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Is It Safe to Drink Hard 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 with less than 1 GPG is soft
  • Water between 1 – 7 GPG is moderately hard
  • Water between 7-10 GPG is hard
  • Water over 10 GPG is very hard

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
  • Dry, itchy scalp
  • Skin irritations
  • Flat, dull 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