How to handle hard water at home

You might not give your water much thought, but if you have hard water in your home, it can affect many aspects of your life. Knowing how it affects you, your home and your family members — and learning how to detect it and what to do about it — can save you money and improve your comfort and overall health.

Looking for hard water evidence.

Hard water has higher levels of calcium, magnesium and other minerals.1 It occurs naturally during the water cycle when groundwater flows through limestone.2 When it finally reaches your home, hard water leaves behind mineral deposits called “scale.” These deposits are a common and noticeable sign that you may have a problem with hard water.3

Scale appears as a white buildup around the mouth of your faucet, on shower walls, on showerheads and in sinks or toilets. If you have a problem with scale, you might also notice that your dishwasher isn’t getting dishes as clean as it used to or that washing glasses by hand leaves behind white spots.2 Perhaps your clothes don’t feel as soft and aren’t as white or bright when you pull them out of the dryer. That’s because the minerals in hard water make it more difficult for soap to lather, which means it’s less effective at cleaning.2

Hard water can take a toll on your bank account, too. Over ten years, your water bill can be an estimated $1,500 more if you have hard water, and your water heater may use 29% more energy.4

Hard water causes the plumbing of a home to collect a mineral buildup, which can reduce water flow and eventually result in clogs or leaks in pipes and faucets. Over time, this mineral buildup can also restrict water flow in the pumps and drains of major appliances, slowly causing damage and decreasing the lifespan of everything from your washing machine to your water heater.5 For example:

  • The expected lifespan of a washing machine is 11 years; using hard water reduces it to 7.7 years
  • The expected lifespan of your toilet is 6.5 years; using hard water reduces it to 2 years
  • The expected lifespan of an average faucet is 9 years; using hard water reduces it to 5.4 years
And it’s not just your appliances, plumbing, dishes and clothes that you’ll see a difference in. You and your family members may also feel the effects of hard water in your home. If you shower or bathe in hard water, your skin can get drier.6 The minerals can also leave your skin more vulnerable to razor burn when shaving.6 If you color your hair, hard water can cause it to fade faster. You may have less volume in your hair, which can make it appear limp, and your hair texture can become dry and tangled.

Two solutions for hard water problems

Even if you have hard water in your home, you’re not stuck with it. Whole-house systems can correct the problem. They connect to your water line where it enters your home to treat all the water that goes into your home’s plumbing.

Filtration systems use heavy-duty filters to prevent mineral particles from entering your home’s water. These systems also filter out other contaminants, such as pathogens, toxic metals and pesticides.7 Using a whole-house water filtration system can resolve the effects of hard water, which means you’ll have healthier skin and hair, and your water-using appliances can last longer.7

A water softener’s main purpose is to remove calcium and magnesium from your water. It does this using a process called ion exchange. When water goes through the mineral tank, it flows through a bed of spherical resin beads. These beads remove the positive charge from the mineral-filled water. The water, with the unwanted substances now removed, leaves the tank and flows into your home.8 Instead of physically removing the minerals from the water as a filter does, the softener removes them chemically (but safely).9

Check with your local municipality for the most current report on your city’s water to learn more about how hard it is. If you discover you have hard water, you may want to consider investing in a whole-house filtration system or a water softener to extend the life of your appliances, improve the health of your family and lower your monthly water and energy bills.

Before you install a new water softener in your home, you may want to consult with a water specialist. To find a Certified Water Specialist in your area, check the Water Quality Association® website: wqa.org/programs-services/resources/find-providers/find-certified-professionals.


1 “Hardness of Water,” usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/hardness-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects (accessed Aug. 10, 2020).
2 “What causes hard water?” clearwatersystems.com/faq/what-causes-hard-water (accessed Aug. 12, 2020).
3 “Let’s Talk About the Hard Facts,” whirlpoolwatersolutions.com/learning-center/water-softeners/hard-water-the-hard-facts (accessed Aug. 12, 2020).
4 “How (And Where) Hard Water Impacts Your Home,” homewater101.com/articles/hows-whys-home-water-softening (accessed Aug. 12, 2020).
5 “Why your appliances don’t stand the test of time,” WaterRight® Group, water-rightgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/lifespan-appliances-hard-water-1024x199.png
6 “3 Ways to Get Your Lather Back,” homewater101.com/3-ways-to-get-your-lather-back (accessed Aug. 12, 2020).
7 “Do I Need A Whole House Filter?” freedrinkingwater.com/whole-house/water-filter-knowledge-base/do-i-need-whole-house-filter.htm (accessed August 14, 2020).
8 “What Is a Water Softener and How Does It Work?” John Woodard, freshwatersystems.com/blogs/blog/what-is-a-water-softener-and-how-does-it-work (Sept. 11, 2019).
9 “How does a water softener work?” diamondcrystalsalt.com/how-does-a-water-softener-work (accessed Aug. 10, 2020).

This information is designed for informational purposes only and was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. It is not legal, tax or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, Nationwide is on your side and Nationwide Private Client are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. Third-party marks that appear in this message are the property of their respective owners.

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