No. Although using hard water may irritate skin and hair and wear out clothing and plumbing fixtures over time, drinking it has no adverse health effects whatsoever. In fact, drinking hard water regularly may be healthy, as it provides a beneficial source of calcium and magnesium.
The common misconception that hard water is bad for you probably stems from the fact that it is bad for pipes, clothing, and your skin. To clear up the confusion and inform your decision on how to treat your water, here’s what you should know about hard water, including the effects it can have on both you and your home:
What is hard water?
Hard water is water that contains high concentrations of dissolved calcium and magnesium particles. It may also contain trace amounts of a variety of other minerals. Water is considered “hard” if it contains more than 60 miligrams of mineral particles per liter.
Hard water is very common because water is naturally a very effective solvent for calcium and magnesium. As water moves through soil and rock, it dissolves very small amounts of the minerals in the ground. Those minerals are held in the water, hardening it in the process. Hard water is very common in the US.
How hard water affects your health
Drinking hard water has no negative effects on your health. Even drinking “very hard” (<100 miligrams per liter) water is not considered a health risk. In fact, calcium and magnesium are important parts of a daily diet, so drinking it can actually have minor positive health effects. Very hard water could actually be a major contributor of calcium and magnesium to your diet, though it may taste or look strange.
It’s important to note: water softening and water treatment are two completely different processes. Hard water and untreated water are not the same things. City municipalities don’t soften water, but they do treat it. All water that is provided by municipal systems is treated. You should never assume untreated water (from a pond or other freestanding source) is safe to drink. The only water you should ever drink is treated water!
How hard water affects your skin and hair
Hard water can hurt hair and skin in two different ways. One: it tends to leave behind “soap scum” when you use it to wash. This happens when the ions in the calcium and magnesium particles combine with the soap. Soap scum is a sticky, clinging residue that can clog pores on your skin and scalp. Clogged pores can’t release their natural oils, which can lead to acne and eczema.
Hard water can also wear on your skin and hair for the simple reason that it’s coarse. The minerals in the water aren’t large or rough enough to actually scratch you, but they do generate some amount of friction. This friction can rub away at your hair and skin, distressing and drying it out over time. Using it to bathe may result in a drier scalp, dry or broken out skin, and skin or scalp discomfort.
How hard water affects your clothes
When you wash your clothing in hard water, the calcium and magnesium deposits wear them out in a few ways. First, the calcium and magnesium deposits themselves cling to and stay inside the fabric. This will distress the clothing and make it fade faster than it might otherwise. These minerals may also carry dirt and soap particles into the fabric along with them, discoloring the clothing.
Finally, calcium and magnesium can bond with laundry detergent just as easily as regular soap. That means soap scum can build up in your laundry and on your clothing as you run your wash. Over time, this soap scum could cling to clothing and stain or streak it. Ultimately, excessively hard water may make your laundry stiffer, weaker, stained, streaked, yellowed, or greyed.
How hard water affects your plumbing
As hard water passes through a plumbing fixture, it leaves some of its mineral deposits behind. Over time, these mineral deposits build up on the sides of fixtures and harden, becoming “scale” or “limescale.” Scale is a problem because it can impede the flow of water through your plumbing, which can cause all kinds of damage. Scale clogs can increase water pressure, force leaks or wear down any and all of your fixtures, including faucets, pipes, showerheads, and more.
Scale tends to be a particular problem for water heaters. When water is heated, some of it evaporates. When this happens, the minerals inside that water precipitate, collect, and solidify as scale. This is why hard water tends to create sediment buildup in the bottom of water heaters faster than soft water. The harder your water, the faster minerals will build up in and choke out your water heater.
Hard water may not be dangerous, but it isn’t difficult to see why so many people use water softeners. It can be tough on your body, your belongings, and your home over time. Softening your water often proves not only the more comfortable, but also the more cost-effective choice in the long run.
If you’re interested in learning more about water softening, give Ben Franklin Plumbing a call. Our experts can help you find and install the right water softener for your home and needs, quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Every time.