Not all water is the same. You may be wondering why there’s a filmy coating on your dishes and glasses, even after they’ve been through a dishwasher cycle. The likely culprit is hard water. According to the United States Geological Survey, water hardness is determined by the amount of dissolved magnesium and calcium in the water.
Technically, these minerals are safe to drink, but they can wreak havoc on the results you want from your water – like clean hair after showering, glistening dishes after washing them and tasteless and odorless water for drinking and cooking with.
With hard water, the minerals in the water react with soap to form the filmy residue known as soap scum. You use soap to clean things like your clothes, hair, dishes and hands, but hard water will hurt your results.
Hard water does more than make your seemingly clean items unsightly. When hard water is heated, the minerals can clog pipes and decrease the efficiency of equipment like home water heaters. Hard water can increase your water bills because your systems aren’t working optimally. You might have to spend money on repairing or replacing fixtures, too.
In Arizona, Phoenix and the surrounding area is known for having hard water. Water hardness is determined by the source. If minerals are present in the soil around a water supply well, the water may dissolve the minerals and carry them to the groundwater supply. Water hardness is measured by looking at the amount of calcium carbonate in the water, based on milligrams per liter.
You can test how hard your water is with the methods mentioned in this article. If you want to remove water hardness, learn about how a water softener can help and what to look for if you live in Phoenix or a place with particularly hard water.
How to Test Water Hardness
If you notice your water is less than ideal with how it interacts with soap on dishes, your skin, and other negative effects, you may want to test for hard water. If you live in the Phoenix area and don’t have a water softener, you likely have hard water. Here are three ways to test for hard water.
1. Water Bottle Test
Here’s an easy way to tell if you have hard water. Get a clear plastic water bottle with a cap and unscented, clear soap that is free of detergents, dyes and perfumes. Here’s how to do the water bottle test for hard water.
Fill the water bottle two-thirds of the way with your tap water. Add about 10 drops of the soap into the bottle. Shake up the bottle.
If there are a lot of bubbles in the bottle, your water is soft. If the water is cloudy, and/or if the bottle has minimal to no bubbles, you have hard water.
Hard water minerals make it more difficult to lather. This isn’t a precise test of the exact hard water levels, but it will indicate whether or not you should investigate further.
You can see just how hard your water is by gradually adding more drops of soap to see how long it takes to get suds. Maybe you’ve been using extra soap to do dishes, shower or perform other water-related tasks. You can see how costly the need to use extra soap can be long-term.
2. DIY Test Strips
You can purchase hard water test strips at most home improvement stores, or online. Packages range from around $10 to $15 each.
Here’s how DIY test strips for hard water typically work. You take out the strip and dip it into your tap water. The strip will change color. You match up the color with the level of hardness in the water, as indicated by the kit.
Each kit usually comes with dozens of strips, so you can continually test your water. If you’ve implemented methods like a water softener, you can use DIY strips to see if it’s working.
3. Municipal Water Reports
Every year, your water supplier should provide a report on water quality, including potentially harmful contaminants that have been found in the water. Some reports, like the City of Phoenix’s annual water report, include water hardness levels.
According to the USGS, here’s how the number of calcium carbonate milligrams per liter (or parts per million/ppm) affect water hardness.
|Milligrams per liter (parts per million) of calcium carbonate||Grains per gallon||Water classification|
|0 to 17||Less than 1||Soft|
|17.1 to 60||1 to 3.5||Slightly hard|
|61 to 120||3.5 to 7||Moderately hard|
|121 to 180||7 to 10.5||Hard|
|More than 180||More than 10.5||Very hard|
Your city’s water report will be a reliable indication of the water hardness level of your water.
Phoenix Water Hardness
The City of Phoenix posts its annual report online. You can see that in the 2018 report, the total hardness for Phoenix’s water was 200-283 ppm (mg/L), which is higher than the minimum levels for “very hard” water.
The Arizona Water Quality Association states that the water supply in most of Arizona is considered “hard.” That’s because Arizona soil has high levels of calcium and magnesium. According to the USGS, the Western and East-Central parts of the United States are most likely to have higher levels of hard water.
Hard water is a fact of life in Arizona. Without softening water, hard water can create scale build-up inside appliances and pipes, which makes water flow less efficient. That can drive up water bills in a place where this precious resource is extremely valuable. Hard water also creates inconvenient problems like soap scum.
Water softeners remove minerals from hard water, using a system with polystyrene beads with sodium chloride ions. As the hard water passes over the beads, the mineral ions exchange with the sodium chloride ions. The minerals are removed from the water, resulting in water that can lather and clean like it’s supposed to.
Considering the high levels of hard water in Phoenix, the highest quality, most reliable water softeners should be used to ensure hard water becomes soft. Water softeners have a “grain capacity,” which indicates the maximum number of grains of water hardness the softener can remove before it needs to go through regeneration.
For example, the Olympus Microprocessor On-Demand Controlled Water Softener is available in three models: 32,000 grain, recommended for 1 to 3 people/1,000 to 2,000 square feet; 48,000 grain, recommended for 3 to 5 people/2,000 to 3,000 square feet; and 64,000 grain, recommended for 5 to 8 people, 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. The Evolv Whole House Water Filtration and Softener System comes in 32,000 grain and 48,000 grain models.
You’ll want a water softener built to handle the capacity you need to be treated every day for you and your family. The size of a home and the level of water hardness will influence the right choice of water softener. Consult with an expert to see what the best choice for your home is.
Partner with Water Softening Experts
Hard water can negatively impact your quality of life. A water softener optimizes your water quality, so your water equipment is protected and you have the highest quality water available for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing your hands and dishes with.
A water softener can help purify your water. Contact the water softener experts at Clear Water Concepts to learn how we can help.