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. However, an abundance of minerals could prove to be more harmful than we think. A hardness test can help you learn more about the state of your home’s H2O supply at any given time.
According to a US Geological Study, 85% of the water the United States 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 this is, the issues it poses, 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 by simply 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 water 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 consider testing your water.
The Problems of Hard Water and When to Carry Out a Water Hardness Test
Hard water can cause a number of issues in your home. Some are mildly inconvenient like an unpleasant smell, taste or appearance of water, and 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 conduct a hardness test to find out just how hard your H2O is and do so as soon as you notice any issue.
Some common problems of hard water include:
- The build-up of limescale. You will start to notice a hard crust in your pipes, shower head 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 build-up 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 you can take appropriate action. It is up to you whether you feel that a water hardness test is necessary, but knowing the hardness level earlier than later will help you be ready for whatever issues may occur because of it.
Water Hardness Test: Find Out for Yourself
There are plenty of ways you can administer a hardness test yourself in your home and property.
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 water hardness test is by adding a few drops of soap into a clear bottle filled with liquid from your tap and shaking 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 little chemical properties.
Get a Home Water Hardness Test Kit
There are plenty of kits available today that you can use to conduct a water hardness test yourself, and they come in different price ranges as well. Some companies are even happy to send you a hardness test strip for free to help you get started.
A testing kit 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 water hardness test kit, send the sample to a testing laboratory for a more in-depth analysis.
Professional labs have the resources to conduct a water hardness test for heavier chemicals like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or E. coli and other bacteria. Knowing the results of a hardness test will give you peace of mind and the clarity to deal with an issue the best way.
Ask the Authorities
If you live in the US, your area will usually have a standard for drinking supply set by the EPA. You can contact your local municipality or provider and ask them for a water hardness test result and report. This can be done online or over the phone. Simply provide them with your area code and address and ask for a water hardness test for your district.
Hardness tests conducted by your water provider can be hard to understand and too technical most of the time. These tests may not always be up-to-date or accurate, as they would have been administered at the main H2O treatment facility. The flow can pick up impurities and minerals along the way and 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, fixtures, 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? Filmy liquid is filled with minerals and is harder than clear H2O. A hard flow leaves stains on your sink, 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 shower head to prevent excessive hair fall and skin damage. Many new parents conduct a water hardness test when they are expecting a baby and prefer to boil any water they use for the baby’s consumption, bathing and washing.
Hardness Levels in Your Home
Most households today 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 water hardness test and solve any issues.
Which Water Hardness Test is for You?
To get accurate and helpful results from a hardness 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 hardness 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 more gentle 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 water hardness 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 conduct your own hardness test to determine your actions.