Why Look For Solutions For Hard Water?
As we all know, calcium is a healthy element that our bodies require to maintain strong bones and teeth. However, we get plenty of calcium from our diet, which includes dairy products, leafy greens, fortified milk and cereals.
This means that we don’t get much benefit from drinking calcium water, despite the fact that calcium is one of the most common impurities found in drinking water in the United States.
It’s only present in trace amounts, so we probably wouldn’t notice whether it was present or not in terms of water taste or health benefits. However, when it comes to the efficiency of your home’s appliances, as well as the condition of your faucets and plumbing system, even trace amounts of calcium can be a major issue.
Calcium carbonate contributes to hardness, and an increasing number of Americans are sick of dealing with hard water in their homes and are looking for ways to completely eliminate the problem.
If you’re looking for ways to remove calcium from water, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about the mineral, its effects in your home, and how to get rid of it quickly and easily.
What is Hard Water?
To begin, you may be wondering what hard water is and why it causes stains. Water is considered “hard” when it contains high levels of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Hard water stains appear when hard water droplets dry and leave calcium mineral deposits behind. These stains are typically chalky white, but they can also be brown or rust-colored depending on the minerals in the water.
If left too long, hard water stains can become permanent, damaging surfaces such as glass. Hard water stains should be removed as soon as they appear. While it may be tempting to leave a minor stain until cleaning day, the longer it is left, the more difficult it is to remove.
Signs of Hard Water
Mineral deposits, stains, or a white film will appear on surfaces such as porcelain, enamel, china, stainless steel, tile, chrome, fiberglass, and glass if your home has hard water. Stains or buildup may be visible on bathroom fixtures, dishes, and sinks. In addition to magnesium and calcium, the water may contain manganese, brass, iron, or copper.
Manganese stains appear brownish or black, whereas iron-rich water deposits appear red or like white slime. If you notice blue or green stains around your plumbing fixtures, it is possible that your water is slightly acidic, which can corrode brass or copper pipes.
How to Get Rid of Hard Water?
To soften water – that is, to remove the calcium and magnesium minerals – a variety of techniques can be used. They are as follows:
In a salt-based water softener, the ion exchange process takes place. When water flows through a resin bed, the calcium and magnesium minerals are drawn to the bed and adhere to its surface. Simultaneously, sodium ions are released, exchanging the hard water ions for sodium ions.
Ion exchange is one of the most effective softening techniques, capable of completely removing mineral deposits. However, because the healthy minerals are removed from the water, the taste of the water is altered.
Because of its high-quality filtration process, reverse osmosis is a filtering method that provides “accidental” water softening benefits. Water passes through several filtration stages and a reverse osmosis membrane, which removes more than 99.9% of TDS (total dissolved solids), yielding pure, contaminant-free water.
While reverse osmosis provides twice the benefits of filtration and water softening, it is not recommended for high levels of hardness because calcium and magnesium can damage the system’s filters and cause them to degrade faster.
Another “accidental” softening method is distillation. Distillers are recommended for their purification properties, but the distillation process is so thorough that it removes hardness minerals as well as a wide range of contaminants.
When you add water to the boiling tank of a distiller machine and turn it on, the water evaporates before passing through a gaseous chamber and condensing into a carafe.
Calcium and magnesium are unable to convert into gases and thus remain in the boiling chamber with the other contaminants.
Distillation is one of the best all-around filter-softener methods, but it imparts a “flat” taste on water that some people dislike.
Chelation is the treatment of a water supply with a chelant, which is a molecule that binds to calcium molecules and prevents them from forming sticky deposits. Chelating agents also prevent iron, magnesium, and manganese from binding and forming deposits, allowing them to treat multiple problems at once. Chelants are found in a variety of commercial cleaning products and soaps.
Chelation has the advantage of not actually removing water hardness minerals, so you can still reap their health benefits – they just won’t be able to stick to surfaces as well.
Finally, to break down the hardness minerals in your water, you can use baking soda, sodium carbonate, or similar chemical solutions. This treatment can be used to clean your pipes and plumbing, but it cannot be used to treat your drinking water because the chemicals are unsafe to consume.
How to Remove Hard Water Stains and Mineral Deposits?
Hard water stains aren’t permanent, but they can be difficult to remove, so using non-toxic hard water stain removers can help.
It is best to clean hard water stains on a regular basis before they penetrate the surface. Lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, and even white wine are effective non toxic, natural cleaners for removing stains and limescale from your home. Of course, there are many chemical products that are effective as well. Here are a few methods for removing hard water stains:
Wrap paper towels or a rag soaked in vinegar around the faucet and let it sit for an hour. Then, rinse it with water and dry it.
Remove the shower head and soak it in white vinegar overnight, or for several hours at the very least. Scrub it with an old toothbrush, then rinse it with water and reinstall it.
To remove limescale and hard water stains from the glass, spray the doors with white vinegar or white wine.
Add a cup of white vinegar to your dishwasher once a month and run it through a cleaning cycle with no dishes in it.
Add a gallon of white vinegar to the washing machine and run the empty washer a hot water wash cycle.
Rubber bath mat
To clean and disinfect a rubber bath mat, soak it in a bucket or tub with enough white vinegar to cover it for an hour. Scrub with a brush and then rinse with warm water.
