Water Hardness Levels in The United States

Hard Water - Ranges and Problems

Hard water is water with a high mineral content, particularly calcium and magnesium. It is not necessarily harmful to our health, but can pose serious problems towards any appliance that handles water. Hard water poses a threat on appliances because it forms a scale which is an off-white solid on the surface of pipes. When this scale builds up, it restricts the flow of water in pipes, and can cause a decrease in water pressure and can even eventually cause blockage. In boilers, the deposits impair the boilers heat flow into the water reducing the heating efficiency and allowing the metal boiler to overheat and waste energy. Hard water contains calcium or magnesium ions and when these ions react with soap it makes it difficult to form the lather. This means more soap will be used in the process of washing dishes and showering. It also means the dish washer and laundry machine may be less effective. Hard water is a serious problem, and it is a common one. 85% of the water in the United States is very hard and should be softened to be of maximum usefulness.

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How does water become hard?

Rainwater is originally soft water, however once it falls and hits limestone and chalk it becomes hard. This hard water is carried through lakes and streams and into the groundwater we use in our homes. Certain geographical locations will have more or less hard water depending on how many minerals the water picks up as it moves through soil and rock. Since water is a good solvent, it picks up minerals easily and dissolves very small amounts of minerals and holds them in result.

Signs of Hard Water

  • White spots on dishes and glasses when dry
  • Soap scum or film on glass shower doors, shower walls, bathtubs, sinks and faucets
  • Decreased amount of suds from your soap bar or shampoo
  • White layer inside your kettle
  • Scum floating on your coffee or tea

There are only a few areas where water is sufficiently soft to be satisfactory for most home-making needs. No natural water supply is completely free of hardness. Communities that draw water directly from snow-filled mountain streams enjoy nearly ideal water in terms of a low amount of hardness.

New York City with supplies of one to three grains of hardness per gallon has relatively soft water. Even here there are opportunities for sales of water conditioning equipment. There are industries which must have water free of hardness materials. Some laundries in the area, for example, have found that zero soft water provides substantial soap savings.

Actually, the hardness of water supplies in this country ranges from 1 to 350 gpg (17.1 to 5985 mg/l).

Most water possesses hardness minerals in amounts ranging from 3 to 50 gpg (51.3 to 855 mg/1). Unfortunately, where water is extremely hard, the problem is often compounded by the presence of other contaminants such as iron and manganese. Most people are quite aware that water containing 15 to 30 grains (256.5 to 513 mg/1) of hardness minerals is definitely hard and difficult to use. On the other hand, many people will tolerate a 5 grain (85.5 mg/1) water that is only objectionable to anyone accustomed to using completely soft water.

If hard water constitutes a problem in your home there are solutions. A traditional water softener will reduce the hardness of your water; however today there are also salt-free water conditioners which can also reduce scale buildup in your home without the use of sodium. By not using chemicals, these descale systems will protect your health and the environment from the negative effects caused by adding too much salt to the water. They will also protect and increase the life expectancy of appliances. However, if these systems are out of your price range there are several other natural home remedies you can try.

Natural Remedies

  • Use distilled vinegar in the dishwasher to remove white film and spots. Reducing the temperature of the hot water heater will also help. You can also use the vinegar on tiles, glass, and faucets.
  • For better tasting coffee run a pot of strong white vinegar through your coffee machine from time to time.
  • Look for soaps and shampoos that are especially formulated for hard water.
  • Flush your hot water heated as directed on the manual.
  • Remove calcified buildup on pipes and appliances on a regular basis.

It will always be more beneficial for our appliances to install a water conditioner in the home because it is very difficult to thoroughly clean the insides of pipes. Both traditional water softeners and newly developed salt-less water conditioners can both help reduce the scaling effects of hard water. Treating hard water will increase the life and performance of your appliances and also reduce your energy costs making it one of the best things you can do for your home.

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