Indicators and Testing Methods to identify Hard water at Home

Many people have complained about the quality of water in their area. Sometimes these complaints are area-specific or from people on vacations or visiting their family in other cities. They are facing issues like itchy skin, dull hair, or rough clothes. It happens due to the high mineral content, particularly calcium and magnesium, in hard water as compared to soft water. As water flows through the ground, these substances are absorbed and dissolved in water. According to a report published in the Chicago Tribune, statistics provided by the US Geological Survey state that 85% of all US households have to deal with hard water.

Hard water is not damaging to health, but it can become a headache for you. If you witness any of the following things in your daily life, you are likely suffering from hard water.

Common Indicators of Hard Water

Soap Lather: One of the first indicators of hard water is that your soap and shampoo are not lathering enough. As the soap reacts with the calcium and magnesium in hard water, the resulting insoluble lime does not allow proper lather formation. This leads to more usage of the soaps and shampoos. The soap is not washed away properly, and it gets deposited on the skin. It can result in skin allergies, rashes, and dandruff.

Taste and Smell of Hard Water: If your water tastes bad or has a foul smell, it can be because of the high mineral concentration in water. If there is a metallic taste, it is likely due to the large amounts of iron in the water. The variation in taste and smell is a symptom of hardness in water.

Water Stains on Kitchenware and Bathtubs: Dried up water stains are another signal of hard water and not a pleasant sight. As the water evaporates, white clouds form on spoons, glass windows, faucets, dishes, marble tiles, and bathtubs due to calcium deposits on them.

Clogging of Pipes: When showering, you may notice that the water pressure in your shower head is not as strong as it once was. It is because of the mineral deposits piling up over the years as the water flows through the pipes. The water passage gets obstructed, and consequently, the pipes may need cleaning or replacing in some cases. Also read our guide to shower in hard water and its damages.

Household Appliances: Not only can the whole plumbing system get disrupted, but many household appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and coffee makers can wear out quicker than usual due to hard water. If you observe machines working less efficiently, this can be another indication of hard water. Washing machines depreciate 30% faster because of hard water. Reduced efficiency can lead to increased utility bills and high maintenance/repair charges.

Laundry Problems: If you have hard water at home, your laundry will not be as brighter, shinier, and soft as it should be. It is difficult to wash away the detergent with hard water even after persistent washing, and the residue can get stuck in the fabric.

Skin and Hair Problems: As hard water deposits can stick to household items like dishes and washing machines, your skin and hair are no exception. After taking a bath, if you feel itchiness in your scalp or your skin develops dryness and rashes, this is because of the moisture being removed by hard water. The soapy residue left behind can cause redness and skin irritation. Hard water can also be the reason of lifeless and dull hair.

Home Testing Method

soap mixture

We looked at the general indicators of hard water that are easily observable at home. But if you want to be more certain, this simple and easy 3-step method can help you determine whether you are dealing with hard water.

  • Fill an Empty Plastic Bottle with Water–Take an empty, transparent plastic water bottle and fill it one-third with tap water.
  • Add Drops of Soap – Now add 10 drops of pure liquid soap in the bottle. Close the lid and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds to make sure the water and soap are mixed well.
  • Look for Bubbles–If the water has completely dissolved the soap, looks cloudy, and no bubbles appear, you have hard water. However, if foam-like bubbles are forming above the water level and the water remains almost crystal clear, you have soft water. You can keep adding more soap into the water until bubbles form. The more you keep on adding soap, the harder is the water level. Usually, 40 drops of liquid soap represent hard water, and 50 drops show a very hard water level.

However, do remember that this test does not give an exact measure of the water hardness. There are more professional methods available for this purpose.

Scientific Testing Methods

Scientific testing methods are also available if you want to get a more precise hardness level of water. Before we look at these methods, it is important to know the level of hardness. It can be measured by the amount of calcium carbonate in water. According to USGS, water consisting of 0-60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) calcium carbonate is termed as soft water, 61-120 mg/L indicates moderately hard water, 121- 180 mg/L classifies as hard and above 180 mg/L is very hard water.

You can use one of the following hard water testing methods:

Hard Water Test Kits

hard water testing kit for home users

Hard water test kits are available at water stores and online that can indicate the mineral count in water. The test kit includes test strips and a color chart. To determine the level of hardness in water, fill a glass or bottle with tap water. Insert the test strip and let it rest for 30-35 seconds. After taking out the strip, you will notice the color on the strip has changed. Compare the color with those indicated on the color chart, and you will know the level of hardness in your water.

Expert Opinion

You can also send your sample to independent third party laboratories, experts in water assessment. This is a bit costly but a more professional, accurate, and reliable method to test the water’s hardness level. Besides the hardness level, you can also get a thorough assessment of your water level and determine the pH level, various contaminants, and bacteria present in the water. Based on the analysis provided by these experts, you can opt for the optimum method to solve your water problems.

Water Softener Companies

Water softening companies can also do a free water analysis at your home. They do this to encourage you to buy their product and can provide a reliable measure. They can also help you to decide which water softener is the best to use according to your requirement.

Local Water Authorities

The local water municipality authority can also give you a report on the water quality in your area. They can provide you the details on the main water supply source, its composition, and a measure of hardness level of water. If you are using well water, this method is not available for you.

Read more: 10 Methods to Test Well Water for Bacteria and Pesticides


Hard water is not difficult to identify, you can observe the general signs to check the hardness, or you may opt for a more professional approach. If you want to remove the hardness level of water, the permanent solution is to install a water softener at your home.

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