Toilet tank and bowl
Adding three cups of white vinegar to your toilet tank will remove hard water stains on the inside. Scrub the bowl with 3 cups of vinegar to clean it.
To remove mineral deposits, run one brewing cycle with the water reservoir full of white vinegar. Then, run two more brewing cycles with plain water to thoroughly clean the coffee maker.
Sinks and tubs
Spray surfaces with lemon juice or vinegar, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then wipe clean. Depending on how much soap scum has accumulated, multiple applications may be required.
Cleaners for various hard water stains:
Red, reddish brown (from rust or iron)
Make a paste of cream of tartar and water; let it dry before rinsing.
Green or blue-green stains (from copper or acid water)
Soap suds and ammonia, followed by rinsing.
Brown, black, or others (from manganese and other minerals)
Cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide paste; leave to stand, then rinse.
Hard-water marks, soap scum
Make a paste of white vinegar and baking soda; set aside before rinsing.
Cleaning chemicals to remove hard water stains and limescale
If you use a commercial tub, sink, and tile cleaner to remove mineral buildup, look for one that contains “sequestrants” such as phosphoric, hydrochloric, or hydroxyacetic acids, which capture and deactivate the minerals in the water.
Abrasive cleaners should be used with caution because they can scratch the surface of your plumbing fixtures, sinks, and tubs, causing hard water deposits to build up even faster. All-purpose cleaners can be useful for cleaning on a regular basis and removing hard water stains and soap scum.
For proper cleaner use, follow all manufacturer’s instructions. Many of these products emit strong fumes, so make sure you have enough ventilation.
How to Prevent Hard Water Stains?
The key to removing mineral deposits, stains, and lime scale buildup from hard water is prevention.
Do not allow water to dry on surfaces
When water evaporates, mineral deposits from hard water are left behind, so wiping surfaces dry is critical to preventing stains. After each shower, use a rubber squeegee to remove water from the glass shower doors.
Use a spray cleaner on shower doors
If you don’t want to squeegee your shower doors, use a shower cleaner after each use to help prevent hard water stains. Rain-X can also be applied to glass shower doors to help prevent water from drying on the surface.
Set up a water softener
The simplest way to prevent hard water stains from appearing throughout your home is to eliminate the problem entirely by installing a whole-home water softener, which requires professional installation of your home’s water lines.
Most water softeners use salt – which must be replenished – to filter the water and remove calcium and magnesium minerals, thereby preventing stains from forming in the first place.
Hard Water Problems
Though extremely hard water is toxic, it is highly unlikely that most homes have water with this concentration of dissolved minerals. The main and far more common health issue associated with hard water is that it causes your hair and skin to dry out. Furthermore, most people want to get rid of hard water because it causes plenty of bigger issues in their homes.
Harms plumbing and appliances
The most concerning aspect of hard water is the harm it causes to your home’s plumbing system. Because of the continuous flow of hard water with a high mineral concentration, trace amounts of minerals will be deposited and build up on pipes over time.
Scale build-up is a chalky mineral-based substance that restricts water flow and accelerates rusting, resulting in burst pipes and costly repairs for homeowners.
Hard water also wears down water-using appliances faster than soft water, such as heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines.
Leave white residue on dishes
Another annoyance associated with hard water is the white residue it leaves on dishes, glassware, and sinks. Even after hand washing or running it through the dishwasher, white spots may appear due to the combination of soap and mineral deposits.
Fades, stains, and damages clothes
Hard water minerals react with the chemicals in laundry detergent, reducing cleaning power and speeding up color fading. Colors in your clothes will fade faster, and stains will be difficult to remove with a wash cycle.
In fact, hard water can stain clothes the same way it stains dishes, and it can also leave behind chalky mineral deposits that damage the fabric, causing tearing and holes. Furthermore, hard water residue traps oil from the body, making clothes stiff or rough.
Should I Soften My Water?
It is entirely up to you whether or not to soften your water.
However, if you’re having issues with soap scum, reduced efficiency with your washing machine, water heater, and shower, dry hair and skin, hard water stains on your clothes, white marks on your glassware and dishes, and extra effort with household cleaning, using one of the above-mentioned solutions to reduce the hardness of your water should help a lot.
If you know how much hardness your water contains, you can make the best decision for your needs.
To get a rough idea, perform the soap test, which involves adding water and dish soap to a bottle with a lid and shaking it. High levels of hardness ions cause the solution to appear murky and with few bubbles, whereas soft water appears clear with a layer of bubbles on its surface.
You may decide that softening your water isn’t enough to protect your health and the health of your family. In that case, you can install a water filter system alongside a water softener unit, or you can choose a filter that softens water to your specifications.
Finally, how you treat your water – and whether you treat it at all – is entirely up to you. Just make sure you do a lot of research before making a purchase to avoid disappointment. If you need more information on water softeners, you can consult my buyer’s guides (linked above).
I’ll wrap up with a quick tip for removing hard water stains from your water appliances. White vinegar is an excellent cleaner for appliances such as coffee makers, shower heads, and faucets. Simply pour vinegar into your appliances, or soak paper towels in vinegar and wrap them around the problem areas of your faucet, securing them with a rubber band.
Let it sit for an hour before running the machine and removing the vinegar, or wiping down the faucets and shower head.