How To Know If You Have Hard Water

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If you have tap water in your home, you should consider taking a sample and have it tested to ensure the water is not just clean, but also soft. Hard water is a major problem in many homes, but most people have not identified it as the root cause of the problems they are experiencing. Read on to learn how to know if you have hard water.

Hard Water Explained

Hard water is simply water containing minerals. While the water may be clean and clear, its chemical composition is not the same as that of soft water. This is because there may be ions of magnesium and calcium, which can react with other elements, such as metal piping or soap, and cause problems. Water is normally treated with chlorides, which combine with calcium and magnesium ions to form calcium and magnesium chlorides. These salts exist in solid form, so they can easily be removed.

How to Know if You Have Hard Water

Hard water behaves differently from soft water, so there are many signs you will notice if you use hard water. The following are common indicators of hard water in your home:

1. Clothes Have Stains Even After Washing

a stained shirt

When you have hard water, the detergent you use to wash clothes will go towards softening the water as opposed to removing stains from your clothing. As the water softens, mineral deposits may stain your clothes further. If your clothes either don’t get clean after washing them or they get more stains, you should know that you have hard water in your home.

2. Tap Water Smells or Tastes Funny

a faucet that is clogged

A sure sign you have hard water in your home is a metallic taste or unpleasant smell when you try to drink tap water. The metallic taste is a sign of too much iron in your water while an egg-like smell means that you have magnesium ions in your water supply, which react with bacteria to form sulfates. If tap water tastes like actual dirt, you should know that it has been contaminated with sediment, algae or old plumbing.

3. Stains on Tiled Shower Walls and Floors

bathroom tiles with hard water stains

If you constantly have to clean your bathroom walls, tiles and curtains to remove stains, you are probably using hard water in your bathroom. Most people normally blame the soap they use, but the problem is actually with the water. If you do not take steps to soften the water, you will have to continue cleaning the stains for eternity.

4. Skin Irritation

skin irritation

Hard water contains minerals that may react to the skin especially when a detergent or soap is used. As a result, you may experience skin irritation. If you always have itchy skin after taking a bath or shower, you probably have hard water in your plumbing. Unfortunately, boiling will not do much to soften the water as the minerals will still be present in the hot water.

5. Spots on Dishes and Utensils

hard water stain on a glass

A common sign of hard water in the kitchen tap is spots on glassware, dishes and flatware. This is not part of the drying process; it’s a clear sign of hard water. Some people often think that they did not use enough detergent or that they did not rinse the dishes properly. The truth is that they used hard water to clean the dishes.

6. Clogged Water Pipes

a pipe that is clogged

If you have metal pipes in your plumbing system, the calcium and magnesium ions will react with the metal and form scale around the inner walls of these pipes. Over time, the thickness of the scale will increase until the pipe is completely clogged. Close inspection by a qualified plumber will reveal that hard water contributed to clogging of your water pipes.

7. Problems With Your Water Heater


Electric water heaters have heating elements, which are directly exposed to water. If you have hard water in your home, there will be sediment buildup around the heating element. This will reduce the efficiency of the system as the heater will have to work harder to heat water. Consequently, your water heating bill will increase significantly. The life expectancy of your water heater will also reduce.

8. DIY Water-Hardness Test

While all these signs indicate that you have hard water, you can also do a test to check if you have hard water as well as the level of hardness. All you will need is a 12-ounce bottle and some liquid hand soap. Open a faucet and fill the bottle until it’s filled three-quarter way. Add 10 drops of liquid hand soap and close the cap. Shake thoroughly for a few seconds and open the cap. If bubbles come out of the bottle immediately, you have soft water. If there is little bubbling, add five more drops of detergent and shake harder. The number of drops it takes to have the water bubbling is a measure of the hardness of your water.

Here are some more resources to help you fix up your hard water issues: