Posted by: sailingspirit | May 31, 2012

It’s Not You, It’s Me: The One I Never Thought to Blame

This is a random sidebar from the usual content I post, but I was so delighted by this enlightenment today I couldn’t help but want to share it.

Break up with your water!

If you’ve thought all your life that you just have extra dry skin or hair, beyond the help of any (and all) products you’ve slathered yourself with, it is probably NOT you, it’s probably your water.

I grew up in a hard-water area and have always had a general knowledge that if your water was unbearably hard, you’d get a water softener.  What I did not know was how much more there was to know!  There are many different causes of not-so-great water, each of which requiring its own solution, so a standard salt-pellet softener is not always the right solution.  In fact, it may be causing the problem you’re noticing or even making it worse!  *Doh!*  If your skin, hair, scalp, shower fixtures or anything else are less than stellar, assume the water is the culprit first and work from there.  Also note your cleaning supplies: if you use a product like CLR regularly, then obviously calcium, lime, and/or rust are present.  If it’s making your fixtures nasty, it’s doing the same to you!  Did you know that many people who think they have dandruff actually have calcium buildup from their water?  *Ew!*

You can probably get water content measurement values from your local city utility.  There are some do-it-yourself test kits out there, too, but try the city first because they have to test the water regularly anyway and keep the data charted on file by law.  When you know what you’re dealing with, it will save you lots of time and effort determining the best-fit solution to buy.  Some of the big culprits are chlorine (which the city uses to “clean” the water), minerals such as calcium, salts, and contaminants such as chemical fertilizers, medicines, etc.  The short of it is, just because your water doesn’t smell or taste particularly funny doesn’t mean it’s as clean as you think it is.  Perhaps 30 years ago it was, but in this case what they’re not telling you about waivers in regulation can negatively affect you, your family, your home, your yard and the environment around you.  Your houseplant will not tell you why the ice maker in your fridge isn’t the same anymore.

The somewhat comforting news is that you have a range of options:

1) Hey there, Hay hair!  If local cattle are chewing on you instead of the bales, there are shampoos out now that are designed for hard water or frequent swimmers.  Chlorine and calcium in shower water is extremely drying for hair, and some culprits will steal color from you or put in color you don’t want (you may have heard of blondes going green in the pool, or seen seniors with yellowed hair when it should be silver or white).  You may not have to use these shampoos every day, depending on the levels in your water, but it’s the cheapest and fastest fix (for hair and scalp, anyway).

2) Head it off at the pass.  There are multiple filtering options now, the prices of which are surprisingly reasonable, and the rate at which you change the filters depends on how many showers per month the head has to do.  The general statement on the package is change it every 6 months.  Not too bad.

3) End it in the zone.  If and when you can invest further, consider installing a local-use unit (such as the shower or laundry room) or a general use system (source treatment) for the whole house.  Again, know the problem before shopping for a solution and it will make the process less consuming of your weekend.  Be sure to also jot down a list of your problems and priorities; few systems will do it all for you.  If you’ve got multiple small children in the home, for example, contaminants in the drinking and cooking water may be a higher priority for you.  Some systems only filter physically, others only chemically, some take elements out while substituting something else in its place, etc.  And don’t assume that if you call one company and say, “I’ve got hard water, I want a system” that they’ll do your investigating for you.  I learned that one the hard way!

What they generally tell you about savings on the back end is true, IF you are treating the right problems.  We got a salt pellet softener for our hard water, which did make soaps work more efficiently throughout the home, but I spent more than the savings trying to keep my hair and skin alive.  Then I found out how bad salt pellet systems are for septic tanks and environmental contamination.  *Uh-oh!*  If a tank needs replacing or you get fined by the DNR, that’s a much bigger hit to your bottom line.  So again I say, remember how far things have come even with your cell phone–and do your homework before defaulting to what dear ol’ dad used to do.  When your water is the way it should be, everything will be better–from your clothes to your hair to your appliances to your inner health.  Time spent doing it right is better than money spent twice.

I close with this fond memory:

“Singin’ in da bathtub,

La la la la la,

watchin’ all my twubles

go swimmin’ down da dwain.”





  1. Just saw an infomercial for the NuvoH2O water treatment system that uses very weak citric acid instead of salt to soften hard water, and has many other benefits. Might be well worth checking out.

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