Unless you’ve already had your water tested, you may not know if you have hard water. Evidence of hard water buildup can take months or years to develop. While most homes have hard water to some degree, not all homes will benefit from a water softening system. How can you test for hard water? How can you tell if you need a water softener?
Look for Signs of Hard Water
One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine if you have hard water is to look for evidence of it. Mineral deposits, or scaling, are a telltale sign of hard water. These deposits are left behind after the water evaporates. You may see white spots or powder on your dishes, or film developing on the inside of your glassware.
Hard water may also stain sinks and tubs. Faucets and showerheads may become corroded over time. If you see any evidence of corrosion or hard water staining, there’s a good chance that your home has hard water.
The Water Bottle Method
The water bottle test is another method that will give you an idea of whether or not you have hard water, although it’s not precise. It will test your water’s reaction with soap to determine whether or not you have hard water.
- Add 1/2 cup of tap water to an empty water bottle.
- Add 10 drops of dish soap to the bottle.
- Replace the cap on the water bottle.
- Shake the bottle.
If the soap lathers up, you likely do not have a hard water problem. However, if the water simply turns milky or cloudy with soap “curds”, you may have a hard water problem.
Testing for Hard Water
Looking for evidence of hard water is a great place to start, but finding out the precise hardness of your water will require testing.
There are a few ways to test for hard water. First, you can consider checking the Drinking Water Quality Report for your city. This report will give you a good idea of how hard your water may be, but it will not give you a precise hardness reading.
To learn the precise hardness of your water, you will need to do one of two things:
- Purchase testing strips.
- Have a water softening company test your water.
- Purchase a digital water hardness tester
Hard water test strips can be purchased online, and are relatively inexpensive. The great thing about buying your own strips is that you can test the effectiveness of your water softener after installing your new system.
If you prefer not to purchase test strips, you can work with a water softening company to have your water tested. Most companies will perform this test for free, so you can determine the exact hardness of your water. The company will also test the water again after installing your new system
Do You Need a Water Softener?
Most homes will have hard water to some degree, but not all homes need a water softening system. How can you tell if yours does?
Homes that have slightly hard water may not benefit from a water softener, and may consider buying a salt-free system that simply reduces lime scale buildup. Slightly hard water is water with a rating of 1-3.5gpg, or 17-60ppm.
Homes with moderately hard to very hard water may benefit greatly from a water softening system.
- Moderately hard: 3.5-7.0gpg; 60-120ppm
- Hard: 7.0-10.5gpg; 120-180ppm
- Very hard: >10.5gpg; >180ppm
Even moderately hard water may not have much of an impact on your home, although buildup can become a problem over time. Homes with hard and very hard water will benefit greatly from water softening systems.