What is hard water?
Water that contains high amounts of dissolved minerals, typically calcium and/or magnesium.

Where does hard water come from?
Water, a good solvent, moves through soil and rock and dissolves small amounts of minerals. Calcium and magnesium are the two most common minerals that make water "hard”.

What are the problems with hard water?

  • Clothes washed in hard water look “grey” and do not fell soft.

  • The minerals in hard water combine with some soils, making them difficult to remove.

  • Hard water can damage fibres and shorten the life of clothes by up to 40 percent.

  • Bathing with soap in hard water leaves a film of sticky soap film on the skin.

  • Soap film may prevent removal of soil and bacteria.

  • Can make your hair dull, lifeless and difficult to manage.

  • Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals (lime scale deposits) that can contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances.

  • Pipes can become clogged with scale that reduces water flow and ultimately requires pipe replacement. Lime scale has been known to increase energy bills by up to 25%

Is hard water a health hazard?
Hard water is not a health hazard.  Hard drinking water generally contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs.  It is more of a nuisance and can be costly however.

How can I tell if I have hard water?
If your white clothes appear grey and dingy or if you don’t feel clean when you wash or if there is a white powdery build-up in your drinking glasses or cups, you may have excessively hard water.  (Much of the water in Southeast Wisconsin is hard due to the underground streams that flow through rocky material.)  Your water specialist can test your water and tell you the degree of hardness.  Or you can obtain a testing kit and find out for yourself.

How do you treat a hard water problem?
In most cases, a water softener can be used.  A chemical reaction involving salt removes the calcium and magnesium.  Water softeners come in many different sizes and types.  A water specialist can assist you in choosing the best one for your specific situation.

Do water softeners add unsafe levels of salt to our drinking water?
Because of the sodium content of softened water, some individuals may be advised by their physician to bypass the water softener with a cold water line to provide un-softened water for drinking and cooking; usually at the kitchen sink.  Softened water is not recommended for watering plants, lawns, and gardens.  In general, water lines to the outside faucets also bypass the water softener.


What causes the red brown stains on my fixtures?
Water can contain high levels of iron.  This is not considered hazardous to your health, but it can cause reddish brown stains on fixtures, tableware and laundry.  These stains can be very hard to remove.  When combined with certain kinds of bacteria, a reddish brown or yellow slime may form that can clog plumbing and create an offensive odours.

What is the cure for these stains?
First, the water should be tested to define the type of iron causing the problem.  Once this is known, one or more solutions may be employed.  Often an iron filter system is used.


Why does my water taste like iron?
Water can contain high levels of iron.  This is not considered hazardous to your health, but it can cause the water to have an unpleasant taste.  Combined with tea for coffee, it can produce a black appearance and a harsh taste.  If used for cooking, it may cause vegetables to turn dark.

My water smells awful.  What’s wrong?
Unpleasant odours can be caused by a wide variety of issues.  For instance, a failing water heater can cause your hot water to smell.  Well issues can cause a strong odours and possibly unsafe condition.

What’s the solution to bad tastes or smells?
Some detective work on your part or with the assistance of a water specialist is required.  Testing may be appropriate.  Solutions can include various kinds of filters, chemical treatment, aeration, or other actions. 

You can call us, describe the issue and we will offer further advice.


Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (UV fact sheet)

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (Filter fact sheet)

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (RO fact sheet)

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (Softener fact sheet)