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0 Hard water in the UK

Where does our water come from?Rain Couds

Water in the UK arrives as rain or snow and then it's down to nature and geography - with some input from humans - to determine what sort of water we have in our homes.

 

Water in reservoirs or natural lakes

Surface water - from rivers and streams – is stored in natural lakes or artificial reservoirs and makes up the majority (68%) of our water supply. This water has a low concentration of calcium and magnesium but perhaps some sodium, chloride and sulphate, depending on location, from the action of the wind over sea.

 

Water stored underground

The rest of our water comes from underground, where it has filtered down through rocks to the water table and on its way down has absorbed natural minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The exception to this is water that has come across impervious rocks, that are calcium-poor anyway, such as granite; it's too hard to percolate through, so water tends to run off and not absorb minerals. Snowdonia in Wales and the Western Highlands of Scotland are examples of this geological factor.

 

What is hard water?
Pouring boiled water into mug

Water high in those natural minerals already mentioned - calcium and magnesium - is called 'hard'. Water low in these minerals is called 'soft'. There are grades in between such as semi hard or semi-soft or even not too hard or very hard.

 

How can I tell whether I have hard water or not?

Water hardness is measured by the number of mineral deposits in your water (parts per million - ppm). A soft water area would have around 60-100ppm while a very hard water area would register more than 180ppm.

 

You can go on your water supplier's website and check the hardness of your water by inputting your postcode.

 

Or you can check here.

 

 

Broadly, where is water hard in the UK?

It's easier to note which places are soft or semi-hard:

 

Cornwall, most of Devon and West Wales are blessed with soft water as is the north of England and most of Scotland. Middle England is mostly middling, with semi-hard. The rest of the country has hard water, around 60% of the country.

 

 

What difference does hard water make?Tap encrusted with limesacle

Hard water is rich in calcium, which produces limescale when it dries. Limescale typically forms an unsightly crust around the base of taps in domestic wash basins and baths, covers shower screens with a fine white residue and forms a coating around plugholes. Although there are limescale removers on the market, it is not particularly easy to control and is an ongoing task. Laundry washed in hard water needs more cleaning product and does not produce the pleasing soapy suds of soft water. Shampoo will not lather well, nor will soap. More conditioner is needed to get your hair feeling soft after washing. It is similar to using salt water, if any readers are sailors or have been on a cruise.

 

Central heating systems don't like hard water

When hard water is heated, it forms deposits when it cools – called scale - that is notorious for clogging up central heating systems - radiators, pipes and heat exchangers. Untreated, they have to be periodically flushed to remove the scaling. Domestic machines that use water such as dishwashers and washing machines will have similar problems over time.

 

If you don't recognise the characteristics of hard and soft water, you may live in a middling area, with semi-hard water.

 

How to remove limescale from my water supply

Unless you move to a soft water area, you are stuck with hard water. But a way to alleviate the issues and to minimise limescale from your water supply is to have a mains water limescale filter, or hard water filter, fitted. This should realign the calcium molecules, so they no longer form limescale and you will have water that resembles soft water. Baths will be slippery, hair washing will be a pleasure, you'll use less laundry liquid, and you won't be trying to remove limescale from your sinks. And behind the scenes, your central heating pipes won't be clogging up.

 

Do I need to fit a mains water limescale filter in my home?

Mains water is so-called as it comes straight off the mains and is not stored in a tank first. In an independent home, it's the one you use for washing and for your central heating if you have radiators. If you live in a block of flats, you will need to have an independent mains supply for water to be treated. If you have hard water, it’s possible to have a filter fitted to your mains supply to remove the limescale.

 

What sort of mains water filter can I have fitted?

There are two main types of domestic water treatment systems. A salt-based solution (water softener) softens the water by removing the hard minerals (ions) and replacing them with salt. Our preferred system (filter) uses a cartridge system where the hard ions are physically bound together to prevent them forming scale. Both systems work well, but filters are cheaper and very low maintenance. The cartridge needs replacing every 1 to 3 years, depending on the equipment chosen. There is no electricity needed and no salt to be refilled.

