Do you suffer from hair fall? Does your skin develop rashes and look pale or feels rough? Do your clothes look dull and deteriorated? Are you regularly calling the plumber at home to repair or clean your sinks and pipes?
If the answer to most of the questions above is a YES, then you are getting a hard water supply. Hard water contains some mineral and salt deposits like calcium and magnesium, which get deposited if you use the water for cleaning or with your appliances. Hard water can spoil them or reduce their quality of functioning.
Therefore, most of us are very careful about converting our hard water to soft water. While this involves some basic chemistry due to the salt molecules present in water, we need to understand the steps that can be taken to convert this hard water into soft water.
Hence, we came up with a detailed overview of how to identify hard water and the possible side effects of hard water. Alongside, we have also mentioned some steps on how you can convert hard water into soft water to avoid mineral deposits and keep your utensils, clothes, and appliances safe. Read further to know!!
What is water hardness?
As per scientific definitions, hard water has certain levels of calcium and magnesium that remain dissolved in water. Hard water forms when water flows through surfaces or areas containing deposits of chalk, limestone, or gypsum, which are made of magnesium and calcium carbonates, bicarbonates, or sulfates.
The hardness of water is ideally of two types:
Permanent hardness is determined by the presence of certain multivalent cations like calcium and magnesium. These cations usually have a charge of greater than 1+.
You will often find salts of calcium and magnesium with charge Ca2+ or Mg2+. These salts form carbonates or bicarbonates/sulfates or chlorides that are very difficult to remove from the water.
Even boiling the water in the presence of these salts is very difficult as the temperature cannot break down the ions. Therefore, for permanent water hardness, you can use water softeners or ion exchange resins.
Temporary hardness also takes place due to the presence of carbonates and bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium cations. However, temporarily hard water does not contain chlorides and sulfates, which are very difficult to break down.
Therefore, temporary hardness can be removed from water by boiling it at high temperatures. The boiling causes the bicarbonates to reduce to carbonates, which later precipitates the calcium carbonate out from the water. Once the water is cooled, the calcium carbonate gets deposited below while you get soft water when you strain it out.
You can soften temporarily hard water by adding lime (calcium hydroxide) and making the water soft through lime softening.
Often, you may find that your hands remain sticky and slimy despite washing with soap. You may have also noticed some white scaly patches or deposits on your vessels or your water purifiers and even coffee makers.
These are usually the salts that get scaled and deposited on the surface, which can affect the overall working of the system. Sure, hard water can also be beneficial up to a certain extent, but it also includes many dissolved solids that increase the TDS levels of water.
Hard water can make up for the deficiency of various minerals like calcium and magnesium in our body. Still, it is not desirable for multiple other uses of water at home. This is why the idea of having a hard water supply is not quite encouraged by most households, and they use various techniques and systems to reduce the hardness levels of water. We shall understand the effects and techniques in the article further.
Effects of Hard Water
Although hard water may contain essential minerals that your body needs, it is not always desirable to have hard water for household chores. This is why most of us try to convert hard water to soft water. Here are the possible adverse effects of hard water which makes you want to convert it to soft water:
Scaling on plumbing fixtures and appliances
Suppose you observe a white or somewhat black and white scaling or deposition in your faucets, taps, coffee makers, and other such appliances. In that case, it is hard water that causes the mineral deposition. This can be dangerous for your appliances in the long run and can also change food and water taste if used for cooking or drinking.
Dry Skin and Hair
Due to the presence of calcium and magnesium salts in water, the water cannot nourish your skin and hair properly. Which is why, after bathing or washing your hair, your skin may feel sticky and start chapping off, or your hair will feel rough and sticky. Hard water is also one of the leading causes of bad skin and hair fall in women.
Hard water can also leave mineral deposits on your clothes. It can make them discolored and spoil the washing quality of your clothes as well. The surfaces of your clothes may feel scratchy and rough upon wearing at times if washed with hard water.
Stained sinks and bathtubs
If you often notice patchy white deposits in your bathroom or sinks, you are using hard water. It is very tough to remove these patches and clean your bathroom every time you see these deposits. This is why you may want to install a water softener in your bathroom.
If your pipes are made of steel or metal, they can get corroded very easily due to the deposition of salts on their walls. This will often cause buildup and choke up of these pipes and prevent the free flow of water from your drainage system, calling for plumbing problems more than often.
