Water Hardness and Scale

We’re in our fourth decade of running free water tests during days, nights and weekends.  We’ve seen thousands upon thousands of water softeners installed on all sorts of different types of water chemistry. It’s pretty clear that the data is in. Water in Wisconsin is extremely hard compared to most of the country. It will vary only in the degree of hardness. The U.S. Geological Survey, the American Society of Engineers and our governing body, the Water Quality Association, all use the same ranges for measuring hardness. Here are the ranges and where they exist around here:
  • Moderately Hard Water (3.5-7 grains): If you have a full tank of gas, leave Milwaukee, head west, and turn right at Madison, you’ll find +/- 5 grain water at or around the time you are running out of fuel.
  • Hard Water (7-10.5 grains): This covers most of the Great Lakes cities. Yes, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha…your water is very hard. Everyone except your local municipality will tell you that. We’ll get back to that in just a minute.
  • Very Hard Water (10.5+): Many of your Lake Country wells will run in this range. Some municipalities will fall in this window like Mukwonago and Muskego. Some cities will vary significantly so, here in Waukesha we can see as much as a full 10-grain variance between any two homes in just a 10-15 minute drive. Hartford falls into this group under the “+” part in “10.5+”
This is a widely-cited map from the USGS showing national conditions USGS Hardness Map Ok, so the water is hard, how does that relate to scale? Hardness is nothing more than dissolved rock. In this neck of the woods, that’s limestone and it doesn’t matter if you pull it from your well, your city’s inland well or the big lake.  It’s limestone and it is dissolved calcium and magnesium. 1 grain is 1/7000th of a pound.  So 7,000 grains also equals a pound of rock.  For a family of four, this works out pretty simply:
For each grain of hardness, you are putting 15.64 pounds of rock through your home, pipes, and fixtures per year. So, Milwaukee residents who have been told they don’t have hard water, you’re running between 7 and 9 grains on any given day, call it 8 grains of hardness.  That’s 125 pounds of rock per year. Hartford residents, you’re running about three times that high and you’re sitting on some of the more expensive water in the state.  You’re looking at upwards of 375 pounds per rock per year.
So we’ve all seen hard water deposits on plumbing fixtures, tubs, sinks, dishes, silverware and glassware that becomes virtually impossible to clean. The issue gets into basic chemistry where the soap bonds with the hardness minerals turning your cleaning solutions into something that is at unclean as it sounds, “soap scum.”   These mineral deposits in your home from hard water can also be costly by:
  • Cutting the life of washing machines, dishwashers, and hot water heaters by up to 50%.
  • Increasing energy costs for water heaters by one-third.
  • Destroying faucets and fixtures.
  • Building up scale on fixtures and shower doors
  • Clogging plumbing.
  • Producing cloudy ice cubes
  • Making unsightly rings in the toilet and bathtub from soap scum.
  • Drying out skin and hair.
  • Leaving spots and stains on dishes and silverware.
  • Turning white fabrics gray, fading colored laundry, and causing towels to feel hard and stiff.
  • Requiring additional cleaning time and using environmentally unfriendly cleaning products with phosphates and water softening agents.

How To Fix Hard Water Problems

You need a water softener.  Water softeners address all of these downsides to hardness minerals in the water supply. We cover a lot of questions in the FAQ section of our site ranging from why soft water is sometimes described as slippery to why your city doesn’t supply soft water to the impact on septic systems. Hard water is not created equally.  The amount of hard water in your home may be very different than your  neighbors.  So, take the first step.  Start the form at the right on this page to initiate a test on your water
Ready for Softer Water?
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