What is hard water? What happens when you have hard water buildup? And how do you get rid of it (both the hard water and the resulting buildup)? Let’s examine the topic of how to remove hard water buildup.

Hard water has a high mineral content. Minerals in water, such as calcium and magnesium, make it “hard.” That’s the short and simple version of what’s happening behind the scenes. And fortunately, how to remove hard water and hard water buildup can also be a short and simple process.

Little boy washing his hands

Little boy washing his hands in the bathroom

The reason those minerals are in our water in the first place has to do with a complicated mechanism of settlement and infiltration.

The simple version of this story, however, is as follows: Minerals get in the water supply because they’re already in the groundwater. They’re in the groundwater because — you guessed it! — they’re already in the ground.

Over time, groundwater dissolves limestone and iron from the ground and the minerals that comprise them wind up in the water itself.

Evidence of Hard Water

How do you know you have hard water? You may notice a few things. First, as the U.S. Geological Survey explains, “you may notice water hardness when your hands still feel slimy after washing with soap and water, or when your drinking glasses at home become less than crystal clear.”

That second one is a common occurrence in homes with hard water; most people refer to it as soap scum.

“Depending on the hardness of your water,” says the USGS, “after using soap to wash you may have felt like there was a film of residue left on your hands. In hard water, soap reacts with the calcium (which is relatively high in hard water) to form ‘soap scum.’ When using hard water, more soap or detergent is needed to get things clean, be it your hands, hair, or your laundry.”

And remember: What’s happening on your hands and on your drinking glasses is also happening in your pipes, water heaters, washing machines, and more. This can lead to plumbing problems if it isn’t dealt with.

Removing Hard Water Buildup

To deal with hard water problems, you can use a tried-and-true solution: water softeners and water softener tanks. As the name implies, water softeners make your water less hard by removing those minerals from the water. Softeners remove magnesium, iron, calcium, and manganese, and replaces them with sodium ions.

Of course, a water softener system won’t get rid of the buildup that’s already in and on your plumbing; that will have to be removed by hand — preferably the hand of an expert plumber — or scrubbed away.

Here’s how to make some cleaning products using household supplies. This should help remove hard water stains.

  1. Mix white vinegar and water (a 50/50 mix). This solution will make it easier to clean those stubborn hard water stains. Spray the mixture on the problem areas and then wipe with a towel.
  2. Tougher stains may need to be soaked in the water and vinegar solution. Try letting the solution soak in for 5 minutes at a time until the stains come off when you wipe. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
  3. Use this method for any and all stains, including those found in bathtubs, toilet bowls, and sinks. You can put the solution in a spray bottle, but be sure to wash it before using it for anything else.
  4. Tougher mineral builds may require a scrub brush, alongside the vinegar solution, Baking soda can also help remove mineral deposits from hard to reach places, such as faucet aerators, plumbing fixtures, and showerheads.

You can get a good idea of whether or not you have hard water in your area by looking at this map as well as this one.

Keep in mind that, according to the USGS, “Hardness is caused by compounds of calcium and magnesium, and by a variety of other metals. General guidelines for classification of waters are 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as calcium carbonate is classified as soft; 61 to 120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121 to 180 mg/L as hard; and more than 180 mg/L as very hard.”

If you think you may have a problem with the water quality in your home, get in touch with Meticulous Plumbing today! We’re Portland’s plumbing experts.

We can help you remove hard water deposits and teach you methods that will clean hard water stains and prevent hard water problems in the first place.

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