Why is hard water a problem?

It stains your bath and taps, makes your hair dull and flat and eats away at your monthly budget: hard water is the root cause of many problems faced by homeowners across the UK.

But what exactly is hard water and why is it so much of a problem?

How is hard water formed?

Hard water is produced when natural, soft rainwater passes through limestone underground on its way to wells and reservoirs. Mineral compounds such as calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) dissolve into the water and the presence of these ions hardens it.

Water is commonly known as the ‘universal solvent’; however, the addition of these minerals changes the property of water by reducing its ability to form a solution with solutes such as washing detergents and shampoos.

Hard water is visible in the following ways:

  • Your shampoo doesn’t lather well, the bubbles created by your foaming bath soak disappear quickly.
  • Soap residue is left in your bath and shower.
  • Your skin is dryer due to the soap residue left after washing.
  • Limescale deposits can be seen in your kettle.

Levels of water hardness range from slightly hard to very hard.  The hardness levels of your water supply depend on where you live in the UK and the types of rock that make up the landscape around your home.

Do you live in a hard water area? 

    Are you in a hard water area?

    Enter your postcode below to find out whether the area you live in is prone to hard water.

    Hard water problems

    There are three main problems with hard water and these create a number of issues within your home:

    It has poor solubility

    Hard water is unable to form a solution with solutes such as detergents and shampoos due to the high levels of minerals that it contains; the calcium and magnesium ions react with the soap to form scum. More products are needed to create a lather that cleans kitchens and bathrooms, resulting in:

    • Higher shopping bills – more product costs more money.
    • Irritated skin – the need for additional soap means that more chemicals are touching the skin and the residue left over from the undissolved soap irritates the skin.

    It can irritate the skin

    Research has also shown that hard water can dry the skin and trigger skin conditions such as eczema and contact irritant dermatitis; it could also be the cause of acne-prone complexions.

    This irritation is caused by both the soap residue that is produced and the minerals in the hard water itself, which absorb vital moisture and natural oils from our skin, destroying its natural barrier.

    • Studies have found a link between hard water use and eczema. Sufferers of this inflammatory condition often have very dry skin naturally, the soap residue and minerals worsen this problem. When the skin dries out gaps between skin cells appear; germs, allergens and bacteria can enter these gaps, causing the symptoms of eczema.
    • The NHS lists hard water and detergent products as possible causes of irritant contact dermatitis.

    Click here for more information on the link between hard water and skin conditions.

    • The Manhattan based dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross has suggested that the minerals in hard water can block pores and contribute to breakouts.

    For more information on how hard water can affect your beauty regime click here.

    It produces limescale

    Limescale build-up in your kettle or heating pipes is the result of a chemical reaction that takes place within hard water when it is heated. It’s a costly reaction because inefficient electrical devices and boilers result in higher energy bills.

    Depending on your location in the UK, your hard water supply may contain dissolved hydrogen carbon atoms, which break down when heated to form carbonate ions and react with the calcium ions in the water to form insoluble precipitates such as calcium carbonate, or limescale.

    Find out more how hard water affects your home here.

    The solution: softened water.

    You can combat the effects of hard water on your health, your home and your wallet by installing a water softener.

    The ion exchange resin within the Harvey water softener reverses the ‘hardening’ process that takes place within the limestone.

    1. The ion exchange column contains sodium ions that are attached to resin beads.
    2. When the hard water enters the ion exchange device, the calcium ions in the water displace the sodium ions and attach themselves to the resin beads.
    3. These calcium ions remain attached to the resin within the device and the softened water exits containing the displaced sodium ions.
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