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Hard water, scale removers and water softeners - a ShoppingTrolley fact sheet

- Check out the range of softening equipment available, including filters (sediment, chlorine, reverse osmosis membrane and in-line carbon), cartridges, hardness test kits and electronic and magnetic scale inhibitors.
Also check out the Screwfix clearance sale.

A guide to limescale and water hardness

Hard water - what is it?

Hard water is water that contains the minerals calcium and magnesium. Rainwater itself is soft water, but when it seeps through ground that contains calcium or magnesium, such as limestone or chalk, these minerals dissolve in the water, making it hard. In areas where the base rock is granite or millstone grit the water remains soft.











map ukHow do I find out whether the water in my area is hard or soft?

Your local water company will be able to tell you exactly, or you can use a hardness test kit, but the adjacent map will give you a good idea. The areas defined as "soft" contain 0-100 mg/l calcium carbonate, "middle" contain 100-200 mg/l calcium carbonate and "hard" over 200 mg/l calcium carbonate.

Are there any problems with hard water?
It is safe to drink (in the UK). However, hard water is bad for pipes, boilers and appliances that use hot water, including washing machines, dishwashers, kettles and irons, because it causes scale to build up in pipes and on heating elements, shortening their life and making them work less efficiently (because the heat has to get through the scale before the water can be heated). Hard water lathers less easily so you will need to use more detergent, whether it be soap, shampoo, washing up liquid or washing powder. It can also leave an unpleasant limescale residue on toilets, sinks, baths, taps and cutlery. People with dry skin and hair can find that hard water aggravates these conditions.

Are there any benefits to having hard water?
Calcium and magnesium are needed in a healthy diet, but for calcium in particular, it is not always consumed in sufficient quantities. It is therefore helpful to have additional calcium in the drinking water. Also, many studies have also been carried out that show that statistically signigicantly less people living in hard water areas suffer from coronary heart disease. See the BBC web site for additional information.

How do traditional water softeners work?
They work by replacing the calcium and magnesium in the water with sodium, so because of this the water may not be as suitable for drinking. They are generally relatively expensive to buy, install and maintain.