerals that contribute to it.

The easiest way to tell if you have hard water is to simply observe the signs of hard water. One of those signs is how hard water affects the skin. Other things you can observe are soap scum and scaling, both of which are visually distinct, difficult to clean, and a persistent presence in areas with hard water.

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Common Effects of Hard Water on Skin

If you live in an area with hard water, you may already be familiar with most of these skin issues, due to using a hard water vs soft water shower. Some of the most common effects of hard water on skin are:

Dry Skin

Disrupting the moisture levels of your skin is the biggest impact of bathing in hard water for most people. Showering in hard water makes moisturizers and lotions less effective while simultaneously drying out your skin. This may result in irritated and dry skin that is difficult to properly moisturize. 

After hard water makes direct contact with your skin, it dries and leaves behind deposits, which primarily consist of calcium bicarbonate. When this calcium is left on your skin, it upsets the natural oil levels, which are responsible for regulating your skin’s moisture. Once this delicate balance is upset, it results in dry, itchy skin. The minerals left behind can also clog your pores, resulting in further irritation and can cause acne.

Another way that hard water dries out your skin is by reacting with your soap. When soap comes in contact with the minerals in hard water, it causes a reaction, creating a precipitate of calcium and magnesium carboxylates known as soap scum. This reaction makes it difficult to clean the resulting soap residue off of your skin completely, which then can cause irritation and dryness long after you have left the shower.

Irritated Scalp

Hard water dries out the scalp by making it difficult to completely wash out all traces of shampoo. Showering in hard water also leaves a thin film of soap behind on your scalp, which can dry it out and lead to irritation. Conditions where the scalp is already dry, such as dandruff, will be made worse by the presence of hard water. 

Poor Lather

Soap needs water that isn’t laden down with minerals in order to create a good lather. The minerals contained in hard water react with soap, creating soap scum rather than a rich lather. People who have hard water also tend to use more soap to compensate for a weak lather. This in turn puts more soap on your skin, making it more difficult to wash off.

Is Soft Water Better for Your Skin?

Once most people learn how hard water has been affecting their skin, they often wonder, “Does soft water help dry skin?” The answer is yes. Soft water eliminates nearly all of the problems associated with hard water, by solving for the negative effects at the source. 

If your skin is feeling dried out because of your hard water, then switching to soft water will have a beneficial effect. The two mechanisms through which hard water dries out your skin are both directly related to its high mineral content. When you shower with hard water, tiny amounts of minerals are left behind on your skin. On the flip side, with soft water, those mineral deposits never occur. This ensures that your skin’s natural oil levels are left unaffected, allowing your skin to achieve a level of equilibrium more easily. 

At the same time, soap doesn’t react the same way with the low mineral content of soft water. By using soft water, you’ll no longer have a thin film of soap leftover on your skin from your showers. In result, moisturizers and lotions you use will more effectively penetrate and hydrate your skin. 

Solving Your Hard Water Problem

If you suffer from dry, irritated skin from hard water, there are various solutions available. There are many products on the market to help deal with the consequences of hard water topically, such as moisturizers and soaps. Unfortunately, these solutions are temporary and only address the effects of hard water and not the cause.

The most effective way to address your hard water issues for good is to eliminate hard water entirely. This is accomplished by transitioning to a whole-house water softening system. These systems are installed at the main municipal water line coming into your house. As water flows, mineral ions are replaced with sodium ions through a gentle, natural process of ion exchange. Periodically, the mineral ions captured in the system are flushed, returning the system to peak functionality.

Unlike most of the workarounds and temporary solutions to hard water, acquiring a whole house system solves all of the problems that hard water causes.

In addition to causing skin issues, hard water problems can also include:

The minerals deposited by the passage of hard water coat the fixtures, appliances, and surfaces they come in contact with (including hard water buildup on hair!). The only way to address all of the impacts of hard water in a residential environment is to transition to a water softening system for your whole house.

Closing Thoughts

The most common negative effects of hard water on skin are dryness and irritation. The minerals left behind by hard water can upset the natural oil balance in your skin and even block pores, thereby causing irritation. 

In addition to these negative impacts, your soap itself may be a source of irritation. When soap comes in contact with the minerals in hard water, it produces a weak lather, causing us to use more of it to achieve an acceptable level of lather. At the same time, soap reacts with minerals to leave a film that often persists after your shower. This thin film of soap dries out the skin and disrupts the ability of moisturizers and lotions to penetrate your skin and hydrate it.

If you already have a skin condition, hard water can serve as an irritant that makes flare-ups worse. Hard water often dries out and irritates the skin in sensitive areas, such as the scalp. For individuals that suffer from dandruff, this drying action can cause their dandruff to get worse. Other skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis can similarly be aggravated by the minerals contained in hard water.

In contrast to hard water, soft water does not contain the minerals that are responsible for drying out your skin. With soft water, you won’t experience mineral deposits on your skin and your soap will produce a richer lather, making it easier to fully clean off all traces of soap from your skin. These advantages make soft water much better for individuals whose skin is irritated by washing in hard water.

The most effective way to eliminate hard water is to transition to a water softening system. To learn what water softening systems are available, please contact Rayne today.

Sources:

  1. https://water.usgs.gov/owq/hardness-alkalinity.html#hardness
  2. http://www.asu.edu/courses/chm233/notes/derivatives/derivativesRL2/soap.html
  3. https://www.dermaharmony.com/pages/hard-water-dermatitis
  4. http://www.chemistry.wustl.edu/~edudev/LabTutorials/Water/FreshWater/hardness.html
  5. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Inorganic_Chemistry/Supplemental_Modules_(Inorganic_Chemistry)/Descriptive_Chemistry/Main_Group_Reactions/Case_Study%3A_Hard_Water

Expert Reviewer – Ken Christopher