4 Ways Hard Water Damages Your Home

If you grew up without hard water, you might be used to feeling squeaky-clean once the soap has been rinsed away. Homes with hard water, however, don’t get to enjoy the same pleasure. Hard water, which is naturally filled with suspended minerals like calcium and magnesium, can quickly sour the experience of washing your hands, body, dishes, laundry, or anything else, by leaving a film or residue behind. Additionally, it can be incredibly damaging to your plumbing system and home appliances. 

Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about hard water. Learn more about hard water damage and solutions below.  

What is Hard Water?

The term “hard water” refers to any water supply that contains a high amount of minerals, namely calcium and magnesium. 

As water travels through the Earth’s atmosphere and soil, it absorbs and retains naturally-occurring minerals along the way. Although calcium and magnesium are the most common minerals found in hard water, there may also be traces of iron, zinc, barium, aluminum, copper, manganese, and other dissolved metals present. The higher the mineral content in the water, the “harder” the water.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measures water hardness using the following scale: 

Magnolia Water Hardness Scale 1

Washington, DC, typically falls in the moderate category (at about 70-120 mg/l) on this scale. However, water hardness levels can vary depending on the season, city, and other factors. Consult with one of our water treatment specialists today to learn how hard your home’s water is and how long it takes for hard water to damage your pipes. 

How Does Hard Water Damage Pipes?

Hard water is not kind to your plumbing system. Repeated exposure to hard water will cause limescale to build up, eventually clogging the drains and decreasing the water quality. Here are four ways in which hard water can damage your home and why you should consider getting a water softener.

1. Creating Unsightly Scale

Because ancient seabeds and modern mountain aquifers are rich in naturally occurring minerals like chalk, limestone, magnesium, and calcium, 85 percent of American citizens are living with hard water. While these substances don’t impact the health of drinking water, they can leave behind unsightly scale. When you use hard water for culinary use and irrigation, limescale can form everywhere, from the jets inside your bathtub to the drip pan at the bottom of your refrigerator’s indoor ice and water dispenser. If streams of water hit your home when your sprinklers run outside, you might even notice discolorations on your stucco, siding, or brick that can look white, chalky, or even rusty. While it is true that these accumulations can be removed with CLR or vinegar, it isn’t always easy or convenient to scrub away unsightly stains — especially when they are in hard-to-reach areas like the side of your home. Certain accumulations, such as the chalky buildup that can occur around refrigerator ice and water dispensers, can even make people wonder how clean and sanitary your house really is. Fortunately, water softeners can remove these trace minerals from your water supply, making your home a little cleaner. By running the water in your home through beds of negatively charged resin beads, water softeners help you to prevent stains and reduce problems.

2. Clogging Plumbing

Unfortunately, stains are the least of your worries when you are living with hard water. Over time, hard water can even cause clogged drains, but not the way you might think. While the minerals suspended in hard water are too small to physically clog your drains on their own, they can react with soap in a way that generates soap scum that can harden as it travels down your pipes. Soap scum curds can harden into solid blockages that can mineralize as additional hard water travels through the area, creating plugs that can slow drains, interfere with garbage disposals, and clog toilets. In addition to creating sanitation hazards inside of your home, clogged plumbing can also be hard on the inner workings of your pipes, leading to problems like pinhole leaks and joinery gaps. The more frequently pipes are clogged, the more internal pressure the pipes can experience, which can lead to issues like drips inside of your walls, mold growth, and even indoor flooding. To save yourself time and money, consider a whole-home water filtration or softening unit. By filtering and softening water before it travels through your home, you might be able to protect your downtime and prevent plumbing emergencies.

3. Interrupting Water Sprayers

When hard water passes through tight spaces like the spray jets on shower heads and dishwasher arms, blockages can occur quickly, making the plumbing fixture or appliance less effective. The more spray jets are clogged, the less water will pass through the space, interfering with cleaning and straining on the device. A study by the Water Quality Research Foundation that centered around the impact of hard water on appliances found that shower heads lost as much as 75 percent of their flow rate after nine months of running hard water, while devices like water heaters didn’t even last until the end of the test. On the other hand, appliances that used soft water remained efficient, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. Because soft water removes fine particulates from water, they have been shown to double the lifespan of some appliances. Furthermore, because water softeners last as long as 15 years, they represent a smart, long-term investment that can prevent spontaneous appliance failure.

4. Increasing Soap Residues

Since hard water interferes with the formation of soap suds, many people who live with hard water assume they need more laundry detergent, shampoo, or dish soap. However, using extra soap not only drives up your monthly shopping bill but it can also damage your appliances. Many soaps and fabric softeners contain small amounts of animal fat, which can accumulate inside of places like dishwashers, washing machines, and sink drains. Over time, this animal fat can start to create foul odors, such as that characteristic front-loader washing machine smell. However, water softeners allow you to cut your soap use significantly, preventing problems. The softer the water, the more effective your soaps and detergents will be, so consider an upgrade today. If you know you have hard water and you are concerned about protecting your appliances, give us a call here at Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling today. With more than 50 years worth of experience and a commitment to our customers, we can test your water quality and help you to find a water softener that will work for your home. Call or stop by today to learn more.

What is the Best Hard Water Solution?

Homeowners use a variety of DIY solutions to soften their water supply without investing in a sound water purification system. However, these “solutions” are not a long-term fix and can become as much of a nuisance to maintain as living with hard water. The BEST way to guarantee that only fresh, clean water runs through your plumbing system is to install a whole-house water filtration system with the help of a professional plumber. 

These water purifiers can be installed at the base of your water supply line, treating water as soon as it enters your home plumbing system. They are durable enough to ensure your family has access to only clean water for years to come. Therefore, they are a sound investment for any homeowner in the Washington, DC, area looking to protect their plumbing from hard water damage. 

If hard water is clogging your pipes or leaving residue behind, it’s time to consider upgrading to a water treatment system. At Magnolia, we carry an assortment of hard water solutions, including: 

Our water treatment specialists can determine which solution is right for you after performing a water quality test. Contact our Washington, DC, plumbers to learn more.