Last Updated On September 5th, 2019
More than 60% of UK households suffer from hard water. If you live in one of them, it can cause many troublesome, and often expensive, issues for both you and your home. With this in mind, you may be asking yourself “Do I need a water softener?”
Luckily, it is relatively easy to assess whether or not you will benefit from the installation of a water softener system in your home. All you need to do is keep an eye out for the evidence. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common signs of troublesome hard water.
9 Signs You Need a Water Softener
If you notice any of the below signs of hard water in your home, it could be time for you to get a water softener system.
1. Limescale on Items in Kitchen
If you start noticing a chalk-like, whitish, crusty deposit on the inside of your kettle, around the sink and edges of your taps, this is likely to be limescale, one of the most obvious signs of hard water. Limescale is the mineral residue of calcium and magnesium which is left behind by hard water when it evaporates.
Limescale can also cause dirty-looking stains on your glassware, leading to frustration when you cannot get them to look perfectly clean. As if this wasn’t bad enough, you may also find your glasses break easily, as they will have been weakened by the high mineral content of the water.
Installing a water softener system will help remove these minerals and thus reduce the build-up of limescale in your kitchen.
2. Dry Skin and Hair
Just as hard water is bad for your kitchen and glassware, it is also tough on your skin and hair.
The minerals in hard water, such as calcium, can settle onto your skin and disrupt the balance of oil production. This leads to problems with flaky, dry and itchy skin, as your natural moisturisation process isn’t able to work as well. If you have sensitive skin to begin with, regular exposure to hard water can also lead to acne breakouts, rashes, eczema and even rosacea.
But it’s not only your skin which suffers; hard water can also damage the health of your hair. When using hard water, it is more difficult to effectively rinse shampoos and other products out of your hair, which can result in product build-up and rough, brittle locks.
Water softeners can extract the minerals which cause these problems; so you can look forward to healthier skin and stronger hair.
3. More Expensive Water Bills
If you have experienced quite a shock when you opened your water bill recently, it could be due to a hard water problem.
Because hard water deposits mineral residues over time, these can build up in your plumbing, damaging the overall efficiency of the system. As valves and piping begin to fail, this can quickly lead to excess water consumption and a much higher water bill.
Softened water can prevent these issues from developing further, thus keeping your water bills under control.
4. Discolouration in The Bathroom
Just like the kitchen, hard water can cause stains and discolouration in your bathroom too.
A common sign is a greyish hue to your bath or a noticeably chalky substance gathering around your showerhead or taps. In some areas with very hard water, you may also see stains down the sides of your toilet bowl where water frequently runs. These stains are unsightly and notoriously hard to get rid of.
Thankfully, a water softener can stop these mineral build-ups, leaving you with a brighter and cleaner looking bathroom.
5. Your Laundry Looks Dull
If you have been noticing your linen and clothing looks a little lacklustre, this could be due to hard water.
The high mineral content interferes with the washing process, leaving your whites dull and grey, as well as feeling rough and itchy to the touch. Coloured fabrics will also fade rapidly, losing their vibrancy.
Whilst it may be too late for your coloured items, using softened water can help to bring your fabrics back to life so you can enjoy brighter whites and soft bed sheets.
6. Appliances Fail Quickly
Another expensive issue caused by hard water is the damage it can do to your appliances.
As your pipes and plumbing become clogged by limescale and other mineral deposits, they become narrower and eventually begin to affect the water flow. This disruption to water flow presents problems not only to the working of your appliances but their lifespan too.
As time passes, valves can become encrusted and fail to work properly, causing leaks and general malfunctions as your appliances become ravaged by mineral build up.
Eventually, your washing machine, coffee maker, dishwasher (or any other water-bearing appliance) will stop working altogether – resulting in great expense and inconvenience.
— Barrett Heating (@HeatingBarrett) September 20, 2018
A water softener system can prevent this from occurring, and can certainly lengthen the life of your appliances. However, once the damage to the plumbing has been done, it will not go away on its own.
You will still need to get your plumbing cleaned by a professional, who will remove all the limescale accumulation so you can have a fresh start using softened water.
7. Water Pressure Changes
Another common sign of hard water is the changes to your household water pressure.
As the mineral deposits gather in your pipes, this narrowing can lead to low or uneven water pressure across your home.
Perhaps the clearest example of this can be found in your shower. If the shower head has become clogged with limescale, the flow of water will quickly be reduced to a disappointing trickle.
8. Soap Doesn’t Lather
This is usually one of the most well-known symptoms of hard water, so it is likely you have heard of this one before.
Being unable to bring a bar of soap to lather is a sure sign that you have hard water in your home. The reason soap doesn’t lather in hard water is that the organic acids within soap react with the minerals present in the water, resulting in curd-like soap scum which is not very useful for cleaning.
It is worth noting that detergents, such as washing up liquid, will still lather in hard water. Therefore, you may not have noticed this if you do not use bars of soap in your home.
Once you have installed a water softener system, you will find that creating a lather with soap becomes much easier to achieve.
9. Water Has a Bad Taste
The minerals contained within hard water can contribute to an unpleasant chemical or chalk-like taste.
In some areas which have particularly hard water, residents have even complained that they can feel a ‘grittiness’ to the water within their mouth. Sometimes, the water can also have an earthy smell to it as you raise the glass to your face for a drink.
That said, if you have always lived in a hard water area, you may be so used to it that you do not taste anything at all, but find your visitors comment on it.
Water softeners are safe to drink from because it removes excess minerals so your water will taste much clearer and purer.
What Do Water Softeners Do?
Water softeners contain a filter and food-grade resin beads, which, when combined with specially formulated salt, become electrically charged.
These beads then attract the mineral ions present in hard water. As the water passes through these beads, calcium and magnesium ions are drawn towards the beads and become attached to them replacing sodium ions. The sodium ions then go into the water.
The end result is soft water which flows out the other end of the filter, having left all the troublesome mineral ions behind.
Water softeners will need to be cleaned using a salt solution, which pulls all the mineral deposits from the beads. Cleaning frequency will vary depending upon the severity of your water hardness.
Many modern water softeners are able to self-clean overnight, so you can wake up to fresh soft water every morning.
Is a Water Softener Worth It?
“Do I need a water softener?” This is the question you were asking yourself before reading this article.
The answer to that question really depends upon how many of the above signs you are familiar within your home. If you are struggling with very hard water, softened water can certainly make your life much more comfortable.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the best water softeners aren’t cheap. The cost of purchasing a water softener, as well as the cost of getting it installed, can work out to be rather expensive overall. Furthermore, water softeners will require maintenance and regular salt replacement if they are to continue to work effectively.
However, when asking yourself “Why use a water softener?” you must think about the savings you will make in the long run too.
As we have seen, the damage caused by hard water can end up costing you dearly if it is not dealt with in time. Mineral deposits can endanger your health, dramatically shorten the life of your appliances, and devastate your household plumbing as well as increasing your water bills.
Therefore, a water softener should be considered as an investment which will make life much more comfortable and economical over time.
Let us know in the comments section which signs you are experiencing at home and if you need a water softener.