Does Hard Water Make Hair Greasy?

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Greasy hair? The problem could be triggered by washing in hard water.

Here, we’ve explained the effects of hard water on hair greasiness, and what you can do to prevent the problem at home.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Hard water makes hair greasy by affecting shampoo’s ability to lather, causing shower products to build up on your scalp, and increasing your frequency of hair washing.
  • You can remove mineral deposits from you hair by washing it with a clarifying shampoo, or using a vinegar or lemon juice rinse.
  • The best permanent fix for hard water hair greasiness isn to install a water softening system.

πŸ€” Does Hard Water Affect Hair Greasiness?

Yes, hard water affects hair greasiness. Showering in hard water can make hair greasy because calcium and magnesium deposits hinder shampoo’s lathering abilities, prevent shower products from rinsing off your hair, and causing you to wash your hair more frequently.

Greasy hair

πŸ”Ž How Hard Water Causes Greasy Hair

There are a few ways that hard water might cause greasy hair:

Hinders Shampoo Lathering Abilities

First, washing your hair in hard water will affect the water’s ability to lather with shampoo.

In an ideal situation, water interacts with the soap surfactants, causing a lather to form when you rub the shampoo into your scalp. But hard water minerals react with the fatty acids in soap, forming an insoluble layer called soap scum. This reduces the soap’s ability to lather, which, in turn, reduces its cleaning abilities.

You may notice that your hair is greasy after washing in hard water because you simply haven’t cleaned your hair as thoroughly as intended with shampoo.

Prevents Shampoo And Conditioner From Rinsing Off Your Hair

Soap scum and mineral build-up on your hair strands will also affect your ability to wash shampoo off your hair.

Hard water minerals are sticky and difficult to remove with washing. Shampoo and soap may adhere to the minerals, getting stuck on your hair and leading to a buildup of product.

Excess product in your hair will cause it to look greasy even after washing due to the presence of oils and chemicals in the shampoo/conditioner.

Encourages More Frequent Washing

The greasiness caused by product buildup and a lack of efficient lathering will, naturally, make you want to wash your hair again. If hard water is causing your hair to look greasy, you’ll wash it more regularly than you probably should.

Most hairdressers recommend washing your hair every three days or so. The more often you wash your hair, the faster your scalp will produce natural oils to replenish those that have been stripped with your shampoo. This can lead to a never-ending cycle of washing, noticing grease, washing again because of the grease, noticing grease, and so on.

Hard water causes less lather with shampoo

🚱 Do Hard Water Mineral Deposits Cause Greasy Hair?

We saw some sources that said hard water mineral deposits on your scalp and hair can create a greasy appearance, but there’s no evidence to support this claim.

Actually, mineral buildup on your scalp will lead to dryness, itchiness, and scalp conditions like dandruff – the opposite problem to greasiness!

While mineral buildup will make it more difficult to thoroughly clean your hair with shampoo, the minerals themselves won’t give your hair a greasy appearance.

βœ… How To Fix Greasy Hair From Hard Water: 4 Best Methods

Below, we’ve outlined some of the best methods to fix hair greasiness that’s caused by hard water:

1) Use A Clarifying Shampoo

A clarifying shampoo is essentially a normal shampoo on steroids. It’s designed to thoroughly clean your hair, stripping it of dirt, grime, grease, hair products – and, for your benefit, hard water minerals.

Use a clarifying shampoo routinely to remove mineral build-up from your scalp and hair strands, preventing the effects of hard water and helping your hair to stay grease-free for longer.

Clarifying shampoos should be used once a week at most.

2) Rinse With Apple Cider Vinegar

A natural alternative to a clarifying shampoo, which produces very similar results, is apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar has clarifying properties and can help to strip the unwanted hardness minerals, product, and dirt off your hair, preventing greasiness.

To use an apple cider vinegar rinse, just shampoo as normal, then combine equal parts vinegar and water. Pour the vinegar rinse over your hair, then wait 15 minutes before rinsing and conditioning as normal, then doing a final rinse.

Don’t have vinegar in your cupboards? You can also use a lemon or lime rinse – just mix 1/4 lime or lemon juice with 3/4 water, pour it over your hair, then wash and condition after 15 minutes.

Apple cider vinegar for greasy hair

3) Wash Your Hair Less Frequently

If you’re currently stuck in a wash-grease-repeat cycle, you need to get out of it. Counterintuitive as it might sound, washing your hair less will actually reduce greasiness caused by hard water.

