Water that has a high concentration of calcium and magnesium ions is known as "hard water." There are no exact concentrations of these minerals at which water is defined as hard, but the higher the calcium and magnesium levels are, the harder the water is considered. Water that is too hard can cause a number of problems in the home, such as limescale buildup in pipes and inside appliances. It can also lead to dry skin and lackluster hair. Do you have hard water in your home? Follow these steps to find out.
Step 1: Consider your location.
The minerals that make water "hard" come from the ground water. Thus, the higher the concentration of calcium and magnesium in an area's rocks, the higher the concentration in the water. Water tends to be the hardest in the central United States and in Florida, with areas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts having softer water. Still, there are some locales even along the coast where water tends to be hard, so you should still carry on examining your water for signs of hardness even if you live in these regions.
Step 2: Examine your faucets and appliances.
Do you see white limescale buildup around your faucets or your tea kettle? These are indications that you have hard water. Limescale might seem like a minor annoyance, but when it builds up in the interiors of dishwashers and pipes, it can cause considerable blockages. If you live in a very new home, your faucets may not have had enough time to accumulate limescale, so you should move on to step 3 and test your water hardness, just to be sure.
Step 3: Do the dish soap water hardness test.
Fill an empty plastic bottle about ¾ of the way full with water from your tap. Add about 10 drops of dish soap, and then screw the cap on. Give the bottle a good shake. Is the water foamy and sudsy? If so, your water is adequately soft and you have no reason to worry. If the water becomes cloudy with just a thin layer of bubbles, however, you have hard water.
If you find that you have hard water, it's wise to have a plumber install a water softener in your home. Water softening systems remove the magnesium and calcium ions from the water as it flows into your home from the public water supply. While a water softener is not cheap, it is likely to be a lot less expensive than replacing pipes, faucets and appliances that become damaged by mineral deposits in the years to come.