You just moved into your new home, but you notice something doesn't smell right...
After a few weeks of smelly clothes and your hair not getting clean, you have a sneaking suspicion that there may be a problem with your tap water.
Your problem is likely hard water - an excess amount of minerals in your water that represents a real cleaning and odor nuisance for homeowners.
But is hard water really your problem?
In this article, we'll cover the 8 most common signs of hard water in your home - to help you determine if this really is your problem, or not.
If it is, don't fret - solving hard water problems is usually pretty easy.
What is Hard Water?
Everyone knows that water is H2o - but very few of us can name the top 10 chemicals and minerals dissolved into our drinking water.
Some of the elements in tap water are perfectly safe to consume, although other water contaminants can negatively affect your family's health - in high enough concentrations.
Put simply, hard water is H20 with too many dissolved minerals and solids in it.
Most often this is caused by groundwater percolating through limestone where it picked up magnesium and calcium before getting into your house.
Drinking water may also include trace elements like iron, which gets mixed up from the soil, lakes, and rivers and pipes. In certain areas, hard water may also contain aluminum or manganese.
Naturally, things such as iron, magnesium, and calcium are not bad for your health — actually, these nutrients that are beneficial and vital when consumed in the right amounts.
However, hard water sediments can sometimes carry harmful germs. A study conducted in 2014 found hard water scaling is mainly responsible for bacterial growth in drinking/tap water.
You will more likely have hard water in your home if you get your water from a well. However, hard water is not just a rural well water issue.
The U.S. Geological Survey says 85 percent of houses in the country have hard water issues.
Below, we discuss eight symptoms that indicate you have a hard water issue - and may need a water softener or filtration solution to resolve it.
1. Your Water Smells or Tastes Bad
An unusual odor or taste in drinking water is one of the clues that hard water is in your home. It is a clear sign there are some germs of a bacterial contaminant in your water.
If your water has an unpleasant flavor, there may be too much iron present in it.
If your water smells like rotten eggs, that might be caused by naturally-occurring bacteria reacting to form sulfates or hydrogen sulfide gas.
Some people say they can taste dirt in their water. That could be caused by debris (real dirt), rusted pipes or algae.
Algal flowers can also give tap water a moldy aftertaste.
Nobody likes to drink water with flavor or an odor.
But that's may be just the beginning of your problems.
2. Strange Stains
Ugly red or brown stains on ceramic, porcelain and tile surfaces are a significant embarrassment.
Hard water is the main reason for it - especially iron.
It is no coincidence, then, that those spots look like rust spots. The iron present in your water may be coming from corroded pipes.
You'll need to use a good deal of elbow grease to remove those stains.
Some folks suggest using vinegar to help clean and eliminate them. The stains will keep reappearing till you fix your water issue.
3. Soap Scum
Another unappealing problem is that the appearance of those white water stains (hard water stains) in your bath, sinks, and shower.
That is what you get when water evaporates and leaves calcium residue behind.
You will notice soap scum appears to accumulate throughout the place when you have hard water. That is because the minerals in water and soap don't play well with each other.
If your dishes are always spotty, it may not be your dishwasher, but instead your water quality.
What is worse, soap residue on shower curtains may result in the growth of a microbial biofilm which could contain disease-spreading bacteria.
When your home has hard water, you end up cleaning the kitchen and bathroom more frequently and using more cleaning product to get the work done.
Who wants to do that?
4. Soap Doesn’t Rinse Right
Showering is the time to forget the world for ten minutes to wash the dirt and tensions from the world away.
However, when you have hard water, your shower time sucks.
As mentioned above, minerals resist water - which interferes in the dirt-removing action of soap.
Due to this issue, it is difficult to get a full soap lather when you bathe in hard water. Additionally, it makes it challenging to wash off the soap without leaving behind a film of residue.
Your showerhead can also clog with hard water residues. This results in weaker shower pressure.
When showering with hard water, you might not be getting clean, and you will notice your hair is difficult to manage.
Yes, hard water may even be responsible for those bad hair days!
5. Your Plumbing Keep Getting Clogged
Shower heads are not the only things that can get clogged due to hard water.
Plumbing issues can also result.
Scale deposits build up inside your plumbing like plaque within an artery, constricting the flow of water and finally resulting in backups - until you have to call a plumber for support.
For PVC or aluminum pipes, this likely isn't an issue. It is most common in old steel pipes.
6. Your Clothes Are Not Getting Clean
Hard water may also have an adverse impact on your laundry because of the chemical reaction of minerals such as magnesium and calcium have with detergent and soap.
Soap is used to wash off dirt and grime, but if the detergent does not get washed off, it may increase soil build up on your clothing.
This is why clothes washed in hard water often appear dingy and wear out quicker. It may also make your towels rough and scratchy.
When your home has hard water, you might need to purchase detergent formulated to soften the water to you. However, you will probably have to use more laundry detergent (and hotter water) to clean your clothes thoroughly.
Hard water can require four times as much detergent to achieve the same level of clean.
Additionally, just as your bathroom fittings can be stained by iron rust, iron may stain your clothing. Iron content in the water can quickly turn your white-colored clothes into yellow.
Also, metal oxidizes rapidly when exposed to bleach - and iron oxide is another name for rust. This is why white clothes suffer the most from hard water problems.
7. Your Family Experiences Skin Problems
Washing in hard water leaves a soap residue that can cause normal skin to become drier and itchy. Also, some mineral deposits suck the moisture right from your skin and make it dry.
The skin condition eczema is common, especially among children.
Research exists that shows hard water can worsen eczema symptoms and increase the risk of contracting eczema in children.
8. Your Appliances Are Wearing Out Too Soon
Appliance failure may be the most costly part of your hard water problem.
You see, hard water scale can ruin many devices in your house, from utensils to your water heater.
A build-up of sediment can also make an appliance much less efficient.
And lower efficiency means higher utility bills.
The icemaker in your refrigerator can stop working as scale deposits clog up your water cooling lines. The American Water Works Association says water may cause an ice machine to wear out 30% faster than usual.
It's not hard to understand why hard water will cost you money in the long term.
For many homes, the estimated cost you have to pay due to hard water issues is $800 or more per year.
How Water Conditioning Can Help
There are different solutions to the problems caused by hard water, but there is just one answer to all of your water difficulties - installing a water softener.
Water softeners remove minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium from various sources like well, lakes, ponds, and rivers, etc.
This is an investment that will save you money and headaches.
A water softener not only removes harmful chemicals and minerals from hard water but also enhance the taste and quality of your water.
There are two types of water softener available in the market today: salt-based water softeners and salt-free water softeners.
A salt-based system eliminates the hard water minerals but is quite expensive and difficult to maintain.
On the other hand, a salt-free system is less costly and easy to maintain.
Although many brands sell a range of water softeners, the choice you make entirely depends on your needs.
Additionally, there are other kinds of water conditioning products, such as a reverse osmosis system, which can remove contaminants that are potentially harmful.
If you're prepared to check the quality of your water in your home, or if you have questions about the various options available for water treatment, read our guide to the best water softening solutions available today and explore them in detail.