A Hard Look at Hard Water

Hard water may not sound as ominous as iron, or as formidable as arsenic. But your hair, skin, plumbing and appliances may not exactly agree with that assessment. In fact, almost anything that uses water on a regular basis can suffer if hard water is in the equation, and that is an all too common headache for well water users.

For water to be considered hard, it must have a high volume of "hard" minerals, including calcium and magnesium. The level of hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). Water that registers between 0-1 gpg is considered soft; moderately hard water reads at 3.5-7 gpg; and any water with gpg over 7 is classified hard to very hard.

Unfortunately, only about 15 percent of the water in the United States falls into that soft category, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. So if you thought your water had won the elemental lottery, the odds are not in your favor.

Untreated hard water can lead to:

Dry skin and hair Clogged pipes and scaling Staining on bathroom and kitchen surfaces Decreased efficiency in water-using appliances, including dishwashers and water heaters Shortened lifespan of laundry, including clothing and towels

This problem luckily has a very tried-and-true solution: water softening. Culligan's water softener was first envisioned in 1936 when Emmett Culligan, the namesake of the worldwide water treatment brand, needed to safely wash his newborn's cloth diapers. Necessity was the mother (or in this case, the father) of invention, and today an entire industry is devoted to treating problem water.

Water is softened when a "soft" mineral like sodium replaces the calcium and magnesium, in a process called an "ion exchange." This exchange is facilitated by resin and zeolite in the mineral tank of the softener, which attracts the calcium and magnesium as the water passes through. The sodium ions then replace those hard minerals thanks to a brine solution. The result is soft water, and everyone rejoices.

Skin itchy after a shower? Towels always feeling scratchy? Clothes fading faster than ever? Hard water could be hiding in your water supply.

Good thing the Culligan Man has the soft touch.

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