View Full Version : how do you know if you have hard/soft water?

July 20th, 2010, 10:18 AM
May be a really stupid question, but i dont have a clue? :confused: And how does one or the other affect your hair?

July 20th, 2010, 10:23 AM
Oooh I'm so glad you started this thread!
I know I have hard water (I think you know this because you have to descale your kettle often otherwise it gets yucky and stoney...plus, my mum said it is).

But I'd love to know how this affects hair (hard water)!

July 20th, 2010, 10:23 AM
If you can wash a meal's worth of dishes in the sink and not have all the suds disappear, chances are you have soft water. Hard water will also leave whitish deposits on surfaces it come into contact with over time (i.e. sink, tub, pet's water dish), but suds is probably the easiest way to tell.

July 20th, 2010, 11:11 AM
Well in the UK I believe that the south normally has hard water and the north has soft water. I know I have soft water.

That is my complete knowledge on soft and hard water

July 20th, 2010, 12:04 PM
Hard water just means there's a heavy concentration of calcium in the water, which will leave scale/deposits on glasses (water spots), around faucets, etc. If you leave a glass or bowl of water to evaporate, you'll feel/see a ring of mineral deposits as the water level drops. The main way I can tell if I'm using softened water is that it feels "slippery" on my skin and seems to take longer to rinse soap off.

I have hard well water, and it definitely leaves a deposit on my hair. It can be challenging to find products that work well with the water. Generally speaking, clarifying and acid rinses (either vinegar or citric acid) seem to help the most, but you don't want to overdo it.

You should be able to get a report on mineral content in your water from your local water agency. If you have a well, companies that do water analysis, well drilling, filter systems, etc. will often do a basic water analysis for free. This will give you general information on mineral levels, but not bacteria content.

July 20th, 2010, 12:09 PM
I agree that it's slippery. When I'm in a place with soft water, showering takes forever because I never feel like my shampoo/conditioner/soap/etc is completely rinsed off. Under running water my skin feels filmy.

July 20th, 2010, 12:12 PM
If you get lime scale on things that the water touches, spots on glasses, and soap scum (assuming you use soap and not a detergent-based body wash), you have hard water.

If you've got a municipal water source, you can check with the water utility (or the city webpage). They generally give detailed water analysis results at least once a year. Wikipedia offers some translations of the units in terms of actual hardness. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_water#Measurement)

You can also get an analysis of your water done by a water modification company (I don't know what to call it!) like Culligan. They'll come to your house and test it, then probably try to sell you something. That said, I love my water softener, and so do my pipes and my dishwasher. My water heater might too, but it might be too far gone.

July 20th, 2010, 12:55 PM
I noticed the water was hard here partially because I couldn't get my dishes "clean" (always had "spots" of mineral residue after rinsing. We also don't have a dishwasher) and what it did to my hair. After one rinse in hard water (I was on a partial WO routine when I moved here) it felt horribly gunky, like I'd poured glue on it or something. Most people apparently don't build up that fast, my hair is just sensitive, but I noticed a HUGE difference immediately as opposed to the soft water where I'm from.
To deal with it, I'm washing less often, I've given up the WO rinses, and I'm doing an ACV rinse at the end of my shower every day. Seems to be working alright so far, but I'm still tweaking the routine a little.

July 20th, 2010, 01:43 PM
Hard water can, for some people, cause hair breakage and thinning hair from mineral buildup on the strands and scalp. I went off to research this after some weird colour results with henna/cassia - turns out, some municipalities also add chemicals to the tap water that can cause discoloration of the hair, or discoloration when interacting with plant dyes. I started washing my hair with distilled water - the jugs are recyclable, and it doesn't take that much if i use a bowl to properly saturate/drip the water all over my head instead of just dumping it over the top straight from the jug. My hair is much happier! link to article: http://styles101.homestead.com/hwater.html

July 20th, 2010, 01:54 PM
You can test your water to see what all is in it. You can spend money to get a kit and test it, or there may be a government agency in your area that will test it for you. When I was in high school we tested ours in science class.

Hard water has a high concentration of mineral ions. Soft water does not. You can make hard water soft by using a water softener, which basically puts salt in the water to bind with the ions so they don't stick to everything else.

If you have municipal water--as opposed to water from a well--in the United States at least, your water probably has chlorine and fluoride in it. Both of these things are bad for my hair, chlorine for obvious reasons, fluoride because I'm allergic to it.

Jenn of Pence
July 20th, 2010, 03:34 PM
I most definitely have hard water. You should just see my shower glass!! (oh, no, you shouldn't actually...you might have nightmares)...

I think my hair does okay, maybe because I CWC with a low-sulphate shampoo. I like the distilled water idea, but it's a lot less convenient than hopping in and out of the shower.

July 20th, 2010, 03:43 PM
I have very soft water at home; it's rainwater caught off the roof. I'm on a trip right now, and the house I'm staying in has water hard enough that there are a few mini stalactites around the tub's tap. :/

My hair gets dull, a little frizzy. It tangles extremely easily. It feels sticky, coated, and crunchy at the ends where it is usually very soft. Wave pattern doesn't change, as far as I've noticed.

For what it's worth, I'm using Dr. Bronner's Lavender Organic Bar Soap (http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/OBLA05/LavenderOrganicBarSoap.htm) for shampoo (just above the ears), with Suave's Ocean Breeze conditioner below the ears. And then a cold water rinse.

ETA: That's after one rinse. :) It gets a little worse with multiple rinses.

July 20th, 2010, 11:32 PM
Right now I'm COing with Trader Joe's Refresh conditioner. I've played around with using other conditions, but this is the only one that seems to work, probably because it has citric acid as a main ingredient. If I need to clarify, I use Avalon Organics lemon clarifying shampoo. So far, it's working pretty well, but the water issue can definitely be a challenge. I don't know if we would ever put a softener in because none of us like the feel of softened water, but if I could I'd reduce the level of hardness a couple of degrees.