As water moves through soil and rock, it dissolves small amounts of naturally occurring minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. These minerals make your water “hard,” which can be a nuisance throughout your home.
Hard water causes a chalky scale on faucets and showerheads, rough and dingy laundry, soap scum and rings in bathtubs and showers, dry skin and hair, cloudy-looking glasses, and a shortened life expectancy of water-using appliances due to scale buildup. Hard-water residue also makes it difficult to get soaps to lather when you bathe.
In its pristine state, water is colorless, tasteless and odorless. So, if your water tastes or smells funny, you owe it to yourself to find out why. If your water smells like rotten eggs, it could be hydrogen sulfide (sulfur). If your water has an unpleasant metallic taste, it indicates the presence of metals, such as iron, copper, manganese or zinc. If your water has an earthy or musty taste and odor, it’s generally associated with different forms of algae.
Brown, orange or rust-colored stains on sinks and plumbing fixtures generally indicate the presence of iron in the water. Other signs of iron are rusty deposits on clothes, a metallic taste or odor, and a reduction in water pressure from iron buildup.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there could be as many as 12 million cases of waterborne acute gastrointestinal illness annually in the United States alone. These illnesses are frequently caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoa that make their way into the water supply. And unfortunately, these contaminants can survive in the environment for months.
Soap scum is a white or gray filmy layer that can be found on showers, bathtubs, sinks, shower curtains, bathroom fixtures and even laundry. Soap scum forms when minerals in hard water combine with soap and dirt to create a layer of scaliness. The “scum” is what’s left over after the water drains. Those with hard water are much more likely to have soap scum buildup. It can be difficult to remove if left for too long, as soap scum continues to build up with continued exposure to soap and water.
To kill harmful bacterial, chlorine is used at the treatment plant, and chlorine should remain in the water as it travels through the distribution system. Once the water reaches your home, the chlorine is no longer necessary.
Although chlorine is vital for stopping the spread of disease, its benefits come at a price. Chlorine tastes and smells bad. It dries skin and hair, fades clothes, and can dry out the rubber seals in appliances.
If water has a low pH, you can see the tell-tale, blue-green stains. These stains are most noticeable on white surfaces that your water comes in contact with, such as sinks, tubs and showers, toilets and even white clothing. Staining of this type is the result of corrosion of copper pipes or fixtures.
One of the most common causes of stiff, dingy or dull laundry is hard water. Hard-water minerals prevent laundry detergents from working effectively and can form a detergent curd that sticks to fabrics. This also causes clothing to look gray and dingy and gives soft fabrics a stiff and harsh texture.
A variety of factors can affect how your water tastes, smells, feels and works in and around your home. Well-water quality, possible contamination, an aging water distribution system and a home's plumbing are just some of the things that can affect your water supply.
Water quality can vary from place to place and even house to house, and some water problems are not as obvious as others. But in each case, to accurately diagnose your home’s water issues, we will need to test your water.