If you have a dishwasher, you’ve probably noticed at times spots left on your glasses, dishes and silverware after you’ve run them through the machine. While common causes are the use of too much detergent and improper loading — dishes blocking or impeding the spray arms or preventing the soap dispenser from properly opening — the culprit may be the water itself.
Hard water contains high levels of minerals like magnesium and calcium that can take a toll on appliances and plumbing systems in your home. Other signs of hard water include a white, chalky residue or scaly buildup on sinks, tubs, faucets and pipes, as well as appliances, which can reduce their lifespan and energy efficiency; mineral stains or rough textures on your clothes; difficulty getting soap to form a lather; lower water pressure as the buildup reduces the inner diameter of your pipes; and dry skin and dull, brittle hair.
Since Ontario water hardness varies widely, the best way to determine if you have it is to put your water to the test. Here are two methods recommended by Enercare to quickly get a sense of your home’s water hardness.
Fill a plastic bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid one-third full with cold water from your faucet. Add approximately 10 drops of dish soap that’s free of perfumes, dyes or detergents. Once you’ve added the soap, give the bottle or jar a good shake. If there’s a layer of soapy bubbles sitting on top of fairly clear water, you have soft water and you don’t need to treat it for hardness. But if there’s little or no foaming and the water is cloudy, you probably have hard water.
DIY Test Kit
If you want to be certain or find out how hard your water is, you can purchase an inexpensive DIY test kit from most home improvement stores. Many test kits check a range of indicators, including water pH, chlorine, iron, nitrate, heavy metal and bacteria levels. Usually, the test involves dipping a strip into a glass of water and watching for colour changes. The colour chart or legend provided will help you determine your results.
In Toronto, you should be able to obtain a water quality report from the City. The report is often highly technical and contains far more data than just water hardness. What you want to look for is information on calcium carbonate, which should be reported in milligrams per litre (mg/L) or grains per gallon (gpg). You can determine your water’s hardness based on these concentrations:
- Below 60 mg/L is considered soft
- 60 to 120 mg/L is moderately hard
- 120 to 180 mg/L is hard
- More than 180 mg/L is very hard
Alternatively, contact your water provider. In the case of Enercare, a consultant will visit your home to test your water for hardness and other quality indicators for free, then recommend the ideal water treatment solution.