Don’t be a softie! How to deal with hard water

The tell-tale signs of hard water are easy to spot. A build-up of limescale, caused by hard water, can cause a white crust to form on taps, showerheads and inside kettles. But even after a quick check, your appliances look to be clean and shiny, hard water may still be present, so you can always contact your local council and check the high water level in your area.
What is hard water?
Because water is pure, it works well as a solvent. Thus, when it flows through the ground, it can pick up impurities. Hard water is water that contains an above average amount of minerals and salts, such as calcium and magnesium, which are then left behind on surfaces, developing into a white crust. The higher the amount of calcium and magnesium in your water, the harder your water is.
What problems does hard water cause?
Not only is the scaly white stuff unsightly, but hard water can also be a nuisance in other ways. The efficiency of everything from household appliances such as kettles and dishwashers to your central heating system can be affected, with the hard water forming a coat around the inside of the pipes, which could lead to blockages. Products including washing liquid, shampoo and body wash will also not be able to lather as well as in hard water compared to soft water, reducing their effectiveness during use, and a soapy film may also be left behind, even when dry. Who wants to eat off dirty plates? Anyone for have dull and lifeless hair? How about stiff and discoloured clothes? Tasteless tea and coffee?
As for your health, hard water is not a hazard. On the contrary, studies by the National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) have shown that the slight increase in calcium and magnesium content within hard water may contribute positively to a well-balanced diet.
How to deal with hard water
When cleaning, it is a good idea to wash surfaces, such as worktops and tiles with white vinegar as this will help cut through the limescale as well as any build-up of dirt. Run a dishwasher load with white vinegar to help make dishes shinier and every once in a while, boil a kettle full of white vinegar to take off any white spots or crust. Alternatively, you can rub taps and showerheads with half a lemon to really get into the nooks and crannies and break down any crust.
When using detergents, check for specific instructions for use in hard water, to save you using double the amount of product to get the same results as in soft water, wasting money and time.
If hard water is still a problem in your home, you can install a water softener or conditioner, which work in different ways to break down any minerals already present in your water system.
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