Deposits on dishware
If there are slight spots on your dishes and glasses and they remain stuck despite repeated washing, then it’s time you install a water softener to wash your utensils. If these deposits remain, they not only spoil your dishware and make them patchy but also change the taste of food.
How to Identify and Measure Hard Water?
If you regularly face problems like scaly patches on your utensils or faucets, rough and dry hair, dull skin, and fading of clothes, these are all indicators of having hard water. You can check the level of hard water by booking a water test and then installing a water softener or taking certain steps to reduce the water hardness accordingly.
Here is a chart that indicates the water hardness levels that is measured in grains per gallon or ppm:
|Mg/L or PPM||Grains per Gallon||Water Hardness|
|< 17.1||< 1||Soft|
|17||1 to 3.5||Slightly Hard|
|60 to 120||3.5 to 7||Moderately Hard|
|120 to 180||7 to 10||Hard|
|Above 180||Above 10||Extremely Hard|
How to Convert Hard water to Soft Water
We have mentioned a few tricks and steps that you can follow to convert hard water to soft water at home or in industries. Read on to know:
In the Kitchen
For kitchen use or drinking, you can use one of the following methods:
Boiling is a method that is only effective for temporary hard water and is not proven to very effective in reducing the hardness of the water. You can bring the water to boil at an extremely high temperature and allow it to cool for some time. The mineral and salt deposits settle at the bottom while you can scoop or strain the soft water from the vessel.
Using ion-exchange filter
Ion exchange filters come in the form of small devices that can either be used to store water or be fitted along with your faucets for regular soft water flow. However, this will only remove the necessary salts and not the other dissolved contaminants in water. Therefore, you may either want to install it within an RO system or install a prefilter along with the exchange resin.
Add a non-precipitating detergent solution or fabric conditioner
Most detergents may end up precipitating with the salts in hard water and form white patches on your clothes which can cause discoloration. Make sure to check the detergent before purchase and use a non-precipitating detergent solution that makes sure that the salts remain in the water and not on your clothes. Additionally, you may want to use a fabric conditioner to soften your clothes. Hard water can also cause your clothes to become stiff and patchy. A fabric conditioner or softener makes sure your clothes feel soft and fluffy while removing the salts from your clothes.
To remove mineral deposits, you can use some vinegar or create a dilution of vinegar with equal amounts of water.
Vinegar comes cheap and is a cost-effective solution to remove small-scale mineral deposits. However, if this is a recurring problem, you may want to consider a water softener in the long run, as cleaning with vinegar can become a tedious task.
Certain clothes don’t react well with vinegar, or certain devices cannot handle the harshness of vinegar. This is why you may want to check with your appliances or materials before using vinegar to clean any mineral deposits.
If you plan to install a water softening system for the entire household, first, you will need to check the hardness level of water at your home.
Start by simply ordering test strips or hardness testing kits that are available online. You can use them to calculate the hardness with the help of indicators provided with these kits.
Now, you need to determine the water usage in your house for various purposes daily. E.g., your house uses 70 gallons of water per day. Suppose you have measured the hardness of your water sample to be 7. So the hardness has to be multiplied by the amount of water used daily.
In our, e.g., it will come up to 490 grains per gallon. So, you need to install a softener that has around ten times the capacity of the value that you have calculated. So in our case, as per the usage, a softener of capacity 4900 grains per gallon is about the ideal size.
There are various types of ion exchange water softeners available; some contain sodium or potassium chloride or contain both in equal proportions. However, it is advisable to install a pre-filter to remove the unwanted contaminants from the water and the mineral or salt deposits.
Along with proper installation, maintenance of the softener is also essential. You can do so by keeping it non-functional for a few days and replacing the old resins with the new ones in a period of days.
You can either install the water softener system all by yourself or call a plumber for more uncomplicated assistance.
Water filter pitchers
Various water storage systems come with inbuilt resins that help in storing and convert hard water to soft water. You can use them as a water bottle or for regular water storage, and they make sure to dispense soft water at all times for drinking. But these may work for a limited amount of water at all times.
Water Softening Systems
It is not very easy to convert hard water to soft water, and any of the methods mentioned above are not entirely effective in converting hard water to soft water. However, you can reduce the impact due to hard water with the help of water softening systems and techniques as well.
These techniques or systems can be installed and used for local body water supplies, for households, or even within houses. Here are a few systems that we researched and have elaborated on how they work to convert hard water to soft water. Check below to find out.
