Hard Water: What Actually Is It?

05 Apr 2019

Category: Health

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Hard to Swallow? The Truth About Hard Water

In the UK, we are lucky to enjoy access to a very high standard of tap water. But the quality of water differs regionally, with around 60% of the UK classed as having hard water – the highest concentration located in central, eastern and southern England. Those living in hardened water areas will be familiar with the troublesome effects of hard water on appliances – limescale, anyone? – but how does hardness affect the healthiness and taste of our water?

What is hard water?

Hard water is water that has notably high mineral content. When freshwater falls as rain, it is naturally soft. If rainwater falls onto porous rocks such as limestone and chalk, it picks up calcium and magnesium minerals and becomes ‘hard’. Whether water is hard or soft depends on the region: parts of the country with an abundance of limestone and chalk will have harder water than areas without.

Hard done by

If you live or work in a hard water region you’re probably already familiar with how this type of water residue can leave behind limescale and scum. Over time, this builds up on appliances such as kettles, washing machines and dishwashers, as well as plumbing. In the short term, this will affect the efficiency of your appliances. In the long term, it can shorten their lifespan by years.

The installation of a water softener or utilising water-softening products can help manage the destructive effect of limescale on your home and appliances. If you have a Billi system installed in your workplace, hard water won’t affect you at work either due to our innovative filtration systems. But are there any other consequences of hard water you should be considering?

Is it bad for your health?

We have touched upon the detrimental impacts of hard water on everyday appliances such as kettles, but can daily consumption of it negatively affect your health in the short or long term?

The good news is that there is no ‘hard’ evidence to indicate that drinking hard water will result in poor health, as confirmed by the World Health Organisation. In fact, the National Research Council claims that hard drinking water helps the population to maintain the correct levels of calcium and magnesium as part of a healthy diet.

While not dangerous to drink, water hardness could cause other problems for our bodies. For example, there is evidence to indicate that the use of hardened water when showering or bathing can exacerbate health issues such as acne, eczema and dermatitis. When hard water dries on the skin it can cause dryness, inflammation, irritation, flaking and itching. This is as a result of minerals in hardened water leading to clogged pores.

What’s more, hard water may be more damaging to hair than soft water. Iron makes hair brittle, leading to split ends, while calcium can lead to flaking and dandruff. Magnesium also negatively impacts hair, leading to unmanageable frizz and lifeless, limp locks. In extreme cases, long-term effects even include thinning hair and hair loss.

Making hard tap water healthier

If you suffer from dry skin and hair, you can alleviate the effects of hard water with plenty of moisturiser or leave-in conditioners. For more extreme conditions you may want to soften the water you’re washing with. Inbuilt water softeners are an option, but filter shower heads are a more economical choice.

When it comes to the water we drink, we have seen that water hardness caused by calcium and magnesium is not considered a health risk. Indeed, our body needs small amounts of essential minerals like these for growth and repair. However, sometimes there will be other impurities – iron, lead or chlorine – that should be avoided. So how do you ensure your water is free from dangerous contaminants, but still provides essential minerals?

Sophisticated filtering systems such as those in Billi taps are able to remove the harmful components of tap water while preserving healthy elements. Our multi-stage filtration removes 99.9% of chemicals like chlorine and ammonia and kills harmful bacteria, but allows beneficial minerals to flow through – producing clean water that serves the body’s needs.

If you decide to go down the filtered route, make sure that you change filters regularly. Poorly managed filtering systems can be a source of bacterial contamination. Water systems that service a lot of people, such as those in workplaces, are particularly vulnerable. Thorough aftercare and maintenance are vital for keeping filtered water hygienic and healthy.

How does water hardness affect water taste?

The minerals present in hard water will inevitably lead to differences in taste and odour when compared with soft water. Of course, tastes are subjective and the palatability of your water can only be determined by each individual. However, what is generally agreed upon, is that very hard water is not pleasant to drink. Many complain that hard water has a heavier mouthfeel and is often described as having a chalky or chemical aftertaste. At the more severe end of the spectrum, water might taste faintly reminiscent of dirt or could smell like rotten eggs.

Have you ever noticed a thin film floating on top of your cup of tea? This effect is the result of hard minerals present in the water used to make your tea! Hard water will brew tea that is thicker and darker and the minerals can adversely affect the flavour of your tea. High levels of minerals may also disrupt the antioxidants present in tea, meaning your cuppa won’t only be less fragrant and flavourful, but also, less nutritious.

How to improve the taste of hard water

If you’re considering packing up your tea leaves and moving across the country in search of softer water, you’ll be pleased to know there are alternatives.

Bottled water is one option – albeit an expensive and environmentally damaging one. A filtering system is a much more cost-effective and eco-friendly option. Not only will filtering improve taste, but it will also eliminate impurities like metal deposits and chlorine, which can also negatively affect flavour.

Billi taps are as quick and convenient as normal taps but deliver fresh, filtered water that tastes beautifully pure and distilled. So tea lovers can rest assured that their brew will be light, fragrant and delicious.

No hard feelings!

Hard tap water isn’t all bad. With some simple adjustments – and some help from Billi – you can benefit from water naturally rich in minerals, without any of the downsides.