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In its purest form, water is simply H2O. However, tap water is not pure. As it runs down streams, over rocks, and through the ground, water picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium. Higher concentrations of these minerals result in “hard” water. 

Water treatment plants remove many impurities from drinking water before it enters your plumbing system, but calcium and magnesium are not a huge priority. After all, drinking hard water isn’t dangerous—in fact, doing so can help you get your recommended daily intake of these minerals. However, the downsides of hard water greatly outweigh the benefits. 

This might have you wondering—how do you tell if you have hard water? The reality is many regions of the US have hard water, though some places are harder than others.  

Water hardness is measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L) of calcium carbonate. The US Department of the Interior defines hard water as anything above 121 mg/L. Tap water in the Greater Houston Area averages 135 mg/L—so yes, we have hard water. 

Beyond simply knowing the numbers, what are the other signs of hard water? Watch for these clues that you should install a water softener to reduce the hardness of your tap water. 

Rusted steel water tap image in Houston, TX

Hard Water Spots, Soap Scum & Rust Stains 

When hard water evaporates, it leaves magnesium and calcium behind, creating chalky, white residue known as limescale or hard water spots. Some common places where you might see this buildup include glass shower doors, faucet handles, tea kettles, and coffee makers.  

Hard water also prevents soap from dissolving completely, leaving a ring of soap scum in your sinks and bathtubs. Rust-colored stains in porcelain toilet bowls are another sign of hard water.  

Scale Buildup in Plumbing Fixtures, Appliances & Pipes 

Hard water causes more than mere eyesores on your bathroom fixtures. When scale buildup forms inside plumbing fixtures and appliances, it can affect performance and efficiency.  

Take your faucets and showerheads, for example. Minerals can build up in the tiny aerator openings, clogging them over time. Calcium and magnesium can also damage rubber valves, seals, and washers in plumbing fixtures and appliances, causing leaks. 

Your water heater is also at risk. Thick scale buildup on the bottom of the tank reduces heat transfer, forcing the appliance to work harder. This increases water heating costs and may shorten your water heater’s lifespan. 

Even your pipes can suffer from limescale, with reduced water flow and gradually decreasing pressure as it accumulates. Be aware that steel pipes are more vulnerable to this than copper or PVC. 

Bad-Tasting Tap Water 

Everyone has a different idea of how water should taste, and adding certain minerals can actually improve the flavor. However, most people agree that hard water tastes off. Some describe it as chalky or metallic-tasting, depending on what else is in the water. Remember, drinking hard water won’t hurt you, but the taste of soft water is preferable. 

Faded, Dingy Clothes 

Remember how soft and bright your favorite sweater was when you bought it? You haven’t imagined the stiffness and fading that have occurred over time. Before blaming your detergent, consider that the water itself could be the cause.  

The minerals in hard water can damage clothing, making the fabric stretch and fray faster. Colors also fade more quickly, causing a dingy look. Mineral buildup can even leave clothes feeling scratchy. On top of all this, hard water resists lathering, so you have to use more detergent to clean your clothes, wasting money in the process. 

Spotted Dishware and Glasses 

Do you see white spots on your silverware and cups upon removing them from the dishwasher? This is a frustrating result of washing your dishes in hard water. Unless you dry them immediately with a towel, the white residue will accumulate and cloud your dishware. Minerals can even etch delicate porcelain dishes and glasses, permanently damaging them. 

Itchy, Dry Skin & Dull, Lifeless Hair 

If you have always showered in hard water, you may think itchy, irritated skin and limp, lifeless hair are normal. However, these problems are the result of minerals clinging to your body and hair. If you suffer from psoriasis or eczema, hard water could irritate your symptoms. And you’re more prone to acne breakouts, itchy scalp, and thinning hair when you shower in hard water. 

Install a Water Softener in Houston 

The best way to combat hard water is to install a water softener. With this addition, you can expect fewer plumbing problems, brighter clothes, spotless dishes, and softer skin and hair. Redfin Plumbing can perform the installation you’re looking for! As a premier plumber in Houston, we provide numerous water treatment solutions for our customers. Turn to us with all your water quality questions, and we’ll help you find the best treatment for your situation. To learn more, please call 281-870-2373 or contact us online today. We proudly serve Houston, Cypress, Katy, Sugarland, Pearland, the Woodlands, Kingwood, and the surrounding Greater Houston area.