Hard Water is a term which is used to describe water that has high mineral content in form of calcium and magnesium. The more the mineral content, the greater the hardness in the water.
The term “hard water” was originally coined to refer to water that was very hard to work with.
Hard water reaction with soap
Hard water because of high mineral content reacts with soap to form Soap Scum. Soap scum is responsible to create a layer of scales over the surfaces in our bathrooms. It becomes extremely difficult to remove the scum if it is left for some time.
The Calcium Sulphate in hard water reacts with soap to form Calcium carbonate and Sodium Sulphate also known as scum.
CaSO4 + NaCO3 → CaCO3 + Na2SO4 (Scum – Sodium Sulphate)
In addition to this , the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water react with the fatty acid component of soap and reduce the effectiveness of soap by forming Lime Soap.
2 C17H35COO-Na+ + Ca2+ → (C17H35COO) 2Ca + 2 Na+
In this reaction, the sodium ion in soap is replaced by calcium ions. Such soaps are ineffective in washing hair , clothes and dishes . Thus hard water needs large amounts of soap to form a lather.
Hard Water effect on Hair
Each hair shaft is made up of little scales. Because of high mineral content and scum formation, these scales tend to stand up which makes your hair feel extremely rough and tangled. In such cases when the hairs are more tangled and rough, it becomes more difficult to wash and rinse out the soap. With prolonged mineral build up on the hair shaft, the hairs become very brittle and finally break down.
The minerals and oxidizers present in hard water are positively charged while our hair our negatively charged. Now even if you are washing your hair without soap then also these minerals and oxidizers will get attracted to the hair because of opposite charge. This makes the hair look extremely weak, dry and ,dead. And finally the hair shaft dies resulting in hair loss.
Diagram of hair follicle showing scales.
Thinning of hair
Baldness in men
– Sudden hair fall
– split ends
– Dull, tangled lifeless hair
– thinning of the hair
– greying of hair
– Eczema of scalp
– Brittle hair which cause hair breakage.
Effect of Hard Water on skin – Due to high content of minerals in hard water it is very difficult for other substances to dissolve like soaps etc. These un-dissolved substances leave a surface residue or scum. Hence with such a reaction, bathing or washing clothes with hard water will lead to skin irritation.
During the process of taking a bath we first lather ourselves with soaps, shampoos and various conditioners. We use these soaps in larger quantities because lather formation is very low. Now when we wash ourselves with hard water to rinse away the soap then the entire thing starts working against us because of the problematic residue which has been formed as a result of reaction of hard water with so many cleansing agents.
This residue left on the skin blocks the pores thereby leaching the moisture and natural oils from the skin causing severe skin irritation resulting in itchy, flaky and dry skin. Dry skin is one of the most common problems of prolonged exposure of hard water. People with sensitive skin or skin conditions will also often have problems when they are exposed to hard water.
Dermatitis, Psoriasis and eczema sufferers, for instance, will often experience more dryness and irritation after being exposed to hard water. Hard water simply initiates a flare up of these skin problems causing extreme discomfort. Hence the combination of hard water and such skin problems can lead to even more frequent and severe outbreaks.
- Dry skin, which is caused by hard water increases the chance of skin to get an acne outbreak.
- Hard water causes dry skin by acting on its natural oils which leads to excess itching. If the condition is not resolved at an earlier stage, skin will become inflamed and cracked.
- The mineral in hard water makes it difficult for body’s natural oils to reach to epidermis of the skin resulting in complete failure of natural antimicrobial properties of the skin.
- Itching – dry flaky skin and itching.
- Impurities present in hard water will act as free radicals on healthy skin cells. This will ultimately result in the breakdown of collagen and leads to the formation wrinkles.
Hard Water and Laundry – In hard water much of the detergent used goes to soften the water instead of to clean the clothes. Soap does not perform satisfactorily in hard water. This means that more detergent must be used at a higher water temperature than in soft water.
Hard water leaves a residue that combines with soap to produce scum also known as soap curd. .
These tiny mineral particles in hard water immediately combine with soap to act like little pieces of rock pounding over at delicate cloth fibers. This results in weakening the cloth and shortening the life of the clothing.
Usage of hard water for laundry results in quicker fading of colors and yellowing of whites, shortened fabric life, increased wear on the washing machine, and extra detergent and extra rinse and wash cycles to clean the laundry.
- Fabrics lose their soft and supple feel to become stiff and harsh.
- The fibers of fabric are considerably weakened.
- Original colour is lost and fabric becomes dingy , grayish or yellowish.
- White or grey patches especially on colored fabrics.
Hard Water and Bathroom fittings / Kitchenware – Hard water leaves behind a scum after a reaction takes place between soap and water which proves detrimental for bathroom fittings, kitchenware, sinks, tiles etc.
Film and scale can accumulate on tile and bath/kitchen fixtures.
- Blackening of costly bathroom fittings
- Deposits of scale shorten the life of water heaters.
- Glasses and dishes remain white filmed and spotted even after cleaning.
- Hard deposits (lime scale) in domestic appliances including dishwashers, washing machines and even kettles.
- Wastage of electricity and increase in electricity bills
- Hard water scale formation leads to clogging of pipes and plumbing fixtures like shower heads, causing premature failure of washing machines, hot water heaters and dishwashers.
Choking and corrosion in pipes
- The carbonate hardness salts cause deposition in tubes and pipes : Ca(HCO3)2 → CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 The calcium carbonate ( CaCO3 ) thus formed is responsible for deposition in pipes .Similarly the carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) which is released reacts with water to form carbonic acid which is corrosive and causes severe corrosion in pipes.