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What is hard water at home? Causes and solutions

Learn top tips on what to do about hard water at home to help protect your appliances and clothes.


a hand in a pink rubber glove cleaning a silver tap with yellow cloth

Key steps:

Try these easy-to-follow steps for hard water treatment at home:

  1. Contact your water supplier to check if you live in a hard water area.

  2. Boil or use salt tablets to soften water for cleaning purposes.

  3. Always read labels when using any kind of water softening product.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to hard water. It can cause a few problems in your home, so knowing the best way to treat hard water can really come in handy but you also want to learn what causes hard water and what to do about it in your property.

Baking soda is one of the best home remedies for hard water, particularly when it comes to preventing limescale in your washing machine. Combine it with a vinegar rinse cycle for best results.

What is hard water?

Have you ever asked yourself, what causes hard water or even just what is hard water? The answer lies in the mineral content of the water.

As rain falls it is naturally 'soft' - containing only salt - but as it makes its way into waterways via the ground it picks up a number of minerals like calcium, lime, and magnesium which make it 'hard'. The presence of these minerals in hard water can cause problems with clothing, appliances, and surfaces where it can affect the functionality or create stains. Therefore, in our homes, hard water is treated to make it soft again.

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Hard water treatment for common issues

One issue that requires hard water treatment is limescale build-up on appliances, showerheads, toilets, basins etc. In addition to that, it can also lead to dulling of clothing and glass, and cause a chalky residue to be left - even after cleaning. So, what is the best way to treat hard water and the issues it causes?

Softening the water is one option and there are a number of reasons to soften water; including extending the life of a variety of appliances and plumbing fixtures. Ion exchange resin is often used for softening water via the use of a column that contains tiny balls containing the resin. The resin contains sodium ions which are released as hard water passes through the column. This works to remove the hardening minerals.

Hard water treatment solutions for your home

While the ion exchange resin method of hard water treatment mentioned above is effective, it is not practical for every home. Thankfully, you can try home remedies for hard water softening too. These include:

  • Boiling: One of the easiest ways of softening water is to boil it. Simply take a pan of water and bring it to the boil before letting it cool and decanting. You can even buy testing strips to check that the water has reduced levels of minerals in it. After the water has cooled you may see sediment at the bottom of your pan or container so be careful to filter these out before using the water.

  • Salt: The presence of salt will help soften water via the ion exchange process. Salt tablets can work wonders in reducing the effects of hard water and they’re easy to use too.

  • Vinegar: Pop a cup of white vinegar in the final rinse cycle when you do a load of washing to reduce the effects of hard water on clothes and the appliance's pipes. It can also be used in the dishwasher to help soften water.

We’ve shown you what to do about hard water but if you’d like to know how to remove water stains you can read our article: How to remove water stains. Now you’ve got a better idea of what is used to soften hard water, it shouldn’t be such a problem.

Originally published