As water moves through soil and rock, it dissolves small amounts of naturally occurring minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. These minerals make your water “hard,” which can be a nuisance throughout your home.
Hard water causes a chalky scale on faucets and showerheads, rough and dingy laundry, soap scum and rings in bathtubs and showers, dry skin and hair, cloudy-looking glasses, and a shortened life expectancy of water-using appliances due to scale buildup. Hard-water residue also makes it difficult to get soaps to lather when you bathe.
One of the most common causes of cloudy dishes and glassware is hard water. As water moves through soil and rock, it dissolves small amounts of naturally occurring minerals. These minerals make your water hard, which means it doesn't rinse as well as soft water, and can result in a film left on the dishes. The minerals in hard water can also dry onto the surface of glassware, creating a cloudy film.
In its pristine state, water is colorless, tasteless and odorless. So, if your water tastes or smells funny, you owe it to yourself to find out why. If your water smells like rotten eggs, it could be hydrogen sulfide (sulfur). If your water has an unpleasant metallic taste, it indicates the presence of metals, such as iron, copper, manganese or zinc. If your water has an earthy or musty taste and odor, it’s generally associated with different forms of algae.
Brown, orange or rust-colored stains on sinks and plumbing fixtures generally indicate the presence of iron in the water. Other signs of iron are rusty deposits on clothes, a metallic taste or odor, and a reduction in water pressure from iron buildup.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there could be as many as 12 million cases of waterborne acute gastrointestinal illness annually in the United States alone. These illnesses are frequently caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoa that make their way into the water supply. And unfortunately, these contaminants can survive in the environment for months.
Soap scum is a white or gray filmy layer that can be found on showers, bathtubs, sinks, shower curtains, bathroom fixtures and even laundry. Soap scum forms when minerals in hard water combine with soap and dirt to create a layer of scaliness. The “scum” is what’s left over after the water drains. Those with hard water are much more likely to have soap scum buildup. It can be difficult to remove if left for too long, as soap scum continues to build up with continued exposure to soap and water.
Many municipal water supplies have switched from chlorine to chloramines to disinfect and kill germs in drinking water. Chloramines are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. The use of chloramines is intended to provide longer-lasting water treatment as the water moves through pipes to your home.
To kill harmful bacterial, chlorine is used at the treatment plant, and chlorine should remain in the water as it travels through the distribution system. Once the water reaches your home, the chlorine is no longer necessary.
Although chlorine is vital for stopping the spread of disease, its benefits come at a price. Chlorine tastes and smells bad. It dries skin and hair, fades clothes, and can dry out the rubber seals in appliances.
As water travels through the earth, it picks up minerals, like calcium and magnesium. When the water eventually enters your home and is heated, it forms a rock-like scale buildup. Scale is obvious on shower doors and fixtures, but it will also form in places you can’t see. Common problem areas include water pipes and hot-water-using appliances, such as your water heater and dishwasher. Homeowners frequently purchase expensive cleaners and chemicals to remove the scale, or chip away at it with sharp objects; however, they are often disappointed with the difficulty, expense and ineffectiveness of their efforts.
A variety of factors can affect how your water tastes, smells, feels and works in and around your home. Well-water quality, possible contamination, an aging water distribution system and a home's plumbing are just some of the things that can affect your water supply.
Water quality can vary from place to place and even house to house, and some water problems are not as obvious as others. But in each case, to accurately diagnose your home’s water issues, we will need to test your water.