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How can I tell if I have hard water?

Water hardness shows up as scale in water heaters or on plumbing fixtures, soap deposits on dishes and fabrics, and soap scum in sinks and bathtubs.

What makes my water hard?

As water passes through the atmosphere in the form of rain, snow, sleet, hail, dew, or fog, it picks up impurities and gases. Because water is the universal solvent, it also picks up impurities as it travels through the earth as ground water. Water will dissolve whatever substances or minerals it comes in contact with.

What is water hardness?

Water hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium in ground and surface water. If high concentrations of these minerals are present in your drinking water, the water is considered hard. These minerals come from sedimentary rock such as limestone that dissolves into water. The result of hard water is difficulty making suds for washing and buildup of minerals on taps and other fixtures. Water containing low concentrations of calcium or magnesium is called soft water.

What is soft water?

A water softener replaces the hardness minerals with sodium or potassium. The amounts of these elements added to the water are relatively insignificant in comparison to what is ingested from your food and should not pose a health problem.

Most often, water softeners are regenerated with salt and water. Regeneration is a process by which the softening materials inside the softener can be used over and over again. Once the regeneration is complete, the salt and water solution is flushed into the drain.

Should I be concerned about sodium in water?

If sodium is a concern to you, your water professional can explain the amount of sodium in softened water. This varies depending on the hardness of the water supply. Any person on a sodium-restricted diet should follow the advice of his/her physician. All municipal water supplies contain some naturally occurring sodium. If the sodium-restricted diet is very strict, discuss the use of reverse osmosis (RO) drinking water systems, or some other water quality improvement system to reduce the sodium to meet your health requirements.

For the sake of comparison, one slice of white bread contains about 114 mg of sodium, and an 8 oz glass of milk contains 120 mg of sodium. If your water contains 10 grain per gallon (GPG), and if you consume a total of one quart of softened water a day, your intake of additional sodium would be 75 mg, which is less than a slice of bread or a glass of milk.

Why do my sinks and fixtures turn yellow?

One of the most common water treatment problems found in well water is iron, which leaves rust-colored stains on plumbing fixtures. Iron can be found in 3 different forms.

Ferrous iron (dissolved) – Although not visible it is the most common type of iron. When mixed with oxygen it stains sinks, toilets, and laundry, especially when bleach is added. To reduce levels of ferrous iron, softening and/or filtration is performed.

Ferric iron (suspended) – Ferric iron or brown water iron is oxidized and forms particles. Normally these particles are seen once settled down in a glass of water. Sometimes these particles are too small to be seen and very difficult to remove.

Iron bacteria – This is a general term used to describe a slimy growth or buildup in toilet tanks, which can clog filters, softeners, and pipes. This bacteria is not harmful but considered a nuisance because of the difficulty in removing.

Why is my dishwasher stained brown?

Brown or black stains found in dishwashers are usually from high levels of manganese. Dissolved manganese will leave stains when the level is above .05mg/l. The dishwasher is a perfect mechanism to oxidize it because it heats, agitates and mixes the water with air. Manganese can also stain clothes in the washing machine. If bleach is added, staining may worsen.

Why does my water leave blue-green stains?

This indicates that the water is corrosive and usually acidic. Acidic water can leach metals from pumps, piping, and fixtures. If left alone without treatment, it can cause leaks in copper pipes and fixtures. Acidity is measured on a scale of 0-14 (7 is neutral, less than 7 is acidic, and above 7 is basic).

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs?

Hydrogen sulfide gas is a naturally occurring contaminant, which gives water an unpleasant odor or taste. This usually indicates the presence of some form of non-harmful mineral reducing bacteria in the well. Testing is very difficult because it is a gas and it comes out of solution very quickly. There are no known health effects; however, hydrogen sulfide can also make the water somewhat corrosive.

What is nitrate?

Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound that is formed in the soil when nitrogen and oxygen combine. Small amounts of nitrate are normal, but excess amounts can pollute supplies of groundwater.

Where does nitrate come from?

Common sources of nitrogen in the soil are fertilizers, livestock waste, and septic systems. Excess nitrate in the soil is most often found in rural and agricultural areas.

How does nitrate get into my well water?

Nitrate travels easily through the soil, carried by rain or irrigation water into groundwater supplies. Wells that tap groundwater may be affected. Shallow wells, wells in sandy soil, or wells improperly constructed or maintained are more likely to have nitrate contamination.

What are the health effects of consuming nitrate?

For most people, consuming small amounts of nitrate is not harmful. Nitrate can cause health problems for infants, especially those six months of age and younger. Nitrate interferes with their blood's ability to transport oxygen. This causes an oxygen deficiency resulting in a dangerous condition called methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby syndrome." The most common symptom of nitrate poisoning is bluish-colored skin, especially around the eyes and mouth. Infants six months of age and younger, as well as pregnant and nursing women should avoid the consumption of water high in nitrate. Cattle, horses, sheep, and baby pigs, are also susceptible to nitrate poisoning.

My water doesn't taste good, yet it tested OK. What does this mean?

There are two types of water problems:

Primary problems – Potentially dangerous problems that affect one's health.
Aesthetic problems – Things that affect the taste, look or smell of the water.

Strange as it may seem, you could have an aesthetic problem (such as iron or manganese) that will not pose health risks.

Why does my drinking water sometimes look cloudy?

Once in a while, you get a glass of water and it looks cloudy; maybe milky is a better term. After a few seconds, it miraculously clears up. The cloudiness is due to tiny air bubbles in the water. Like any bubbles, the air rises to the top of the water and goes into the air, clearing up the water. The water in the pipes coming into your house might be under a bit of pressure. Gases dissolved in the pressurized water will come out as the water flows into your glass, which is under normal atmospheric pressure.

What is a part per million (ppm) or a part per billion (ppb)?

Most of the chemical data that is reported for water is expressed as a concentration: One-Part-Per-Million can be thought of as one inch in 16 miles or one cent in $10,000. One-Part-Per-Billion can be thought of as one second of time in 32 years.

It is EXTREMELY MISLEADING to interpret these analogies to minimize the magnitude of the risks. Even minuscule amounts of certain contaminants can poison water.

Why do I feel slippery when bathing in soft water?

The slickness felt after a soft water shower is the real you. Hard water does not easily rinse off the residue from cleaning products. When bathing in softened water, the use of less soap is desirable. Use sufficient water to rinse thoroughly and your skin will feel softer and much smoother than it did with hard water.

What type of salt should I use?

Any type of clean salt can be used. We recommend the use of either block or solar salts. These salt types are the cleanest and will cause the fewest problems in the brine tank. At no time do we recommend the use of iron cleaner additives or "iron fitting type salts" with the use of its equipment. These cleaners will be harmful to the media in the TotalCare Series equipment. Please consult with your local dealer or contact us for proper salt usage.

Can I use potassium type salts?

Yes. Any water softener will work with potassium chloride salts. However, some loss of capacity between regenerations can occur. Please consult with your dealer. If your reason for using potassium salt is health related, remember that potassium chloride is also a salt. Consult with your doctor whenever there is a health concern about your water.   

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