Many people have hard water in their homes. The term refers to water that has a high concentration of certain minerals. The disadvantages of hard water include aesthetic issues, such unsightly stains, spots, and films on dishes, and dull, faded laundry. Hard water can also cause other, more serious problems with plumbing and appliances that could end up costing a home owner money.
When people have hard water, it means that there is a naturally high concentration of minerals such as calcium carbonate, magnesium, and iron in the water itself. This condition does not necessarily pose any health risks. There are, however, certain disadvantages of hard water that people find to be quite a nuisance. One of the biggest problems is the buildup the minerals leave behind.
Depending upon the levels of concentration, the minerals contained in hard water often create visible residues. Many individuals notice brown or rust-colored stains in areas such as toilet bowls, bathroom sinks, and showers. These stains might be difficult to remove and, even after thorough cleaning, come back quickly. The stains generally continue to return unless the water is treated so as to lessen the concentration of minerals.
Those who have hard water in their homes often notice that their laundry appears dull and dingy even though they are using products and detergents designed to brighten the colors. They might also notice that the clothes feel stiff or scratchy. These are both disadvantages of hard water. The minerals in the water lessen the effectiveness of laundry detergents and also permeate the fabrics, giving many otherwise comfortable garments a rough, abrasive feel.
Similarly, when dishes are washed in the dishwasher, people who have hard water frequently notice light films or water spots, especially on glassware. In this instance, not only does the hard water interfere with the effectiveness of the dish-washing soap, but the heat helps the water release the minerals, which then stick to the dishes, giving them filmy, spotty appearances. Although this condition might be unsightly and inconvenient, it doesn’t cause any health threat.
While some disadvantages of hard water are only nuisances, there are certain issues that could result in serious and expensive problems. For instance, one of the main concerns regarding hard water is the effect it has on the efficiency of appliances such as the water heater. Over time, the minerals build up in the water heater, forming a scaly layer, sometimes called lime scale. This layer, in turn, cuts back on the ability of the unit to heat the water as it should and thus decreases its overall efficiency. Over time, the heater uses more energy and works less effectively, costing the home owner money.
Just as the minerals build up inside appliances such as the water heater, they also accumulate on the insides of plumbing pipes. Over time, the water can run more and more slowly until the pipe itself becomes blocked. If this occurs, the pipes can burst, necessitating costly repairs. Similarly, the buildup of materials can corrode certain types of pipes, causing damage and leakage.
There are various commercial water softeners available to help lessen the disadvantages of hard water. Unfortunately, many water softeners contain salt, and as a result, water treated with softener might be unsafe for people with conditions such as hypertension, who must watch their salt intake. Furthermore, some people maintain that, despite the inconveniences and potential problems, hard water is actually healthier to drink because of the mineral content.