How to Test Hard Water at Home

In Brief: DIY Water Hardness Tests

Some DIY and advanced water hardness tests are soap froth test, paper strip test kits, enquiring at local municipality office, titration method and using instruments like calorimeter or a spectrophotometer.

Did you ever wonder why your laundry is lifeless and your bathroom is stained despite cleaning it?

The culprit might be hard water.

Hard water can make your life difficult on various fronts. In order to take action against it first, you need to test for water hardness.

Through this article, we will let you know the issues of using hard water, signs you can observe, and tests you can do for verification.

Signs of Hard Water at Home

There are a few easy indications you can observe and find for yourself if the water you are using at home is hard water or not.

  1. Less lather formation
  2. Odd taste and smell of the water
  3. Stains on plumbing fixtures and inside the bathroom
    Spots on your kitchenware
  4. Dry and irritable skin
  5. Brittle and dry hair
  6. Stiff and lifeless laundry
  7. Lower water pressure
  8. Early breakdown of appliances

You can read more about these in our detailed article about signs of hard water

Issues Related to Hard Water at Home

There a few issues associated with using hard water in your daily life from drinking to washing to using it for your laundry.

  1. Hard water has a metallic taste
  2. Makes your hair dull and drizzly and causes dry, itchy skin.
  3. Makes your clothes wear out soon.
  4. Can clog the pipes resulting in lowered water pressure, repairing and replacements.
  5. Reduced life span of appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, etc.
  6. Is responsible for rust, greenish stains on your bathroom tiles, pipes, faucets, etc. and spots on dishware.
  7. High soap usage and need for softeners.

DIY Testing Methods for Hard Water

Water hardness is defined as the concentration of dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium present in the water.

Not only just observing the signs but you can do some tests on your own to make sure the water you are using is hard water as explained below.

In addition, we also briefly discussed some advanced techniques used in laboratories to test for hard water.

Soap froth test

This is an easy test that you can do at your home as a preliminary examination –

  1. Take an empty plastic bottle or a container with a tight lid and fill one-third of it with water.
  2. Add a few drops of liquid soap into the bottle well and shake well.
  3. After a few seconds, if you find any foam or froth forming near the top end of the bottle and clear water at the bottom end, this means soft water.

If you don’t see a good foam buildup and the bottom end of the bottle has murky looking water then it is hard water.

Here’s a quick video for this DIY test at home

Test-kit strip test

There are test kits readily available in the market with which you can test for the hardness of your water.

  1. Fill up a glass or container with the water at your home and immerse the paper strip from the kit into it.
  2. After a few seconds, the strip will change its color. Now compare the color on the strip with the colors on the indicator chart provided as a part of the kit.
  3. Each color on the indicator chart is associated with a water hardness level. Based on it you can interpret the result for yourself.

This is best used when you want a general range of hardness estimation.

Ask the authorities

Your municipal water suppliers usually have a report regarding your water quality and possibly about water hardness.

Just ask for the information or look up online and find out if your house has a hard water supply.

Generally, calcium carbonate at 0-60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) is classified as soft; 61-120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121-180 mg/L as hard; and >180 mg/L as very hard water.

This is suitable to have a general idea of how hard your water is and is not preferred if you need a precise measurement.

Titration method

This method is usually done in laboratories and if you are doing at home make sure you are taking safety precautions.

  1. Take a glass container filled with water and add EDTA solution in increments to it till the water changes color.
  2. Then this colored water sample is titrated using a burette or hard water test kit for measuring the hardness of the water.
  3. A digital titration test kit can be used instead of manual titration and is considered to give better results as the amount of EDTA solution added to the water is controlled effectively.

Here’s a quick video on using the titration method for water level hardness

Instrument based tests

Instruments like Calorimeter or spectrophotometer is used to measure the hardness of the water.

These tests can be expensive but are effective as well.

So, how does it work?

The Calorimeter passes white light beams on to the sample water. The amount of colored light absorbed by the sample is directly proportional to the concentration of the minerals present.

The readings for hardness levels are given by the meter.

An ion-selective electrode can be used to measure calcium concentration in the water when titration or calorimetric methods are difficult to perform because of the color and turbidity of the water sample.

A digital TDS meter available in the markets can be used to measure the total dissolved salt contents in the water.

What to do if you have a hard water problem?

Now that you have confirmed the water you are using is indeed hard water what can you do about it?

To tackle your hard water problem at your home we’ve listed a few possible solutions as below.

Hot Vinegar can be used to clean up the fixtures free of scale buildup. Distilled vinegar is used to treat white spot problem on your dishware and appliances.

Use specific detergents, dishwashing liquids and, products that are targeted at treating hard water.
Get a water softener or a water conditioner.

Summary

We have tried our best to explain what are some common problems of using hard water at home, signs of hard water, test methods to measure or confirm the hardness level.

We hope now if you notice any of these signs at your home you can test for it using one or more above methods and take necessary steps.

Kenneth Wright
About Kenneth Wright

Kenneth in Biotechnology graduate and loves to write on topics related to science and technology. He uses his scientific research methodology to grasp concepts and then develop comprehensive articles on them.

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