Whether your home is supplied with well water or simply a municipal water supply with high mineral levels, you may be starting to notice a white, chalky residue on your dishes after washing them. You might also notice that your skin feels dry or tight after showering, or that your laundry seems to require quite a bit of fabric softener to avoid stiffness. These issues are usually caused by hard water -- water that has spent thousands of years flowing through granite and slate, picking up high concentrations of calcium and other minerals along the way. Not only can hard water cause aesthetic issues, it can wreak major havoc on your washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator, and other appliances. Read on to learn more about the impact of hard water, as well as what you should do to minimize any potential ill effects.
What does hard water do to your appliances?
Because hard water carries a number of mineral ions that aren't present in soft water, a material's repeated and frequent exposure to hard water will eventually cause deposits to form. The formation of hard water deposits inside pipes and tubing (or fine mesh screens, like those inside a washer) can be compared to the formation of cholesterol and fatty deposits inside arteries. Over time, these deposits will form a clog, blocking the flow of water. Most problems with hard water will involve a clogging of a thin tube, like those inside dishwashers or some refrigerators, or the corrosion of a moving part, like a lever or wheel. If undetected, these clogs and corroded parts can result in major damage to the appliance or even to your plumbing.
If you have untreated hard water in your home, you should probably expect to replace your appliances more frequently than your friends or family members who have softer water.
What can you do to minimize the negative effects of hard water?
The quickest and most effective way to neutralize hard water is to install a water softener. There are a variety of softeners available, but most operate on one of two principles.
If you don't want to install a water softener, there are a few things you can do to periodically clean any lime or calcium deposits from the inside of your appliances.
Because these minerals (and the deposits they leave behind) are alkaline, attacking them with an acidic mixture can cut through this scale. Both lemon juice and vinegar have shown themselves to be effective in removing built-up minerals -- in fact, citric acid is one of the primary ingredients in most dishwasher rinse agents. By mixing white vinegar and a small amount of lemon juice and running your washer or dishwasher through an empty cycle, you can ensure that this mixture penetrates all parts of the appliance that are in contact with water.
If you're afraid mineral deposits have already begun to cause problems in your refrigerator, you may want to unplug it and disconnect the water supply valve. If you can remove this valve, running the vinegar and lemon juice mixture through it should be sufficient to clear out any clogs. You may also wish to make a paste of baking soda and vinegar and apply this with a toothbrush to any other parts you can access. After you've rinsed this mixture off, you should also have removed most of the lime scale and other hard water deposits.
If these methods don't work and your appliances still aren't working properly, you may need to contact a home appliance repair company.
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