Interior Plumbing

15 Problems Hard Water Can Cause

Some homes have hard water—water that contains a high level of calcium, magnesium, lime, or other minerals. Hard water doesn't pose any health risks, but it can cause a number of plumbing, maintenance, and household cleaning issues. Click through to discover some of the problems hard water can create. And if these issues sound all too familiar, maybe it's time to install a water softener!
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Shortened Hot Water Heater Lifespan

On average, a hot water heater lasts 8 to 10 years, but hard water can shorten its life to as few as 4 to 6 years, depending on the amount of minerals present. Over time, limescale forms on the heating element, encasing it and reducing its ability to heat the water. As well, mineral deposits settle at the bottom of the tank, sometimes a foot or more deep, decreasing the amount of available hot water.

Mineral Buildup Around Faucets

If the surface around your kitchen and bathroom sink faucets develops a white film or stubborn deposits that are difficult to scrub away, it’s a sure sign your water is hard. This mineral buildup can often be removed by using a cleaner made for dissolving lime deposits, but it will continue to form as long as you’re using hard water.

Related: 22 Water-Saving Habits to Start Right Now

Scummy Residue on Tubs and Showers

The high level of calcium found in hard water prevents soap from dissolving and rinsing away. Instead, the soap forms an insoluble residue that sticks to tile, bathtub surrounds, and shower curtains. Even after cleaning with a product designed to dissolve soap scum, these surfaces often look dull and unattractive.

Slow-Flushing Toilet

Mineral deposits will form on any surface that comes into regular contact with hard water. Toilets tend to exhibit problems early on as impurities form inside the drainpipes, narrowing them, reducing water flow, and leading to clogs. Deposits can also form inside the tank and cause internal components to corrode, which reduces the life of the toilet.

Spotty Glasses and Dishes

No matter how much rinse aid you add to your dishwasher, your glasses, dishes, and flatware will end up with cloudy spots if you have hard water. Some homeowners report that adding distilled white vinegar to the machine helps cut down on spotting, but there’s always the old-fashioned solution: Hand-wash your dishes and dry them by hand before they can air-dry.

Related: How to Remove Hard Water Stains

Dry, Itchy Skin

It’s not just your shower walls that retain soap scum after a steamy shower. Because hard water prevents soap from dissolving, it can also leave a film on your body, making your skin look dull and feel dry. If you have sensitive skin, the residue can make it feel itchy and exacerbate skin issues, such as psoriasis.

Dingy Laundry

No amount of bleach will make your white clothes sparkle if you have hard water. Not only does the high mineral content prevent the detergent from thoroughly cleaning your fabrics, but the mineral deposits also remain in your clothing, leaving everything looking yellowish-gray and dingy.

Sluggish Sink Drains

As the minerals in hard water build up inside your sinks’ drainpipes, they reduce water flow, resulting in sluggish drainage. This also increases the risk of clogs forming when bits of food and other debris get stuck in the narrowed pipes. 

Reduced Appliance Lifespan

Appliances that use water, such as the dishwasher, washing machine, or ice maker, won’t last as long in a house with hard water as they would in a house with soft water. Mineral deposits can block small water supply lines, narrow drain lines, and build up on internal components, reducing an appliance’s effectiveness and lifespan.

Less-Than-Invigorating Showers

The shower head is often one of the first fixtures in the house to suffer from hard water. The tiny holes that once produced a refreshing spray of water quickly clog, resulting in a dismal trickle or an errant spray that shoots out at an undesirable angle.

Corroded Plumbing Connections

A small leak in any plumbing joint can be a problem, but in a home with hard water, it’s a much bigger problem. When hard water leaks from a plumbing connection, mineral deposits form in the joint itself, corroding the pipe and making it impossible to replace the joint without cutting away sections of the pipe.

Rusty Toilet Rings

Anywhere hard water stands, deposits will form. Not surprisingly, this tendency leads to rusty ring stains inside the toilet bowl. Keeping the toilet ring-free may require frequent scrubbing with powerful cleaners. 

Related: 7 Common Water Problems—and Their Cures

Discoloration of Brick Siding

It’s usually not a big deal when water from your sprinklers hits your house, but if you have hard water and brick siding, you may end up with an unattractive white haze on the bricks. These mineral deposits can be removed only by using an acid-based brick cleaner.

Latherless Shampoos

Because the minerals in hard water prevent it from blending with soaps and shampoos, you won’t get a full head of lather when you wash your hair. Depending on how hard the water is, you might not see any lather at all, and your hair may look and feel dull even after you rinse the shampoo out.

Related: 10 Ways Your Home Is Telling You to Call a Plumber

Disagreeable Drinking Water

Nothing tastes better than a cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer afternoon, but if the tea is cloudy and murky, it will probably be much less enjoyable. The minerals in hard water can make water look cloudy and can also give it a disagreeable metallic taste, depending on the concentration and combination of minerals.