Hard Water Blues
Did you know that 85 percent of the United States has hard water, with a large percentage having what’s considered “extremely hard” water at 15 or more grains per gallon? But what is hard water and is it all bad?
Hard water is simply fresh water that contains natural minerals like calcium and magnesium. As rain falls onto the earth into underground aquifers, it absorbs minerals in the ground, carrying those minerals into the water treatment facilities that purify the water but don’t remove the minerals. Depending on what part of the country you live, you may have limestone and trace minerals in your water as well.
Hard water isn’t considered bad for your health, but it can cause all kinds of issues in your home. According to The Spruce, “Hard water can be problematic because it reacts with cleaning products, creates soap buildup, and can wear down fixtures and appliances more quickly than soft water. The minerals in hard water react with soap to create soap scum, inhibiting suds.”
If you have hard water, you will have to use more cleaning products and soap to get things clean. Those grains in your water may not be easily seen by the naked eye, but they’re slowly wearing down your clothes in your washing machine too, causing abrasion and fading. You may see mineral buildup in your dishwasher and washing machine, on your glasses and dishes, and on your shower glass and tile. Hard water also leaves scale buildup in your water pipes, hot water heater and toilet, potentially restricting water flow.
Some people install home water softeners, but those can be cost-prohibitive for many. Are there any other options?
So Many Cleaning Products
There is no shortage of options when it comes to household cleaning products. In fact, the home cleaning aisle in most grocery stores often contains the most options of any other aisle in the store. From floor to ceiling and everywhere in between, there’s likely a product manufactured to clean it. It’s why the global household cleaning products market is expected to grow at more than 5 percent CAGR during the period 2018-2022.
As a consumer, it can be confusing and even frustrating to know which products are best. For many, efficacy is only one factor in a purchasing decision. Increasingly more people are concerned with the cost and safety of the product as well. Forbes reports that consumers are more aware than ever about the chemicals in products and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found 75 percent of people surveyed say they favor companies who choose to be transparent with their ingredients.
The cleaning product industry, however, is notorious for not being transparent with their ingredients. Read the label on most conventional cleaners and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any ingredients. What you may find, however, are warning labels. Many of these products contain harmful, toxic ingredients that are added to counter the hard water effect and increase suds.
So, if harsh, chemical-laden cleaning products aren’t the answer, what is?
3 Cleaning Solutions for Hard Water
We have a few suggestions for battling hard water without exposing yourself, your family or your pets to potentially harmful chemicals. When you use our three cleaning solutions for hard water, you’ll not only say goodbye to buildup but to questionable cleaning products as well.
Use Citric Acid-Based Cleaners
Fortunately, many of the household cleaning products that are rising in popularity because of their efficacy, safety and affordable pricepoint are also ones that help with hard water. These products contain citric acid, a natural ingredient that binds up minerals in the water. Citric acid, therefore, naturally softens hard water and acts as a chelating agent that helps cleaners work more effectively.
You can find better-for-you products all along the cleaning product aisle at most grocery and big box stores. Brands like Lemi Shine contain citric acid as a primary ingredient while also listing the rest of their ingredients for full transparency. There are citric acid-based cleaners for dishwashing, appliances, household cleaners and laundry. From your floors and windows to countertops and bathrooms, you can have peace of mind you are cleaning your home with non-toxic ingredients while still getting the powerful cleaning action you expect.
Don’t Let Hard Water Stand
As hard water evaporates, those minerals still remain as residue. Minerals are hard, mind you, so cleaning them up after the water has dried can require some elbow grease. The best way to prevent those mineral deposits is to wipe up standing water before it has a chance to dry.
In your shower, for instance, it’s a good idea to keep a large squeegee inside to wipe down the glass to prevent clouding. While you’re at it, wipe down your shower walls and even the floor. Alternatively, use a towel to give your shower a quick wipe-down before you exit.
The same thing goes for your glassware. Try not to let glasses stay wet with hard water and then dry. Instead, wipe off any excess water that may remain after a run in the dishwasher. Of course, if you use citric acid-based detergent, you shouldn’t have much or any clouding.
Clean Your Appliances Regularly
While you may not be able to prevent hard water deposits in your pipes without a water softener, you can protect your appliances and extend their life with regular cleaning. Your dishwasher, washing machine and sink disposal are constantly wet with hard water. Newer models of washing machines and dishwashers may offer a “tub clean” cycle, but their instructions often call for harsh bleach or similar product. Instead, pick up an appliance cleaner with citric extracts to clean much more safely.
For a washing machine, clean it on a monthly basis to remove any buildup and mildew. For disposals, use when you start seeing drainage issues or smell the funk of food trapped inside. For dishwashers, clean with a citric acid pack once a month or, if you have a newer model when you see the notification that it’s time for a cleaning.
Hard water doesn’t have to cause you angst or require hard labor. With the right products and good practices, you can keep that pesky residue at bay while boosting cleaning power and protecting your appliances. Do your research to know what chemicals and ingredients you’re bringing into your home. The objective is to clean, not pollute. If you need help finding cleaner cleaning products, the EPA provides a helpful, searchable database with safety ratings of more hundreds of products. There you can find which products have been evaluated for both safety and efficacy.