Dealing with hard tap water
While there are strict standards in place for the quality of our drinking water, the actual hardness or softness levels vary massively across the UK and while it’s not considered to be a direct health hazard, living in a hard water area can cause problems for you and your home.
From faulty appliances to problems rinsing shampoo properly from your hair, having hard water can be a daily nightmare for many householders. If you are fed up with having a kettle blocked with lime scale and scummy stains around your sink, it might be time to consider using a water softener or water filter product for your home.
What causes hard water?
Water hardness is basically down to the levels of calcium and magnesium which end up in the water supply. The reason it varies so much from region to region is it depends on the soil and rock combinations which are found in the area you live in.
Water comes from underground originally and will have passed through various types of soil or rock before making its way to your house. If the area you live in has high levels of chalk or limestone in the ground, then your water supply will absorb higher levels of calcium and magnesium from the rocks, resulting in hard water.
If you live in an area which contains more granite and slate, you are likely to have softer water, so unfortunately it is a matter of Geography. But there are solutions out there to help you solve the water problems in your home.
How do I know if my water is hard?
Hard water affects many areas in the UK and some of the tell-tale signs you should look out for around your home are things like:
- Excessive scum and lime scale staining around taps and sinks
- Bad tasting water
- An increase in your energy bills
- Lime scale clogging up your kettle
- Blocked pipes
The reason for all of these issues is the minerals in the water can lead to pipes getting clogged up with deposits, making your appliances like the washing machine, run less efficiently, increasing your energy bills and also potentially damaging your appliances. Hard water can cause pipes to leak and shorten the lifespan of appliances compared to those running in a soft water region, or using a water softener.
Hard water also leaves visible scum marks around sinks, plugholes and baths, as well as making shower glass doors appear dirty – another way to visibly see if your water is hard and damaging your property.
Is hard water harmful to my health?
In the UK all drinking water has to comply with the drinking quality standards laid down by Europe under the EU Drinking Water Directive, which are based on guidance from the World Health Organisation. Drinking water quality is regularly inspected across the UK and the last inspection reported 99.96% quality compliance for England and Wales.
This means that all UK water suppliers have a duty to provide high quality drinkable water and there should be no need to boil it or filter it for health reasons. You should be able to use it and drink it straight from the tap.
However, this covers water quality, but does not relate specifically to the hardness or softness levels of the water, and some people do object to the taste of hard water, and also experience health-related concerns when living in an area with particularly hard water.
According to a recent report in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, regular prolonged exposure to hard water can create health issues. Problems can include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
However, the most common issues reported by people are related to skin issues, including dry skin, conditions like eczema, and irritation from cleansing products. One of the reasons for this is that the minerals prevent cleansing products from working properly, so they don’t rinse off the skin and the residue remains, causing irritation. This can result in dandruff from shampoo residue, for example. Using water softeners can help soap and shampoo products work more effectively with hard water.
Do I live in a hard water area?
According to various reports and studies, the worst area for water hardness in the UK is along the M4 corridor, including London, Bath, Reading, Bristol and Swindon. The other worst offending counties include Kent, Berkshire, Surrey and Hertfordshire. Here is a list of the places with hard water issues in the UK:
- Cambridgeshire– Hard to very hard water
- Bucks– Hard to very hard water
- Surrey– Hard to very hard water
- Wiltshire– Hard to very hard water
- Dorset– Hard to very hard water
- Essex– Hard to very hard water
- Bedfordshire– Hard to very hard water
- Gloucestershire– Hard to very hard water
- Hertfordshire– Hard to very hard water
- Kent– Hard to very hard water
- Oxfordshire– Hard to very hard water
- Greater London– Moderately hard water
- Hampshire– Hard to very hard water
- Berkshire– Hard to very hard water
- Sussex– Hard to very hard water
Hard water in your home can cause problems with your appliances, makes washing up difficult, creates lime scale build up in your kettle and pipes, and can lead to skin irritation from soaps and shampoos not rinsing off effectively. But don’t despair, even if you live in one of the hard water hot spots, there are plenty of solutions out there to help soften the water in your home and resolve the issues quickly and easily.