How to Test Your Water for Hardness

It is standard for our tap water to contain a range of minerals. Some of these include potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, iron and zinc. A steady supply of these minerals is easy for our bodies to absorb and even contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
woman’s wrist underneath running water

It is standard for our tap water to contain a range of minerals. Some of these include potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, iron, and zinc. A steady supply of these minerals is easy for our bodies to absorb and even contributes to a healthy lifestyle. However, an abundance of minerals could prove to be more harmful than we think, and that’s why it’s important to master how to test for hard water at home. A test can help you to learn more about the state of your home’s H2O supply at any given time.

According to a U.S. Geological Study, 85% of the water in the U.S. is hard. That is, it contains very high amounts of calcium and magnesium. These elements could cause a series of problems in your household.

Research institutions across the world conduct water hardness tests regularly. This guide will explore what they are, the issues they pose, and how you can conduct your own test at home.

What Is Hard Water?

A high amount of mineral ions can lead to “hard water.” These minerals could be present because the water that comes to you flows through or over rock formations and comes in contact with rock minerals for extended periods. By the time it reaches your home, it has collected an excess of minerals, like calcium and magnesium, among others.

You can temporarily reduce hardness simply by boiling it to drive out any excess magnesium and calcium. However, permanently hard water contains a much higher concentration of ions that require other methods of softening. A hardness test will need to be undertaken to test the hardness level.

If you notice any of the below issues occurring in your home, we would recommend that you learn how to test for hard water at home.

The Problems of Hard Water and How to Know When to Test for Water Hardness at Home

Hard water can cause a number of issues in your home. Some are mildly inconvenient, like the unpleasant smell, taste, or appearance of water. They can be fixed quickly by letting your tap run for longer and boiling the liquid, which is generally safe for consumption. Hard water, however, can cause long-term problems within your home and your appliances. You will need to learn how to do your own test so you can find out just how hard your H2O is and prevent any issues later down the line.

Some common problems of hard water include:

  • The build-up of limescale. You will start to notice a hard crust in your pipes, showerhead, and appliance fixtures. A common sight is limescale in your faucet nozzle, kettle, and coffee maker. 
  • Reduced lifespan of your appliances, clothes, and property. Hardness causes more wear-and-tear of the goods that come in contact with it.
  • Spotty glassware and dishes. Your utensils and glasses are more likely to have stains and can appear filmy and spotty instead of clear.
  • Reduced pressure due to the building of sediments and mineral residue. If not taken care of soon, it can cause your pipes to clog.
  • Skin irritation and hair damage. Those with dry or sensitive skin may notice that hard water makes their condition worse and leaves hair feeling dull and worn out.
  • Increased expenses. Hard water leads to buildup in your pipes and heating system. This increases your utilities and maintenance bills and means that you need to take care of your appliances more frequently than expected.

Conduct a water hardness test as soon as you notice any issue that is causing a hindrance to your home and lifestyle so that you can take appropriate action. It is up to you whether you feel that a test is necessary. However, knowing the hardness level earlier than later will help you to be ready for whatever issues may occur because of it.

How to Test for Hard Water at Home: Find Out for Yourself

There are plenty of ways you can administer a test yourself in your home and property. Here are some tips for doing your own tests:

Use Soap

Carrying out a soapsuds test is quick, easy, and cost-effective. When hard water comes in contact with soap, it prevents the soap from lathering, and the soap will stick to your skin in a film, rather than bubbling. You can administer this water hardness test on your skin by paying attention to how much lather is created.

Another way to conduct a soap-based test is by adding a few drops of soap into a clear bottle filled with liquid from your tap. Then, shake it to observe if foam and bubbles are created. If you are left with a milky consistency without much lather, then your supply is hard. We recommend that you conduct your test using basic non-scented soap with very few chemical properties.

Get a Home Water Hardness Test Kit

There are plenty of kits available today that you can use to conduct a water test yourself, and they come in different price ranges as well. Some companies are even happy to send you a test strip for free to help you to get started.

A testing kit makes figuring out how to test for hard water at home easy. It supplies you with strips that you will need to dip into your tap stream for a couple of seconds. Once the strip is immersed, you can compare the color result with its accompanying color chart. Or, depending on the type of test kit, you can send the sample to a testing laboratory for a more in-depth analysis.

Professional labs have the resources to conduct a test for heavier chemicals, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or E. coli and other bacteria. Knowing the results of a test will give you peace of mind and the clarity to deal with an issue in the best way possible.

Ask the Authorities

If you live in the U.S., your area will usually have a standard for your drinking supply set by the EPA. You can contact your local municipality or provider and ask for a water hardness test result and report. This can be done online or over the phone. Simply provide your area code and address, and ask for a test for your district.

Tests conducted by your water provider can be hard to understand and too technical most of the time. These tests may not always be as up to date or accurate as they would have been if administered at the main H2O treatment facility. The flow can pick up impurities and minerals along the way. Also, a water hardness test conducted at your home and one conducted at the facility can differ.

However, the tests can provide an overview of the hardness level in your area. Even if you live in a very high hard-water zone, your home may not show the same signs. An individual test for each property will provide a more accurate overview.

Look for Physical Signs

As mentioned above, hardness can leave visible signs of wear-and-tear on your appliances, your fixtures, your property, and even your physical self. The unmistakable crusty scaling of taps, pipes, metal appliances, and even your dishes is the first noticeable sign for most.
Pay attention to how it feels when you wash the dishes or take a shower. Can you see right through a glass of liquid, or is it a bit cloudy? A filmy liquid is filled with minerals and is harder than clear H2O is. A hard flow leaves stains on your sink, on your bathtub, and sometimes on your clothing as well.

Visible water hardness tests are done naturally and are common across the world. Research has shown that water hardness can play a role in weakening the hair, and many people install filters to their showerheads to prevent excessive hair shedding and skin damage. Many new parents conduct tests when they are expecting babies and prefer to boil any water they use for the babies’ consumption, bathing, and washing.

Hardness Levels in Your Home

Most households today each have a hard H2O supply. This is a common phenomenon and an accepted way of life. It is only when the hardness causes serious damage to your livelihood that you would take notice and administer a water hardness test.

Many of us will soon tire of scrubbing away and removing limescale on our appliances and gadgets. There are many quick fixes available to us out there. For more serious problems, it is recommended to seek professional help to administer a test and solve any issues.

Which Test is for You?

To get accurate and helpful results from a test, seek non-biased kits and professionals from well-known establishments. You can choose to treat hardness yourself or call a professional to soften your supply for you.

Use these methods to conduct your own test and determine the best course of action to suit your lifestyle and household. Some people choose to treat water hardness using salt-based softeners, and others prefer salt-free softeners, as they are gentler on the environment. A water hardness test conducted early and as soon as possible will save you time, energy, and costs in the long run before any serious damage is done.

Regardless of which test you choose to administer, your ultimate goal is the safety and wellbeing of your family. Do ample amounts of research about the hardness level in any new area you move to or travel to, and look up how to test for hard water at home to determine the best actions to take.

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