Most of the water found throughout the United States is “hard.” This means that the water is contaminated with minerals, such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, iron, lead, and limestone. These minerals are dissolved into water via the ground from nearby rocks or soil.

Water hardness is measured by either the number of grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). According to the Water Quality Association, if your water tests at 1 GPG or less, your water is considered “soft.” If your water tests at 7 GPG or higher, it is considered hard. (See below for more specific GPG numbers for comparison.)

Sometimes hard water, depending on how contaminated it is, is fine for your health and won’t cause any major problems for you or your home. On the other hand, it is possible that your water may contain contaminants that are very harmful to your health and your plumbing system, and you may need to consider installing a water purification system.

Less Than or Equal to 1 GPG → Soft Water
1-3.5 GPG → Soft/Slightly Hard Water
3.5-7 GPG → Moderately Hard Water
7-10.5 GPG → Hard Water
Over 10.5 GPG → Very Hard Water

Problems Caused by Hard Water

Dissolved minerals like magnesium and calcium can precipitate out of hard water to produce scale. Scale builds up on the insides of pipes, water heaters, and even household items such as coffee makers and teakettles. As this scale continues to build up, it has the ability to slow and reduce water flow (out of faucets, showerheads, etc.) and eventually clog your pipes completely.

Laundering: When hard water is used, clothes can oftentimes come out of the washing machine looking dingy and feeling harsh/scratchy. Washing your clothes time and time again in hard water can damage the fibers that hold them together, shortening their lifespans.
Bathing/Showering: Hard water reduces soap’s ability to form a rich lather. If you bathe in hard water, you may notice a film of soap that doesn’t easily wash off of your skin. This film, if left on, can prevent soil or bacteria removal and might cause skin irritation. This film could also make your hair look flat, dull, and lifeless as well.
Dishwashing: Hard water can produce a film on your dishes and crockery, especially when the dishwasher is used. This is because minerals are more quickly released in higher heat, so it can cause a higher degree of spotting and filming.
Drinking Water: The EPA recommends testing drinking water once a year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels, particularly for those who have a new well or have replaced/repaired pipes, pumps, or a well casing. The EPA lists specific circumstances that call for additional testing.

One way to determine which contaminants you have in your water and whether or not you need a purification system is to check your Consumer Confident Report (CCR). The EPA requires providers to issue an annual CCR to customers. You may also find the CCR in your local newspaper or posted on your local government’s website.

Your county health department may provide assistance for bacteria or nitrate testing. You can also have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline or by visiting the EPA website.

Benefits of Hard Water

Some people prefer harder water. One reason is because dealing with hard water is cheaper than paying for a water softener system. It requires less electricity and you don’t have to purchase a large amount of softener salt to keep the system working and running efficiently. Less salt in your pipes sometimes will lessen corrosion problems as well.

If you have questions regarding what filtration options are best for you, call the professionals at Cyclone Contracting. We’ll help you with your Ames water purification problems and help you select the filter that is right for you.