A lot of people are shocked when they find out how hard water can adversely affect their household. Not only that, but some of them don’t even know what hard water is, or how to test for it. Fortunately, there are many different methods to test and measure a household’s water hardness, ranging from simple soap tests to store-bought meters.
It’s crucial to learn how to test your home’s hardness levels so you can take action on how to improve water quality. But the question is: HOW? Read on as I show you all about the basics of hard water and the different methods on how to test for it.
The Basics of Hard Water
Let’s first look into what hard water is and the different levels it has.
Hard water simply refers to water with high mineral content, having calcium and magnesium. Calcium is the most common mineral that makes water “hard.” Hard water is NOT a health hazard, though it does have disadvantages in both home and industrial settings.
It can lessen the quality of washing because of a lack of sud formation with soap. Besides this, it can cause limescale within the pipes, water heaters, and other accessories. That’s why, as much as possible, hard water needs to be identified immediately and treated to reduce the disadvantages connected with it.
There are different water hardness levels to watch out for:
- Slightly hard water is between 1-3.5 grains per gallon
- Moderately hard water is between 3.5-7 grains per gallon
- Hard water is between 7-10.5 grains per gallon
- Very hard water is over 10.5 grains per gallon
Besides water hardness levels, there are two types of water hardness:
- Temporary hardness is caused by dissolved bicarbonate mineral (calcium and magnesium bicarbonates). However, this can be reduced with a softening process easily.
- Permanent hardness is a type of hardness one can’t remove. It CAN be permanently removed only through an ion exchange process, which salt-based water softeners do.
How to Test and Measure Water Hardness at Home
You’ll be surprised by the many ways one can test and measure their house’s water hardness levels. Here are the six different methods you can try:
The Dish Soap Method
This is the best way to test your water hardness levels, though it won’t tell you the exact numbers. Follow these steps:
- Get a clear water bottle or container with a cap or cover that holds at least 350ml of liquids. Fill it up with your tap water.
- Add ten drops of liquid hand soap (preferably Castile soap) to your bottle or container. Cover and shake your container or bottle vigorously. If you don’t have a cap or cover, stir it just as intensely until all soap is mixed with the water.
- Check if the mix has any suds. If you see a lot of suds, then this indicates you have soft water. If you see only a few bubbles, add in more soap.
- Add 20 drops and if you see suds, then it means your water is slightly hard. If you have to add 30 drops, it indicates moderately hard water, and 40 drops indicate hard water. For those that require over 50 drops, it means you have very hard water.
- Besides the suds, watch out for soap scum. Soft water has foam at the bottle or container surface. Minerals in hard water would react with soap, creating scum that has water appear cloudy. If you see soap scum or cloudy water, it can mean you have hard water.
Identifying Other Signs At Home
There are also different signs to watch out for, indicating a problem with hard water. Here are the following steps and signs to look into:
- Check for any white scale, as hard water minerals usually leave a white scale on your tub, sink, or shower. It can also happen within your pipes, too!
- Look into your laundry, seeing if soap scum clings on to fabric. This can leave clothes feeling rougher and stiff, sometimes not cleaning your clothes entirely and leaving white fabric looking gray while bright colors seem dull.
- When washing dishes, there may be white spots in your glassware, which makes it look dirty and unattractive. Check if your dishware has any soap scum or white stains around after washing, which can mean you have hard water.
- Hard water can also affect the way YOU wash and shower. It can irritate the skin, leaving soap film, as well as leave hair dull and stiff. If you notice you aren’t rinsing as well as one should, this might indicate hard water.
Using a Test Meter
You can purchase a water hardness meter from your local hardware store or online. Follow these instructions when using this method:
- Switch it on by holding the power “ON” button until it lights up and displays ‘0.0’
- Dip the end of your test meter in a cup of cold tap water. Submerge only the end of the meter and make sure that you uncover its notched end for testing the water accurately. Do NOT completely submerge the meter or it can result in damage.
- Wait until you see the accurate results, checking the numbers in its display. It will show your water hardness levels based on “parts per million.” For readings over 60PPM, this shows you have hard water.
- Press the meter’s “Hold” button and remove the meter from the cup without having the numbers change. Rinse out the water and dry the meter to continue using it accurately for any next tests.
Using Test Kits
There are water hardness test kits you can purchase and do yourself. You can use test strips and purchase these online or from reputable water softener companies and water testing manufacturers. Prepare a glass of water and dip the strip in the water and observe its change of color, which indicates the hardness based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
There are also water hardness titration kits, which are more accurate for homes, pools, and other systems. Simply fill a small bottle with tap water and add a chemical the kit includes. The number of drops you put until there’s a change of color shows you the water hardness levels.
Contacting Your Local Water Utility Service
If you can’t avail of any test kits, you can choose to contact your local water company instead. Your local government office or water company can inform you about the hardness levels of water around the neighborhood you live in. This is a great solution for those who own homes using the municipal or city water supply.
Companies and municipals usually have the latest water quality reports or even post it online for you to check out. However, do note that these reports can get technical and may not reflect on your individual home’s water quality.
If you’re wary about local reports and want an individual water test, then you can send a sample of your water to professional water testing labs. Take note that this is a more expensive option but gives you a detailed and accurate analysis of YOUR home’s water hardness.
Solutions to Your Hard Water Levels
Now that you’re familiar with all the different methods of testing and measuring water hardness, what are the ways to solve it? Depending on the exact water hardness level, here are ways to soften or condition your water better:
Using a Water Softener
Salt-based water softeners work by treating hard water with sodium in the form of salt blocks. Through the ion exchange process, sodium ions will remove what makes water hard, which are the calcium and magnesium ions.
So far, the most popular brands of salt-based water softeners come from Fleck! As long as you choose water softeners of the right size, it can reduce or completely remove the hardness within your water.
Using a Salt-Free Water Softener
Salt-free water softeners work by conditioning your water, usually using electricity. Take note that these are different from a salt-based water softener, as it doesn’t treat or remove the water hardness. Rather, it’s used in households with mild hard water levels to reduce limescale and the disadvantages of hard water without removing the healthy minerals in it, such as calcium.
For those that have manageable hard water levels, it can be treated with different types of substances or detergents. This can “cover” or “hide” the negative hard water effects, but it doesn’t perform the way a salt-based water softener works.
Wrapping It Up
Hard water at home can be troublesome, but there are ways on how you can solve it! As long as you have it tested and know the exact water hardness level, you can take appropriate action to enjoy cleaner clothes, dishes, and less limescale!
I hope this article on how to test and measure water hardness at home helped you find a suitable method. So start implementing any of these methods now and find the right solution for the best water quality for the family, checking water softener reviews to invest in today.
If you have any questions or want to share your experiences on testing your home’s water hardness, then comment below. All of your thoughts are much appreciated!