Identifying and Dealing with Hard Water Problems in Your Home
There are few things in your daily cleaning more frustrating than afterwards having troublesome spotty dishes, stained porcelain, and showerheads/faucets that get clogged closed. If you are one of many families in the Midwest who suffer from the pesky problems of hard water in your home, there are ways to permanently deal with them. But, first, here are a few tricks and tips that can help you with your kitchen and bathroom cleaning…
Hard Water Spots & Stains
Hard water is caused by an abundance of calcium and magnesium minerals in your home’s water supply. Over time it has collected from the water traveling through the ground and the unseen rock formations underneath the earth. In our area, up to 85% of the water provided to homes is considered “hard,” according to a U.S. Geological Survey.
The common signs of hard water in a house can include gray or red/brown stains in shower drains and toilet bowls and shower drains, a chalky white buildup on showerheads and faucets, annoying soap scum buildup in tubs and showers, spotty dishes after washing them, and calcium deposits inside water-using appliances (like a room humidifier).
If you have some or all of these hard water signs, you understand these can be a challenge to clean. They can take a lot of work to scrub away or even a soaking them with harsh cleansers to break up the mineral deposits. What’s the easiest and best way to rid your home of the stains hard water leaves behind?
Methods to Dealing with Hard Water Issues
If you don’t deal with the problems of hard water, they can eventually cause issues within your plumbing, permanent staining, and could even shorten the lifespan of your appliances.
Toilets that are Stained
That nasty looking reddish-brown and/or dingy gray stains around the inside of your toilet bowl can be embarrassing, especially when you have guests over. One way to deal with them is pouring a mixture of Borax and vinegar into the toilet bowl to allow them to react with the minerals, helping to loosen them. Leave it to soak for a while, then grab a toilet cleaning brush and use some elbow grease to scrub the stains away. If Borax is not available from your favorite retailer, you can also try using a mixed solution of vinegar and water. This may be enough to loosen the mineral deposits and scrub them down the drain.
Hard Water Spotty Surfaces
When hard water evaporates, the calcium deposits are left behind and often appear as cloudy or white spots. A simple mixture of white distilled vinegar and water often does a good job to remove this residue. Find an empty spray bottle and pour the mixture into, then spray on areas with the hard water spots (often in bathtubs, showers and in the kitchen). Allow the vinegar/water solution to sit for at least 15 minutes and wipe it away with a soft cloth. If the stains are on a clear glass surface, you may want to try using a microfiber towel to clean the spots away while avoiding streaks being left behind.
Soap scum and hard water are companions. Calcium minerals attach to many soaps, turning into a sticky, slimy mess that leaves a film inside your shower, tub, sinks and other places. If your vinegar mixture alone doesn’t quite break up the soap scum, try adding some degreaser dish soap to your mixture. That will often do the trick!
Showerheads and Faucets Clogged and Stained?
Ever get in the shower and discover the showerhead isn’t pumping out the water pressure like it used to? This is very likely from hard water mineral buildup that accumulated throughout the head, causing blockage and affecting water flow. To resolve the problem, soak the showerhead in a bowl of white vinegar. If you have excessive calcium buildup, you may want to try this instead with a heavy-duty cleaner like CLR®, designed for such big problems. Let the showerhead soak for a few minutes, then use a strong cloth or brush to scrub away the buildup. Note that some cleansers are very strong and you should carefully follow the directions to not damage your showerhead or burn your skin.
If the showerhead has an abundant amount of calcium, you may need to repeat the process another time to completely clear it and it flows like new. Note that if you are trying to clean a faucet through this method, or you are unable to remove your showerhead, consider filling a plastic bag with the vinegar solution and using a zip tie with rubber band or tie to hold it while the faucet soaks.
Dishes that are Spotty
Even after you wash your dishes, if you find white spots on them, hard water is likely the problem. Hard water is not only a visual nuisance, it can also cause issues with the operation of your dishwasher. We recommend you clean the unit at least once a month. To clean your dishwasher, get some gentle soap and an old toothbrush to scrub away food and grime from the hard-to-reach places. Another tip to help clean your dishwasher is to place a cup, full of white vinegar, placed upright on the top rack of the appliance and allow it to run and cycle to loosen and remove some of the mineral deposits left behind over time.
Glass and plastic plates, dishes, and cuts that have spent years been washed by hard water may permanently appear cloudy – even after trying to clean them with vinegar. The calcium and magnesium in hard water are hundreds of thousands of microscopic pieces of dissolved rock. When hard water from the dishwasher sprays the glassware with hard water, it is almost like using a sandblaster against the surfaces, etched by the minerals. Even hand-washing these, the abrasiveness of the dissolved rock will scratch the surface as you are rubbing them.
Simply put, hard water a pain in the glass!
Stopping Hard Water Problems for Good
Signs of hard water minerals in your water are easy to spot. The challenges of dealing with the mess it leaves behind can be time-consuming, embarrassing, and in some cases, reduce the lifespan of your water-using appliances. A permanent solution to all of these hard water problems is to install a water softener system. These use a process called “ion exchange,” which quickly removes those pesky hard water minerals from your water supply before it reaches faucets, showers, toilets, appliances, etc. throughout your home. Having soft water is more effective with soap, giving you a spot-free shine when cleaning your home.
Adding a water softener has even more benefits than you might think to all of the areas in your home you can’t see as well. If you do not have a water treatment system, or it needs an update, now is the time to consider doing so. In addition to having peace of mind about home cleanliness, soft water is better for your laundry and dishes as well as your hair and skin.
To learn if your water quality could be improved, contact Futuramic’s Clean Water Center to request one of our local water treatment experts come to your home for a free, no-obligation water assessment.