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Do I Need a Water Softener? 8 Telltale Signs

Do I Need a Water Softener

Water softeners use the process of ion exchange to produce soft water – water that is free of hardness-causing minerals. When you buy a new home, it obviously doesn’t come with water softening system already installed. But you might find that you’d benefit from buying a system and installing it at your home’s water point of entry.

There’s been a growing demand for water softeners recently, which may have left you wondering whether you’re missing out if you don’t have one yourself. If your water comes from a city water supply, it’ll naturally contain hardness-causing minerals, namely calcium and magnesium. While hard water isn’t bad for our health, water with high levels of hardness can have some unpleasant side-effects around your home. This guide will provide you with all the information you need to decide whether you need a water softener for your family.

1. Residue on Clean Dishes

If you’ve just washed your dishes or taken them out of the dishwasher, take a look at them now. Hard water stains look white and hazy, and are most easily noticeable on glassware. These stains are caused by a build-up of minerals, including calcium and magnesium.

If you have a glass coffee pot, you may notice the same hard water deposits on the inside of the surface. It’s very difficult to remove these hard water stains from your kitchenware, especially if you only ever wash them in hard water.

hard water stains
Hard water spotting

2. Itchy and Irritated Skin

Hard water contains minerals that leave behind a soapy residue. When you wash in hard water, the soapy residue that’s left behind clogs pores, which your body uses to secrete oils. One of the most common skin conditions caused by blocked pores is acne, which causes irritation, usually on the face, shoulders, chest and back. Eczema, a condition that causes dry, irritated skin, can also be exacerbated by blocked pores.

Water hardness also strips away your skin’s natural moisture, which can leave it feeling dry and flaky. A long-term effect of these mineral deposits is premature aging, caused by the formation of free radicals, which calcium, magnesium and iron in particular have been linked to.

3. Dry and Flaky Hair

Speaking of dry and flaky, it’s not only your skin that’s effected by water hardness. There are various signs that indicate hard water may also be taking its toll on your hair. These include a dry or itchy scalp, with dandruff or dead skin; split ends; hair thinning; stunted hair growth or even hair loss; and dull or frizzy hair.

A hard water mineral build-up can coat the hair strands, making them heavier and giving them a dull frizzy appearance. It strips hair of its natural oils, which can trick hair into thinking it needs to be washed more frequently – and the more frequently you expose your hair to these hard-causing minerals, the drier it will become. These minerals may also make the scalp itchy, which could lead to an increase in dry, flaky skin and irritated scalp conditions. Using a shower head water softening system should help to prevent these common hair and scalp conditions.

4. Water Stains in Sinks & Tubs

You may notice hard water stains on your bathroom fixtures, including your sinks and your tubs. The easiest places to spot hard water stains are on your chrome faucet fixtures and on your glass shower screens. These stains have a gritty sort of feel – unless your hard water also contains iron, which may result in slimy reddish-brown deposits on surfaces.

Soft water, on the other hand, doesn’t leave noticeable residue, as it doesn’t contain magnesium or calcium. If you hate having to spend hours cleaning hard water stains in your bathroom, you’ll benefit from a water softener for your home.

5. Faded or Dull Colored Clothes

Water hardness doesn’t just affect your bathroom – it can also have an impact on the quality of your laundry. Hard water will interact with your detergent and prevent it from working as effectively, which is why you’ll need to use more detergent for the same effect if you live in an area with a particularly high water hardness.

The leftover mineral deposits may result in your laundry taking on a greyish-yellow hue, and your fabrics may feel stiff and sandpaper-like. Hard water can even weaken the fibres of your laundry and make it more susceptible to ripping. While some detergents can now fight against hard water minerals, the best solution will always be water softeners.

6. Scale Buildup on Faucets & Appliances

Any appliance in your home that’s connected to your plumbing will be affected by hard water scale build-up, and this includes your plumbing itself. If you’re now thinking, how do I check scale in my plumbing? you obviously can’t do this easily unless you happen to be having plumbing work and can look inside a cut pipe.

But looking at your toilet tank and bowl, which is very closely linked up to your plumbing, should give you an idea of what you’re dealing with. Your faucets, too, are only inches away from your water lines. If you’re constantly having to scrub away a white, hazy residue, you may need a water softener for your home.

7. More Expensive Utility Bills

A build-up of mineral deposits in your home’s fixtures can decrease energy efficiency. Your home will require more energy to run your appliances, and you’ll most likely need to spend more money on maintenance in the long run. Your water heater will struggle to function as efficiently, and will have to work harder per gallon of water, which will increase your utility bills.

Inefficient water heaters, being in constant use, can be one of the biggest causes of expensive energy bills. With a water softener, on the other hand, you can improve the efficiency of your appliances and help them to maintain peak performance.

limescale in pipe
Limescale buildup in a pipe

8. Consistently Needing to Call the Plumber

On the same subject, an inefficient plumbing appliance will typically see more issues when it comes to maintenance and repairs, and again, hard water is to blame. Because your water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines are in constant contact with hard water, they’re going to experience more frequent issues in the long run.

These issues are mainly caused by a limescale build-up on the inside of your appliances. In a water heater, this will prevent the heating element from working as efficiently – which will mean it has to work twice as hard, and as a result, is more susceptible to breakdowns. A water softener system can remove the minerals that cause limescale from water, preventing appliances from being affected.