 

Are mains water filters expensive?

No. Our Doby OneFlow hard water filter will remove scale for around a year before the cartridge needs replacing (depending on water usage). You will save considerably on laundry products and your water-dependent machines will last longer, including your central heating system if it runs water-filled radiators. It should pay for itself in two years or less, but there are many other benefits mentioned before that you will enjoy straight away.

 

Is hard water safe for drinking?Driibking water glass being filled

All water in the UK is very safe to drink, whether it’s hard or soft. Whether it tastes nice or not is another matter and one we will deal with later. Water in the UK is independently monitored by the Drinking Water Inspectorate, set up in 1990. Water companies test their water supplies daily and supply their findings to the DWI. The public body also carries out extensive research. Drinking water in the UK is among the best in the world, with drinking quality of 99.96%, acknowledged by Statistica that also has other interesting facts about UK water.

 

Is hard water bad for my skin?

There is much anecdotal evidence from our customers to suggest soft water minimises conditions such as psoriasis and eczema and hard water exacerbates these conditions. However, various health studies, including one by the World Health Organisation in 2008 and the Softened Water Eczema Trial published in 2011 found no symptom relief in soft water for skin conditions. Critics would argue that the sample size in the latter was small (336) but not everyone needs scientific proof that soft water helps their skin condition. It could be chlorine that causes skin irritation, perceived or otherwise, which we touch on later.

 

I don't like the taste of my tap water. Is it because it's hard?

The UK has among the best tap water in the world as already mentioned. To make our water safe, the final process in the long purification process is the addition of chlorine. This acts as a disinfectant. If you don't like your tap water, it's probably the chlorine, rather than the natural mineral salts you don't like. Some people feel that chlorine could be responsible for exacerbating their skin condition, especially psoriasis but only this anecdotal evidence supports the claim. Chlorine encourages skin to dry, which causes the skin to flake more. Psoriasis sufferers typically avoid public swimming pools for this reason.

 

Don't buy bottled waterDiscarderd water bottle

The worst thing you can do, environmentally and financially is to buy water in plastic bottles. Even the very large ones work out much more expensive than a water filter. They also take many, many years to degrade and have become a serious blot on our landscape, both here and abroad. 'Smart water'; is just a fancy name, dressed up to be something that is good for us, but it still involves single use plastic. Read our in-depth blog about it. Tap water costs around 0.3p per two litres, a supermarket own brand 45p and a brand 90p. You are pouring money down the drain and damaging the environment at the same time.


Fitting a water filter to get better tasting water

Not liking the taste is a common problem and ironically maybe, more likely to happen with soft water as hard water containing minerals may help to mask the taste of the chlorine. While some ions (minerals) are removed by boiling, the chlorine taste tends to remain. Many people don't mind it and if that is you, then you don't need to do anything. But if you would like nicer tasting water - the mountain stream taste you may have enjoyed on a hike in Scotland or Wales maybe - then, a water filter may be for you. It's normally fitted under your kitchen sink, takes up very little space and needs minimum attention.

 

If I have a mains water filter, what about drinking water?

If you have a salt-based water softener, you usually leave a tap for drinking water where the water is untreated. Normally this is in the kitchen. Another option is to have a three-way tap fitted, with water all from the same tap. It means your kitchen sink will look less cluttered. It’s a question of personal preference really. You can read more about our tri-tap choices.

Remember, all drinking water in the UK is safe. Your kettle will still ‘fur’ up but water everywhere else will have the calcium filtered out. If you take a glass of water to bed with you, use the mains water tap in the kitchen.

 

What if I want a mains limescale filter AND a water filter for my drinking water?

