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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Hard Water Test for Homeowners

High-mineral content in your home’s water supply is referred to as “hard water,” which causes limescale buildup in pipes, appliances, and plumbing fixtures such as shower-heads and faucets. Look for symptoms such as white spots on dishes or premature wear on hot-water appliances. Not only can hard water make clean dishes unsightly, but the limescale buildup insulates the heating elements and gauges in the appliances, which reduces the heat generated in the water and wastes substantial energy.

Beyond dishes and appliances, hard water is also known to cause dry skin and dry hair because it’s not as effective in rinsing away soap when bathing. Furthermore, hard water may contribute to fading or frayed clothing, because the same damaging molecules get washed into the fabric. If left unchecked, hard water can eventually lower the water pressure in your home as the build-up reduces the inner diameter of your pipes.

If you suspect that you have hard water, you should test it to confirm. Here are three suggestions from the professionals at Enercare.

Method 1: The Soap Test

Find a clear bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Fill it about one-third full with cold water from your faucet and add about 10 drops of pure liquid hand soap. Avoid using anything marked “detergent,” because these products are usually formulated to produce a lather regardless of water hardness. You’ll need to use a plain soap free of perfumes, dyes or detergents. Once you’ve added the soap, give your bottle a good shake, then have a look and see what it does.

If there’s a good layer of soapy bubbles sitting on top of fairly clear water, then your home has soft water and there is no need to treat it for hardness. However, if there’s little or no foaming, and the water is cloudy, you probably have hard water.

Method 2: DIY Test Kit

An inexpensive DIY test kit can tell you how hard the water is. Available at most home improvement stores, the test kits check a range of indicators, including water pH, chlorine, iron, nitrate, heavy metal and bacteria levels. Make sure your kit includes a hardness test along with any other tests you might be interested in.

Follow the instructions provided with your kit, which is usually as simple as dipping a test strip into a glass of water and watching for color changes. The kit will include a color chart to determine your results.

Method 3: Check with Your City or Water Provider

If your water comes from your municipality or a water utility, you should be able to get a water quality report from them. Most municipalities publish an annual report that is posted online, or you can call or email the municipality directly to request one. These reports are often highly technical and contain far more data than just water hardness, but look for information on calcium carbonate, which should be reported in mg per liter (mg/L) or grains per gallon (gpg).

If you determine you have a problem, you might need a water softener in your home. A professional Water Management Consultant can visit your home and test your water for hardness and other quality indicators for free, then recommend the ideal water-treatment solution for your conditions.

A water softener is an appliance that connects directly to your home’s water supply and removes the minerals that cause hard water. Most water-softening systems do this by running hard water through negatively charged resin or zeolite beads that trap the positively charged minerals. The minerals are essentially replaced with sodium or potassium ions in a process called ion exchange.

The resulting water is free of the minerals that cause buildup in your pipes, saving you on repair costs down the road.

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