“Hard” water: what a strange way to describe that most flexible of substances. “That’s the common term for water that contains high levels of calcium and magnesium,” explains Mickey McHenry, Paul Davis of South Atlanta. “The mineral content makes it hard to lather soap and that’s probably what most people notice. It’s certainly safe to wash with, consume and cook with. But hard water causes very inconvenient and costly damage to homes.” 

Paul Davis is educating customers about hard water so they can take prudent steps to avert damage. Reviewing the four Ws and one H of hard water gives helpful facts fast.

WHO has hard water? Most people in North America have hard, very hard or extremely hard water. In fact, it’s easier to describe who does NOT have hard water: a chunk of the southeastern region of the United States, most of Oregon, the far northeastern swath of New England and the eastern provinces of Canada. However, water hardness varies widely from one home to the next due to individual choices of water source (home wells versus municipal supply, for instance). 

WHAT negative effects does hard water cause? The minerals in hard water accumulate on materials and substrates, which degrades possessions and home systems. The minerals sully clothing, make appliances work harder, stain fixtures and even ruin water systems by building up so thickly inside pipes that there’s no space for water to pass through.

WHEN are my plumbing and appliances hurt by hard water? It doesn’t take long for hard water to cause damage. The harder the water, the faster problems manifest. In areas of extreme hardness – which is measured in milligrams of calcium per liter (m/L) – damage can occur within a few short months. Fewer than 60 m/L of dissolved mineral is considered soft water while anything over 120 m/L is hard.

WHERE should I look for hard water damage? Hard water may show visible damage on fixtures and home items. It deposits a crunchy crust of minerals in toilet mechanisms and on faucets, stains toilet bowls, and leaves chalky residue on dishes. Reduced water flow from showers and faucets are telltale signs that pipes are affected. Most damage, however, isn’t obvious to the average homeowner because it’s hidden inside pipes and appliances.

WHY don’t public water suppliers treat water to reduce hardness? Public utilities are charged with providing water that is safe to use and that meets legal requirements and regulations. Hard water is safe to use.

HOW can I do something about it? Many homeowners install water softening systems to safeguard possessions, fixtures, appliances and water systems. One side benefit of softening water: skin and hair often feel more comfortable, too.