We can do that too! You might find our Doby Taste and OneFlow hard water filter is perfect. It will mean no limescale and better tasting water (assuming you don't like the taste of your water) as it removes chlorine and sediment as well as hard minerals. It should fit under your sink, but you can fit it anywhere where the mains water enters the house - a garage or utility room for example. Space could be a bit tight, and you may need to find another home for your cleaning materials if you choose the kitchen, but we think it's a small price to pay. And the best thing is the cartridge should last for up to two years before being replaced. You also don't need a separate cold water tap.

 

Does a water filter take up much space?

No. A water filter is usually smaller than a salt-based water softener as there is no need for bulky salt bricks. The dimensions of all our machines are clearly listed.

 

What if I just want nice tasting water: should I have a water filter fitted?

As mentioned earlier, it's soft water that usually has what some people regard as an unpleasant taste and smell, probably from the chlorine. Check that boiling the water doesn't take away the unpleasant taste - it often does. Boiling water and letting it cool, then refrigerating it in a jug could be an answer, so it's worth trying.


Are water filters easy to fit?Water filter installation

Yes. A water filter is inexpensive, takes up very little room and you'll have great tasting water year round. You just need to replace a cartridge once or twice a year (depending on water use). See one of ours here. We can supply a basic filter that filters out the chorine, or more advanced options that can filter out heavy metals, fluoride and bacteria. We can help you to decide which you need, which depends on your water supply and to a certain extent your taste preference

If you normally buy bottled water, the product should have paid for itself in a year to a year and a half, depending on your water consumption and your usual water brand. Imagine delicious water on tap - you might even start to drink more. It's much healthier for all of us, especially for children instead of sugary drinks.

 

From our customers: case studies for limescale filter and water filter

Mains limescale filter

''We sold our house and went into rented for a year. During that time, our home had no mains water limescale filter and I'd forgotten how horrible it is. I missed our shiny sinks and soapy baths. As soon as we moved, my priority was a limescale water filter. At the same time, I had a water filter fitted, feeling I was doing my bit for the environment. No more expensive bottled water for our family.'' Mrs J, Richmond.

 

Water filter

''We had a Pearl Drinking water filter fitted after I'd been shocked with the results of my annual water spending using Fountain Filters calculator. Our plumber fitted it in a couple of hours. I'm sure salad leaves and boiled vegetables taste better. I drink my tea black, and I've noticed the taste is nicer. Thumbs up all round.'' Ms T, Salisbury


What if I'm happy with my water?

If you are happy with your water - don't suffer from hard water and limescale and like the taste - we don't suggest you do anything.

 

Obviously, we sell water filters and mains water limescale filters but wouldn't try to sell to anyone who is satisfied with their water. If you have friends or relatives who have hard water though, or don't like the taste of their tap water, we'd be grateful if you'd mention us or send them a link to this article.

 

FAQs

What is a hard water filter?

A hard water filter isn't actually a filter at all. Because the minerals that make water hard are dissolved they would just flow straight through an ordinary filter. Instead, the filter cartridge treats the water by altering some of the properties of the minerals so they don't form limescale.

 

Can I install a hard water filter for a shower?

Yes you can. You can install a hard water filter to the cold water supply to an electric shower, or the water that feeds the boiler that heats the shower water. Alternatively, fit a filter to your mains water supply and treat the whole house.

 

No, and they work in completely different ways. A water softener uses sodium chloride - salt - to replace the hard water minerals. Unfortunately, that leaves a small amount of sodium in the water so it may not be good to drink due to the effects on blood pressure and heart health. Good modern softeners only amount to about 5 percent of your recommended daily allowance, however, it's probably best to minimise all salt intake.

No, and they work in completely different ways. A water softener uses sodium chloride - salt - to replace the hard water minerals. Unfortunately, that leaves a small amount of sodium in the water so it may not be good to drink due to the effects on blood pressure and heart health. Good modern softeners only amount to about 5 percent of your recommended daily allowance, however, it's probably best to minimise all salt intake.

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