That’s a good question. Simply, the hardness of water refers to the level of dissolved minerals, most commonly calcium or magnesium, found in the water. These minerals are the result of your water passing through limestone deposits in the ground before the water makes its way into your water system and eventually out your faucets. The more limestone between ground level and the water supply, the higher the hardness levels will be. Though city water can be hard, hardness is especially present in well water, where water falls to the earth and filters through the surface down to aquifers or the water table from which well pumps draw water.
Water hardness is generally measured in grains per gallon (gpg). GPG refers to, just as it sounds, the number of grains of a given substance in one gallon of water. One grain is equal to 1/7000 lb. and one gallon of water equals 8.33 lbs. The guideline typically used for measuring hardness levels in residential water is as follows; 0.0-0.9 gpg=soft water, 1.0-3.9 gpg= slightly hard water, 4.0-7.0= moderately hard water, and 7.1-12.0 gpg= hard water. A level of over 12.0 gpg is considered very hard water.
One thing to keep in mind is that having hard water is NOT dangerous or detrimental in any way to your health. It can and does, however, cause problems both to your plumbing system and in your home. Hard water reacts to soaps and detergents and forms a “scum” rather than allowing the soap to lather and do its job. This presents a problem when doing laundry, cleaning the house, and yes, cleaning yourself. It can cause clothing colors to dull and white fabric to appear yellow or grey, shortens the life of fabrics in general, causes soap scum rings in your bathtub, streaks glassware and dishes and prevents the soap and shampoo you use from lathering up as well as they should when showering. On their own, each of these can seem like a minor nuisance.
But put them all together and combine them with what hard water can do to your plumbing system and suddenly it’s not such a small problem!
Hard water builds up and forms deposits that clog up your pipes. These deposits, of course, restrict the flow of your water and can corrode pipes, dishwashers and washing machines as well as the various pieces of plumbing equipment you have in your home. Maybe most importantly, hard water causes scale and sediment buildup in your water heater (as pictured in the second image) decreasing heating efficiency, gallon capacity, and the life expectancy of the water heater.
If hard water is such a problem, how do we get rid of it? Stay tuned…!