Could Your Water Be Harming Your Lifestyle?

Picture this: you’ve just taken a nice warm shower at the end of a long day full of responsibilities and you feel like you are on top of the world. Sadly, that feeling quickly dissipates after a few minutes as your skin starts feeling increasingly dry and your hair gets progressively stiffer and flatter as it dries. Your mood then goes along with it… what could possibly be to blame?  

The main perpetrator of the pesky problem that you’re dealing with is probably hard water. Yes, you read that correctly. You are now probably wondering what it even means or takes for water to be classified as “hard”, and you’ve come to the right place to learn more about how it affects your health and home.

This kind of water may introduce covert problems that may affect your lifestyle in more ways than expected. According to the Water Quality Association, hard water contains magnesium, calcium, and other metallic compounds in much higher concentrations than soft water. At best, these compounds make it much more difficult to get completely clean when showering and make your laundry feel as stiff as cardboard. At worst, they can severely clog your pipes over time and even make revolting yellow chunks of minerals accumulate on your shower head! The baseline of these effects is the chemical interaction between hard water and soap. Yes, chemistry… your favorite subject. Let’s discuss exactly how this process goes down.

Metals such as magnesium and calcium tend to prevent detergents, such as soap, from doing their jobs, and this is why. Water is inherently polar and does not remove oily compounds, such as grease, from the skin by itself. This is where the “like dissolves like” concept that we learned in school come into play: since water is polar, soap is necessary to remove the built-up grease and dirt on our skin because it is nonpolar just like them. Soap is special because of its molecular structure: one part of it is attracted to water, and another to oils. This allows it to mobilize oils and, in turn, be mobilized by water.

Anyway, the calcium and magnesium present in hard water decided to crash this party, and they came in with a pretty bad mood. Sodium, another compound contained in soap, mingles with these metals and the results aren’t pretty: the calcium and magnesium salts appear as soap scum. Soap scum is the yucky residue that can be found on showers that haven’t been cleaned in a while or even dishes that were just washed in the dishwasher. Hard water’s tendency to leave soap residue is also probably why your skin and hair may be in a, say, worse-off condition after a shower than before you even took one.

Now that you know how hard water affects your lifestyle, what can be done to address it? Luckily, there are several ways. Hard water comes in two forms: temporary and permanent. Temporary hard water is the kind that can be boiled, which makes the metals inside it unable to leave residue on your skin. However, most college students probably don’t have the time or resources to boil water before every shower, which paves the way for the next solution: water-filtering shower heads! A lot of them are thirty dollars or under and claim to make all skin and hair-related woes disappear for good. Now, that’s what everyone would like to hear. 

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