We've Got Hard Water

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Recently we had a bit of an incident with our hot water heater… The tank began leaking. Thankfully it was still under warranty and we got another one for only the cost of labor. Afterward, we ran into another problem. Our dishes began having a cloudy white film on them, and after boiling water (say, for spaghetti) the pot would also have a line of the cloudy white film.

Comparing a clear and cloudy glass. The glass on the left is clear, whereas the glass on the right is cloudy due to hard water.

We’ve got hard water. This isn’t unusual in our area - the cloudy white film is most likely calcium carbonate that is absorbed by the water in the large aquifer that is the source of our city’s water.

To confirm we do indeed have hard water, I searched “free hard water test” on Google and was able to get two free tests from two different sites.

I ordered both tests on Sunday, August 27, 2018.

The first test came just a couple days later on August 30, 2018. This test came from a provider (manufacturer, I suppose) of water softeners: EcoPure.

To order a free hard water test strip from EcoPure, use the following link:


The second test came just over a month later on September 28, 2018. This test came from Morton Salt. Of course, you use salt to soften water.

To order a free hard water test strip from Morton Salt, use the following link:


I actually solved the hard water issue before I received the Morton Salt hard water test, but it did get me some after-the-fix information, which I’ll get into below.

The Ecopure Test

Ecupure is a manufacturer of water solutions (and I by solution I don’t mean they dissolve stuff in water). Check out the search results for Ecupure on Home Depot’s website if you’re curious.

The test came with an Ecopure pamphlet:

The Ecopure Pamphlet and Test The Ecopure Pamphlet and Test

The test Ecopure sent involved dipping the stick into a cup of water. It was somewhat reminiscent of using those litmus pH test strips back in high school chemistry class.

Holding the Test Strip Above The Cup of Water Holding the Test Strip Above The Cup of Water

The results of the test indicated a hard water level 250 and 425 ppm (parts per million). The parts are the calcium and magnesium carbonates. “Per million” doesn’t sound like much, but the level our water is on the hard water side of the spectrum:

The Ecopure Pamphlet with the Test Results The Ecopure Pamphlet with the Test Results

The Fix

The first thing I did was double-check that the brine tank was full.

In case you get confused, brine is just a fancy way of saying salt water. Typically it refers to an extremely high concentration of salt in water (> 5%), as opposed to saline water you may have as an IV at a hospital, which only has a high concentration (no “extremely”, somewhere between 3% to 5%).

It was full, but for good measure, I emptied it onto the driveway - a lot of the salt had solidified in one big chunk as was no longer in pellet form - and refilled the tank.

Unfortunately, no dice. While I didn’t have another hard water test yet, I could tell by the dishes that the hard water problem had yet to be solved.

Next thing I tried is looking for the manual for our water softener - except the water softener was installed before my wife bought the house. We don’t have a paper copy of the manual. Thankfully, the internet is a wonderful thing. I just needed to find the model number.

After I found and read the manual, I realized that our water softener wasn’t set right - mostly due to the fact that it was unplugged from the electricity while the new hot water tank was installed. I set it up, and our dishes started to become more clear.

Oh, and I put some water softener cleanser into the brine tank (it actually goes into the little pipe thing in the brine tank) for good measure.

The Morton Test

The Morton Test came long after I apparently fixed the issue. Still, it’s a free test, and I was curious if we really no longer had hard water.

The Morton test also came with a pamphlet, but this pamphlet was more geared toward an overall understanding of hard water, rather than selling a certain product:

The Morton Pamphlet The Morton Pamphlet

I’m not sure why Morton didn’t push their product harder - although the pamphlet did come with a coupon. Maybe it’s because they sell more than just water softener salt - they’re also well known for their table salt.

The Morton test had me run the test strip underneath a stream of water for one second, then wait 15 seconds. I compared it to the chart on the package and GASP it says I still have hard water:

The Morton Test The Morton Test

Now What?

The main reason that we have hard water is our municipal water supply. We sit on the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer - which, while it provides plenty of otherwise high-quality water for the region, absorbs a lot of the calcium deposits from the sediment it sits in.

Our next step, should the hard water problem get worse, is to replace our water softener. From what I understand, they do get less efficient over time. One solution is to replace the resin inside the water softener itself, but as far as I can tell that can cost as much as a new system itself.

The glasses have cleared up over time. I tried rinsing them with vinegar (since the calcium on them is essentially a base, I assumed washing them with an acid would be a quick way to clean them). We recently did have another scare with hard water, but the salt tank had gotten empty. One glass had gotten really bad, so I soaked it in some diluted vinegar, which actually worked really well.

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