how to deal with hard water

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Looking for advice on how to deal with hard water? We’ve been there – here’s our best tips!

We had just gotten a new washing machine in our two family house and I was so excited.  I hadn’t had a washing machine in my building in 8 years. (Thanks a lot, NYC.).  

Oh, my soul, how exciting to toss in the whites and in 30 minutes, casually saunter downstairs to change them to the dryer.  Oh, the ease… nay, the relief!  No nasty baskets used by 400 other people on Astoria Boulevard!  

It’s my first day working in tandem with our new washing machine, an easy breezy 40 minutes goes by, quarter free, and I pull the whites out the dryer only to find…

They’re gray.

…What?  

I wash them again.  

Only to discover, they’re gray again.

I turn to google, my new bestie in the home ownership process, to learn that doldrum, gray looking laundry can be the result of one unwelcome, horrible tenant:

Hard water.  

Oof.

It’s nasty, it’s annoying, and it’s almost everywhere.  It leaves a residue on everything – pots and pans, shower heads, the tub, sink fixtures…

In the last five years owning our two family, we’ve tried seemingly everything to deal with this hard water in our home.  

Here’s what has worked for us!


How to deal with hard water: prevention

Supposedly Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  No different here when fighting hard water, folks.  

Big kahuna

We asked our lovely neighbors what they use to deal with hard water, since they have lived in our town much longer than we.  They invited us in to check out their whole-house filter.  It hooks up to the water source to your home, filtering the water before it hits your pipes.  

We got this one at their recommendation, from Aquasana.

It kind of reminds me of something from Super Mario Bros. (Favorite: NES version 3, with the little map.).

It’s do-able by yourself, but we just hired our plumber to install the system.

Note that it must be level.

Also note (yay) that its filter needs to only be changed every 6 years. That’s our style!

The only downside we have noticed using this filter is that the water pressure changes when it is very taxed. When I say taxed, I mean the 2nd floor shower is going, the washing machine is running, and someone is doing dishes. If it’s one area at a time, it’s not a big deal.

After installing this whole-house filter, we immediately noticed that residue from hard water was cut by about 60% – not bad!  We’ll take it!

hard water softener

Smaller kahuna

Not ready to go for the whole enchilada?  There are smaller filters on the market, too.  

We used an American Plumber one like this for the first couple of years.

Did it help?

Meh… sort of.

One downside that turned us away from it: the filter requires changing every 6 months.  It was very easy to forget to do so.  

Ok, let’s be honest… it didn’t work for us because we never remembered to change the filter.


Smallest kahuna

The other thing you can do, at least to help with cooking and drinking water, is invest in a filter for your tap water.  

Our neighbors use a tap filter like this one.

We go even simpler and use pitchers with filters in them.  We change them monthly.  

At least you’ll rest assured you’re not drinking all the crap, right?


Free kahuna

The lovely people at Aquasana recommend turning down your water temperature.  It’s a free fix! Pretty slick, right?  

This will save you money on water heating costs. If you’re me, this will also save you money on water supply costs because you bet your ass I’m out of the shower in 2 minutes unless the water is roasty-toasty.

According to this Aquasana article, “running hot water through the hot water heater contributes to hard water stains and mineral buildup… due to the mineral precipitation process.”

I don’t know a whole lot about the mineral precipitation process, but I’ll take their word for it. 

how to fix hard water in house
Turn that dial down, baby!

How to deal with hard water: cleaning

Load up your arsenal with these three bad boys to deal with hard water by cleaning its residue.

CLR Remover

Formally called “Calcium, Lime, & Rust Remover,” this is the official stuff to remove the calcium crap deposits on your shower walls, tub, fixtures…

CLR is serious stuff but it gets it done. Keep the kids and the pets out of the way when you use it, and be sure to turn on a fan.

Lysol

It’s a simple fix, but if you’re in a hurry with company coming, this bathroom cleaner cuts through the soap scum quickly and efficiently.  We like it best for use in the bathroom.

It also kills germs.  

It’s 2022… please kill all the germs. Enough said.   

Vinegar

She’s a cheap date, but she’s awfully effective.

Either solo or cut with distilled water, vinegar is the magic fix you need.  Seriously.    

Use it in the tub, on the fixtures in a plastic bag like our friends at Real Simple teach, dip a cotton swab and get around those gremlin spots on the fixtures… vinegar is a workhorse.  

Squeegee

We chose a beautiful clear shower door for our new first floor bathroom. We even invested in the type of shower door glass that resists stains. Nevertheless… the deposits persisted.

We invested in this handy squeegee for the shower stall. If you keep disciplined and use it while the door is still steamed from the shower, it does a nice job for day-to-day maintenance of the glass.


How to deal with hard water: work with it

Cooking

We do not put any water into a pot or pan that has not passed through a filter pitcher.  Boiling water straight from the tap left a disgusting residue on our pots, so we said NOPE!  

We use 2 pitchers so that one can filter while we use the other.  (Patience isn’t my strong point).

Dishwasher

My pride and joy upon completion of our first floor kitchen renovation: the dishwasher.

My most embarrassing moment as a new homeowner (ok, one of many): using our dishwasher for the first time, only to realize that it left a horrible soap residue on every dish, mug, and fork.  

Hard water, you little devil.

The solution?

Lemishine.  

It’s a little powder potion you put in the dish soap dispenser of your dishwasher.  (FYI – A little goes a long way.).

I started by ordering online, and later discovered our grocery store carries it among its limited cleaning supply section.  Apparently I’m not the only one in town who struggles to deal with hard water in the dishwasher.  

Laundry

Oh, and about those whites!  

I use a one-two punch to get our clothes sparkling clean.  

One: Homemade laundry soap

Don’t @ me for being crunchy and frugal.  

This homemade liquid laundry soap works better than just about anything on the market.  

It also costs about 1/3 of a brand detergent.  Thank you, Kristin at Live Simply for saving us the Benjamins and keeping hard water from ruining our clothes.  

Two: “Softener”

For the washing machine – say hello to good ol’ vinegar, once again.  

Instead of fabric softener, I add vinegar to my laundry cycles.

No, I have not run this by our plumber, but I’m happy to report that over 5 years, nothing bad has happened yet.  

Our clothes no longer have a doldrum gray tinge, and our whites are truly whiter!

The exception…

There is one exception to my one-two punch approach above, and that is washing cloth diapers.  (Yes, I know, doubly crunchy and frugal of me. We use cloth when we are home – full post to follow. For now, know that our incentives are saving money & avoiding the store mid-pandemic.).  

For this, we call in the bigs guns, and employ the tried-and-true Tide powder, which has a softener built into its recipe.  

I know not the magic which makes it work.  

I can only report that the dirtiest laundry a human can produce comes out clean by using it. 


Conclusion

Well, that wraps it up today!

Preventing it, cleaning it, and working with it are just a few ways to deal with hard water.

Are you trying to deal with hard water in your home? Please, do tell – what are your best tactics?


hard water stains