What is Hard Water, and What Causes It?

Like the great majority of cities around the country, Kansas City’s water is hard. What causes hard water? Hard water happens when water is full of minerals. The minerals aren’t necessarily dangerous to health. Indeed, minerals like calcium and magnesium support health, especially the health of the cardiovascular system. The problem with hard water is that it’s not good for water dependent appliances like washing machines, water heaters and coffee makers. It turns clothes dingy when they’re laundered, makes hair dull after shampooing and makes it hard to feel clean after a bath or shower.

According to the US Geological Survey, water is considered moderately hard when it has 61 to 120 milligrams of minerals per liter of water, hard when it has 121 to 180 mg of minerals to a liter of water, and very hard when it has over 180 mg/L.

What Causes Hard Water?

The causes of hard water lie in what water does as it flows underground and through reservoirs and finally into freshwater pipes in a building’s plumbing system. Why does hard water happen? As water breaks down the rocks, sand, and soil it flows through, minerals that make up the rocks, sand, and soil enter the water. Because of the nature of water, it’s almost impossible to find pure H2O anywhere on earth.

Some scientists believe that pure water isn’t even good to drink because it leaches the minerals out of the drinker’s body the way it leaches minerals out of rocks.

Why Does Hard Water Damage Appliances?

As hard water enters appliances, it deposits minerals over the components that make the appliance function. This is especially true if the water is hot. The minerals, called limescale make the appliance work harder and shorten its working life. Limescale can also accumulate inside the plumbing pipes. This can greatly reduce water pressure and clog spigots and showerheads. 

Some plumbing systems become so clogged with limescale that they need to be repiped at great cost to the homeowner. When these pipes are cut they look like a cross-section of a tree with a tiny hole in the center.

What Can Be Done?

The best way to prevent hard water from coming into the home is to filter out the minerals. This can be done by way of a water softener. The water softener can treat all the water that enters the house, or it can be placed at specific fixtures.

The water softener is made of two tanks. There’s the water softener tank and the brine tank. The softener is connected to the fresh water lines and has a discharge hose. The brine tank is connected to the softener.

The softener tank is filled with resin beads, and the brine tank is filled with saltwater. The salt can be sodium chloride or potassium chloride. First, water comes into the softener tank and comes into contact with the beads. They are negatively charged and pull the positively charged minerals in the water to themselves. The water, now cleansed of minerals, is then allowed to flow into the house.

Eventually, the beads attract all the minerals they can. When that happens the softener tank is flushed, and brine from the brine tank is allowed to enter the softener tank and wash the mineral deposits from the beads. The softener tank is flushed again, and it can resume its job of removing minerals from the water.

For more information about the causes of hard water and how a water softener works, contact our professionals in Kansas City.