Beyond The Water Spots: The Hidden Costs Of Hard Water


Dingy, scratchy clothes. Dull hair. Spotted dishes and shower doors. Crusty shower heads. Sound familiar? Like many others in our area, hard water may be the culprit in your home, and it may lead to serious plumbing issues. 

What is Hard Water?

Water is considered hard if it has a high concentration of dissolved minerals like magnesium and calcium. These elements can be picked up by groundwater as it passes in and around soil and rocks. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon (GPG), parts per million (ppm), or milligrams per liter (mg/L). The WATER QUALITY ASSOCIATION considers water to be hard if it has more than 17.1 ppm or 1 GPG. In the United States, 85 percent of the water is hard, according to a U.S. Geological Survey. In the Central Valley, our water is found to be as much as three times higher than what is considered hard water by the WQA.

Signs of Hard Water 

If your home has hard water, you may notice stiff, dingy laundry and the need for fabric softeners, mineral deposits on dishes and glassware, and scale buildup in sinks, tubs, faucets, and appliances. Hard water can damage your pipes, leading to costly repairs and even complete replacements. Additionally, hard water can be difficult to work with when it comes to cleaning and other household chores.

That’s not all. Hard water also affects your skin and hair. It makes it harder to rinse soap and shampoo and may leave your hair feeling dry and dull. It can also lead to skin irritation and dryness. Because hard water does not get the soap off your body, the soap remains on your skin, absorbing its natural oils.

Why is it a Problem?

The annoying buildup on tubs, showers, sinks, and faucets caused by hard water is only part of the problem. The minerals in hard water also start to build up inside pipes, fixtures, and appliances over time, causing a variety of plumbing problems such as reduced water flow, clogs and increased stress on pipes and fixtures. Mineral deposits can also cause appliances to operate less efficiently and wear down faster, most notably for our water heaters, dishwashers, and faucets. Your water heater can build up more than one inch of mineral deposits annually – just over a five-year period, it is like heating the water through bricks of mineral deposits.

How to Prevent Hard Water Stains And Mineral Deposits 

The key to getting rid of mineral deposits, stains, and limescale buildup from hard water is to prevent them from forming in the first place.

Don’t let the water dry on surfaces: Mineral deposits from hard water are left behind when water evaporates. Make sure to wipe surfaces dry to prevent stains, and use a rubber squeegee to remove water on glass shower doors.

Use a spray cleaner on shower doors: If you don’t want to squeegee your shower doors, spray them with a shower cleaner after each use to help prevent hard water stains. Applying Rain-X to glass shower doors may also help prevent water from drying on the surface.

Install water softening / conditioning equipment: While preventive maintenance can help, installing a water softener removes the stain-causing minerals at the source, before your water is distributed throughout your plumbing system. A whole house water softening and conditioning system can reduce the need for future repairs, improve your water quality and extend the life of your fixtures. This is an important step in protecting your home against hard water damage.

How to Test Your Water For Hardness

It’s important to know how hard your water is so you can take the proper steps to keep it clean and free of minerals that cause damage to your home, plumbing, and appliances. There are several ways to test your water for hardness. You can purchase an at-home testing kit, hire a professional water testing company or contact your local municipality.

Using Liquid Soap

One easy, at-home test for hard water is the liquid soap test. Fill a glass jar with one cup of tap water and mix in three or four drops of liquid dish detergent. Swirl the mixture then wait for one to two minutes. If suds form, your water is soft (not hard). If no suds form and only bubbles float to the top, your water is hard.

Test Strips

Another easy way to test for hard water is with a test strip. These strips are affordable and available at most home improvement stores. Simply dip the strip in a glass of water, wait for a few seconds, and then compare the color on the strip to the color chart included with your kit.

Request The Last Water Test Result From Your Local Water Treatment Plant

If you’re still unsure, contact your local water treatment plant and ask for their last water test results. They should be able to provide this information free of charge.

Visit a Lab

If you want a more accurate test than the DIY options, you can visit a lab that specializes in water testing. A certified water technologist can provide an accurate measure of your water hardness and other contaminants that may be present in the water.

Hard water can cause a variety of issues for your home and plumbing system. However, if you take preventative measures such as wiping surfaces dry and installing water-softening equipment, you can keep your home free from stains, limescale buildup, clogs, and other issues caused by hard water.

When It’s Time to Contact a Professional 

If you need help finding out the kind of water you have in your home, the team at All American Plumbing, Heating & Air can help. From conducting water testing to ensure you have the right systems on hand to providing water treatment system maintenance to help your systems last as long as possible, our water treatment services are comprehensive. We offer a 6-year complete warranty on all plumbing work except fixtures available to our AMP club maintenance program members. Get in touch with our team today!