Resin-based water softening systems
This technology uses a cation ion exchange salt-based resin that is golden in color due to its chemical properties. When the water percolates through this resin, it attracts all the calcium and magnesium present in the water into the resin, leaving equal amounts of sodium in water instead. It basically exchanges sodium for calcium and magnesium that is extracted from the water.
Due to this replacement strategy, the TDS levels of water will remain the same. Still, the hardness of water comparatively reduces, and most of our problems related to water hardness also get reduced.
However, with the constant exchange mechanism, the resin gets worn out with time. Therefore, it needs to be refreshed again with brine water, i.e., sodium chloride, to function. It can remove hardness for up to 1000 ppm water and is 90% effective in reducing the water hardness.
The resin-based mechanism is highly recommended for industries or massive residential systems that can carry out regular maintenance. However, if you know that your water supply comes from a sweet water river, then shedding out salty water through these systems is not desirable as it can affect the environment.
Magnetic water softener
This water softening system comes quite as a surprise as it includes attaching long magnets over our connections or pipelines. According to the theory, the magnetic field created by these magnets attracts all the calcium and magnesium from water and separates it, generating water free of salts. However, upon further research, you will understand that the magnetic fields required to expel the calcium and magnesium salts from water are high, also accompanied by higher costs. Therefore, unless the magnetic fields are too strong, this technology is close to being a futile investment.
This system is known as a turbulence-based water enhancer. Ordinarily, the system consists of a steel pipe, but the tube consists of a rod with some metals fitted inside if you look closely. These metals are fitted irregularly that creates an uneven path for the water flow, generating turbulence. This system follows the exact mechanism of waterfalls.
Water hits the rocks and gravels that come in the way of waterfalls. This impact with the rocks changes the molecular structure of the water, and the salts present inside it. The impact on the water molecules and the salts also prevents it from scaling.
This system is highly effective and does not cause any damage to spare parts or appliances either. It is a very cost-effective and long-time investment. However, there are several factors involved in installing this system that you need to consider. First, due to the uneven path and flow that the water follows, the speed and water pressure reduces.
Secondly, if the water in your area is extremely turbid, it will cause the pipe to choke up, which will wear out the system sooner than expected. You should install a prefilter along with the turbulence system to remove the large particles that cause turbidity. It is easier to change the prefilter regularly than changing the system inside the pipes.
Ultimately, this is a hefty investment to make due to the combination of metals used in the pipe to create turbulence. Therefore, you may want to rethink before installing this turbulence-based system.
This system is referred to as the impulse-based water conditioner. This is a very cost-effective as well as a reliable system that reduces water hardness. The system is very effective for water having hardness levels of up to 450ppm.
This setup uses a standard pipeline that is wound with metal strips running in the opposite direction. A box-like device at the center of the connecting pipe creates a high-frequency impulse onto the metal strips.
The frequency is transferred from the metal strips onto the pipe and then into the water flowing inside the pipe, due to the frequency and the impulse on the water pipe, the linear shape of the calcium and magnesium salts changes to round. The round shape prevents the formation of scaling, and the salts flow with the water, with a deformed shape.
The round shape of salts prevents all hardness-related and deposition issues keeping our systems and water safe. This device can be attached to common pipelines connected to our kitchen sinks, washing machines, or even bathrooms.
If you require soft water for specific areas in your house like the bathroom or washing machine, you can invest in an antiscalant system. This system is totally simple and uses two housing systems with different filter types.
One filter consists of a cartridge made of yarn, and the other has antiscalant balls within the cartridge. The water first passes through the yarn cartridge and then the antiscalant balls. The yarn cartridge acts as the pre-filter. You need to make sure that the pre-filter is replaced from time to time based on water turbidity levels in your locality. These antiscalant systems can be used in households as well as industries.
Water softening is an effective method to remove the dissolved salts. However, it does not reduce the TDS or contaminant levels. This is why we also advise installing a prefilter system to make sure that all unwanted elements are removed from your water. Additionally, the soft water may not be able to make up for your body’s calcium and magnesium requirements.
Therefore, you can install a mineral cartridge that ensures all your minerals are restored in the water while the salts get removed. You can imply the mentioned method for drinking water. You can use either one of the water softening techniques we have discussed above for effective washing or cleaning.
Read our article above and tell us which is your favorite method of softening the water through the comments section below.