If you’re wondering whether or not your home will benefit from a water softener, you need to know how to test for water hardness.
Huge portions of the continental United States suffer from hard water. According to the United States Geological Survey, over 90% of households have some sort of hard water problem.
Whether that problem necessitates a hard water softener is up to you. You could read about the common issues associated with hard water, or you could administer a hard water test at your home.
In this article, we’ll review the main ways you can test for water hardness:
Read your local water quality report
By buying a soap test kit online
- By hiring an in-home professional
How to Know if You Need to Test for Water Hardness
If you live in the United States, the EPA regulates and sets standards for the drinking water in your area. Each year, according to their website, you should receive a Consumer Confidence Report about drinking water quality from your supplier.
If, like most people, you threw it away in the garbage because you thought it was junk mail, don’t worry. You can easily access your Consumer Confidence Report online byfollowing this link.
For the best results, plug in your state and county in the search box. When we searched for specific cities and towns, no results showed up. If you don’t know your water supplier, you can find it later.
Read Your Local Water Quality Report
If you are on city water you should be able to get a hold of a recent water quality report that is required by your local water municipality. The easiest way to do this is to google "you address, city and zip code" + "water quality report". You should be able to find it in the first or second result. In there it will also have water hardness as well as chlorine levels, VOC's and other contaminants levels if you wish to know. You can also call your local water district and request one.
If you have a hard time finding your recent water quality report simply give us a call and we can find it for you 866-455-9989
How to Test Water Hardness: Soap Test Kit
A soap test kit is simple and cheap.
If you look on Amazon right now, you’ll find20+ options for soap testing kits. They have all sorts of names: soft water test kit, hard water test kit, well water test kit, you name it.
All of these tests, of course, range from the low end to the high end. There are strips you dip into the water for a few seconds, and then there are vials you fill with your tap water and ship to a laboratory to have them test for heavy metals, VOCs, e-coli, and more.
Buy the right product for you. If you’re not interested in (or at all worried about) finding out if your tap water is possibly infected with e-coli, you don’t have to opt for the more expensive option, just buy the strips for $10.
How to Use Water Hardness Testing Strips
Using a water hardness testing strip is about as easy as it gets.
Dip the strip into whatever water you want to test for a couple seconds (if you’re filling up a cup, make sure it’s rinsed out; you don’t want any leftover residue to affect the results).
Shake off any excess water from the strip.
Wait about a minute or so.
Compare the strip color to the color chart provided.
For example, if you bought thesewater hardness test strips from Health Metric, and the result came out as an orange-red, you could rightfully assume that your water has a hardness level of anywhere from 15 to 25 grains per gallon.
In order to reduce your margin of error, test multiple water sources around your home and then average the estimated results.
If you use five strips to test five different sources (at different times of the day), and all of them come back with a relatively high hardness level of 15 grains per gallon, you almost definitely have a hard water problem.
Also, in order to test the legitimacy of the strips, test one of them in distilled water. You shouldn’t see any effect, since distilled water has no calcium or magnesium.
Hiring a Professional: Why You Probably Shouldn’t...
Before water hardness testing strips became popular, water softener salesmen would often travel door to door to test people’s water hardness.
The goal, of course, was to sell the person a water softener whether they needed one or not.
If you’re hiring a professional, make sure you’reactuallyhiring a professional and not just another water softener salesman.
Our advice, if you want a high-quality report on your drinking water, is to buy one of the high-quality water hardness testing products on Amazon, the ones that have you send samples of your water through the mail. That way, you’ll avoid someone trying to sell you something you don't need.
For example, if you already have a template-assisted crystallization softener (and/or “conditioner”), a water softener salesman is likely to attempt to try to sell you his system instead. Here’s why...
Disclaimer for Template-Assisted Crystallization
Some systems actually "condition" hard water. The levels of magnesium and calcium haven’t changed, but their ability to form limescalehaschanged.
Essentially, catalytic beads changes the nucleation sites of magnesium and calcium so that they’re significantly less likely to cling to surfaces. If you want a more detailed explanation,look here.
FAQ: How to Test for Water Hardness
Isn’t hard water bad for you?
Actually, when you consider that most “soft” water has significant amounts of sodium in it, soft water is worse for your health than hard water, particularly if you have any pre-existing heart conditions or high blood pressure.
In fact,one study published in theInternational Journal of Internal Medicine, “drinking-water may be a source of calcium and magnesium in the diet and could be important for those who are marginal for calcium and magnesium intake.”
If you’re replacing that magnesium and calcium with sodium, you’re taking healthy minerals out of your drinking water and replacing them with unhealthy minerals.
Do ion exchange filters filter water?
In short, no. Ion exchange filters are specifically made to attract positively charged particles like magnesium and calcium. They aren’t designed to filter water. If you boughtsomething like the FS1000, though, we have a built-in pre-filter for all sorts of contaminants.
Are there any other drawbacks to salt-based softeners?
Salt-based water softeners are actually being banned in certain municipalities in the United States.
For instance, this article in the LA Times talks about howsoft water is becoming an increasingly “hard” problem for residents:
“Water districts across California are under pressure to “recycle” sewage and runoff that they used to dispose of. The sanitized wastewater can be used for irrigation, groundwater recharge and even drinking water if the sewage is thoroughly cleaned.”
In short, since water is becoming less and less available and salt-based softeners generate a lot of wastewater, municipalities are thinking about banning them. Why buy something that might soon be illegal in your area when you could just buy a different conditioner thatdoesn’t generate waste?
How to Measure Water Hardness: Conclusion
How to test for water hardness? Buy a pack of water hardness testing strips online.
If you want a higher-end way of testing your water, avoid water softener salesmen. If you feel that you need to hire a professional, make sure you’re actually hiring a non-biased professional.
Your best bet, though, if you want detailed and non-biased information on your water quality, is to buy a higher-end water hardness testing kit where you mail vials of your water to a laboratory and they send you back the results. This way, you’ll get extensive information on not only the possible levels of magnesium and calcium in your water, but also whether or not your water is infected with e-coli, VOCs, and more.
If you find that you have a water hardness problem that you’d like to get rid of,check out FilterSmart’s line of water softeners and conditioners. Our systems allow you to keep the magnesium and calcium in the water -- the healthy minerals -- while getting rid of their negative effects. On the other hand, ion exchange salt-based systems put unnecessary levels of sodium in your water (and cost much more to maintain).