Less washing means less exposure to hard water minerals and less product build-up. By washing your hair less, you’ll also reduce your scalp’s natural oils production, helping your hair to stay cleaner for longer between washes.

Prepare for a couple of weeks adjustment time while you get your hair used to a less frequent washing schedule. Ideally, aim to wash your hair twice a week – three times at most.

4) Switch Up Your Conditioner

If your hair is prone to greasiness, look beyond your water supply to the products that you use in the shower.

It’s possible that your conditioner might be too moisturizing for your hair type. If you have thinner hair that’s straight (rather than thicker, frizzy hair), a lighter conditioner is the better alternative to a heavy, deep conditioner.

Also make sure to only apply conditioner to your hair’s ends. The purpose of a conditioner or hair mask is to lock in moisture – something you don’t need on your scalp if you already have excess oil.

πŸ’― The Best Way To Prevent The Effects Of Hard Water On Hair: Install A Water Softener

While the above methods are great for reversing the effects of hard water on your hair, they won’t prevent your hair from getting greasy due to excess minerals in your water supply.

The only way to do this is to remove the minerals from your water, turning it soft. Using a water softener is the best way to achieve this.

How does a water softener work? When hard water flows through the softening resin, calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged with equal amounts of sodium ions, producing a softening effect. The water that leaves the softener is soft and mineral-free.

The main difference between hard and soft water is that hard water contains more minerals, while soft water has a very low mineral content (it may even be mineral-free).

With few or no minerals, soft water doesn’t leave mineral deposits, and it doesn’t hinder your shampoo’s lathering ability or prevent products from properly rinsing off your hair. As a result, using soft water in your shower can help you to sustain manageable hair that’s less prone to greasiness.

There are several other benefits of water softeners that are also worth knowing about:

  • They increase appliance efficiency and help them to last longer
  • They improve the overall health of your hair and skin
  • They’re a permanent fix to hard water, requiring minimal maintenance
  • They reduce cleaning by preventing the formation of limescale and stubborn residue on surfaces
  • They prevent water spots on dishes and glassware
  • They help you to reduce your use of soaps and detergents and get better results from using less

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ”§ Check out the full list of water softener benefits here.

Salt-based water softener system in basement

Can A Shower Filter Soften Water?

A few manufacturers sell shower filters that are often confusingly termed “water softeners”.

A shower filter isn’t a water softener in a traditional sense because it doesn’t exchange calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions, and it can’t produce soft water.

While some shower filters can prevent mineral deposits to some extent, they’re predominantly designed to remove chlorine from water. You’ll still have hard water after using a shower filter. In our opinion, water softener systems are are much better value for money, providing a permanent solution to your hair damage and greasiness, alongside all the other benefits of soft water.

πŸ“‘ Final Word

Thanks for taking the time to read this article! We hope you’ve learned everything you wanted to know about greasy hair from hard water.

The reality is that hard water has numerous effects on hair health. Aside from disrupting your scalp’s oil production, hard water can also cause itchy scalp conditions, dry hair, and even hair loss.

The best way to address hard water is with a water softener. But will it resolve all your greasy hair issues? Not necessarily.

Keep in mind that there are other factors that may be causing excess oil production on your scalp, including the products you use, your exercise schedule, your local climate, and other lifestyle factors.

While installing a water softener may help to minimize a greasy hair problem, you may need to look beyond your water supply to address other causes of the problem and say goodbye to greasy hair for good.


Is it better to wash your hair in hard or soft water?

It’s better to wash your hair in soft water because, unlike hard water, soft water can’t leave mineral deposits that make your hair dull, dry, or greasy. The difference between hard and soft water is that hard water contains calcium and magnesium minerals, while soft water has a very low mineral content (it might even be mineral-free).

Is hard water making my hair greasy?

Hard water might be making your hair greasy due to a number of reasons: hardness minerals may prevent shower products from rinsing off your hair, hinder shampoo’s lathering abilities, and cause you to have to wash your hair too frequently.

How do I know if I have hard water in my hair?

You’ll know if you have hard water in your hair because your hair will have a dry, almost sticky feel after showering. You may also notice scalp dryness, itchiness, and discomfort as a result of showering in hard water.

  • Laura Shallcross
    Senior Editor

    Laura is a passionate residential water treatment journalist who holds an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Over a span of 5 years she's written on a range of topics including water softening, well water treatment, and purification processes.

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