Most Americans have hard water in their home's water supply,
which not only leaves those tell-tale spots on your dishes and
glasses, but can also take a toll on household pipes and
Calcium and magnesium salts found in water make it "hard." And,
according to the Water Quality Association, the problem is
widespread: about 85 percent of the country has hard water.
So, how does hard water affect appliances? According to the WQA, it
tends to leave deposits that can clog pipes, mechanical systems,
appliances, faucets and shower heads. The WQA's director of
regulatory and technical affairs, Pauli Undesser, says the deposits
alter how well appliances function and how long they last. It can
slow and stop water flow; reduce efficiency and spur equipment to
work harder. And, perhaps worst of all, it can shorten the
lifespans of appliances and may result in leaks that can cause costly water damage to your home and
Signs that hard water is becoming a problem:
Shower and faucet heads. Some of the holes may clog,
minimizing the force of the water spray; water may also spew out in
different directions rather than a straight shot. Deposits may also
develop on the exterior of a fixture, or where water is splashed,
such as a shower door. And, while cleaning may help temporarily,
eventual replacement may be necessary.
Gas and electric tank-type water heaters. The
build-up of sediment and other minerals may make the heater as much as 48 percent less efficient, according to WQA research. A
gas heater may also start to fill with residue, and can begin to
leak as the weight pushes down on tank seams, or if corrosion sets
Tankless water heaters. When there's a high
level of water hardness, the pipe where the water comes out of the
heater can clog with scale (hardened mineral deposits) and prevent
water from flowing properly. A decrease in water pressure may
indicate a problem.
Dish and clothes washers. Equipment won't clean
as well. Glasses will show spotting or look dull, even opaque.
Clothing may seem stiff or "hard" (which is how the term "hard
water" is said to have originated). The inlet valve that lets water
in and out may clog, along with hoses. In fact, a study by the
American Water Works Association found that washing machines used
with hard water can wear out up to 30 percent faster.
Refrigerators. Hard water circulating
through an icemaker or water tap can clog parts and shorten life
spans. Change water filters, per the manufacturer's recommendation.
(Set a maintenance reminder if you need to).
So, what else can homeowners do? Ask your municipality where
your water comes from and whether the municipality treats for
hardness, and also ask for a recent water quality report. Rural
areas that depend on groundwater are more prone to hard water than
cities that use surface water, because groundwater travels through
rock and soil, picking up minerals along the
way. In some instances, a municipal system
will treat hard water, but only to a certain level. You may want to
go further than that if you're seeing the signs of deterioration or
inefficiency in your home appliances.
A certified water treatment professional can perform a
test on your water and, if the results are positive, walk you
through the various treatment options. Hard water can certainly be
hard on your appliances, but the good news is there's a relatively
This post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of