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How to determine the hardness of water at home

Hard water is the root cause of a whole bunch of domestic troubles: limescale on taps and sinks, white stains on dishes, scum on the heating elements of the devices. The quality of tap water depends on the amount of powder added to the washing machine, the dosage of polyphosphates before the reverse osmosis system, and even the lifespan of aquarium fish.

That is why it is important to know how to determine the hardness of water at home.

Hard water is the root cause of a whole bunch of domestic troubles

Water hardness is a combination of its chemical and physical characteristics related to the amount of alkaline earth metal salts (in particular, calcium and magnesium). The less salt is contained in water, the softer it is considered.

Under natural conditions, the level of stiffness is variable and may vary throughout the year, rising with strong evaporation of fluid and decreasing during the rainy season.

Distinguish between constant stiffness caused by the presence of salts, and temporary, formed by hydrocarbons. The latter is not a particular problem, since it is easily eliminated by boiling.

Excessively hard water not only shortens the life of household appliances, contributing to the formation of scale on the heating elements, but also brings harm to health. Regular consumption of high-salt fluids irritates the intestinal mucosa and is one of the reasons for the formation of kidney stones.

However, excessively soft water also has drawbacks: its constant use can provoke corrosion of pipes due to the lack of acid-base buffering, which is provided by hydrocarbonate hardness.

Excessively hard water shortens the life of household appliances and causes kidney stones.

For the numerical expression of the characteristics of the liquid, degrees of hardness and milligram equivalents per liter (mEq / l) are used. One mEq / l corresponds to a content of 20.04 mg of calcium or 12.6 mg of magnesium per liter of water.

In countries of the post-Soviet space, it is recommended to use water with a hardness not exceeding 7 mEq / l, and in Europe – 1.2 mEq / l.

According to the current standard, the generally accepted unit of measurement is considered to be a degree of stiffness – 1 °. For this indicator Water is divided into three categories:

  • hard – over 10 ° W;
  • medium hardness – 2−10 ° W;
  • soft – up to 2 °.

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The most reliable way to measure the hardness of water is a laboratory analysis. It can be done in the sanitary epidemiological station, where experts will not only determine the salt concentration, but also fix the content of other harmful impurities – nitrates, pesticides, hydrogen sulfide, etc. The analysis is considered voluntary, but when building an autonomous water supply system, it is better not to neglect it – so the residents at home, they will be assured that they are not at risk of infection and other serious consequences of drinking unsuitable for drinking.

Perform the study immediately after pumping a new well.

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  1. Open the tap and drain the water for 30 minutes – this will get rid of the stagnant liquid and wash the metal particles that inevitably accumulate in the iron pipes.
  2. To collect water in a clean plastic or glass bottle. For this purpose, quite suitable capacity from under the mineral water. In no case can not take the container, which was previously a carbonated drink, because the remains of dyestuffs and chemicals preserved in it will distort the results of the study. Liquid should be collected carefully, in a thin stream, in order to avoid excessive exposure to oxygen.
  3. Close the container filled under the very neck with a lid, place it in a dense opaque bag and deliver it to the laboratory within two hours, where they will know the hardness of the water and notify the person who applied to the SES.

If analysis is not feasible for any reason, stiffness can be determined by alternative methods. These methods are easily applicable at home and are available to everyone, but their accuracy cannot be compared with laboratory tests.

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Calcium and magnesium salts have the property of inhibiting foaming by binding soap to insoluble compounds. For this reason, in hard water, dishes are extremely poorly washed and things are practically not washed.

It is also based on one of the basic methods for determining the characteristics of water: if the soap foams normally, the stiffness is average, if it does not foam at all – increased.

For comparison, you can buy two bottles of water with different hardness (this parameter is indicated on the label), and in the third tank to pour liquids from the tap. Then you need to take an equal amount of soap and foam it at the same time in all containers.

The result is a foam that should be measured with a ruler.

In hard water the dishes are extremely poorly washed and things are practically not washed.

Approximate hardness of the test liquid measured by simple arithmetic calculations: for example, if in soft water (1 ° W) the height of the foam is 15 cm, in hard (15 ° W) – 1 cm, and in water from the tap – 6 cm, the rigidity of the latter is the arithmetic average of the first two parameters ( i.e. 8 ° F). However, the described method can not be called completely reliable – guided by it, you can get only a general idea of ​​the characteristics of water.

The intensity of the formation of scale on household appliances (pots, kettles, heaters) also allows us to draw conclusions about the rigidity. So, if aerators of cranes in the house get clogged up in a month, most likely, the salt content exceeds 10 mg-eq / l.

Words to describe the difference between the taste of soft and hard water is quite difficult, but it is almost impossible to not understand it in practical comparison. It should be noted that long-term training allows you to determine the stiffness with an error of up to 2−3 mEq / l, and sometimes even more precisely.

In hard water, tea acquires viscosity, dull hue and metallic aftertaste.

The principle of diagnosis is similar to checking for foaming.: it is necessary to purchase two bottles of water of different hardness, pour the liquid in question into a third container and alternately taste the drink from all the containers. Based on the taste sensations, it is determined to which value the water from the tap is closer.

Whose tea leaves will also help those trying to identify the level of hardness. The fact is that in hard water this drink acquires viscosity, cloudy shade and metallic aftertaste, soft gives it a brown-orange color with an amber tint and a pleasant rich flavor.

Packaged or granulated tea is not suitable for the experiment, as it may contain dyes.

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Special tests for determining the hardness of water can be purchased at pet stores, home appliances stores, or through online shopping sites. Indicator strips are pieces of reagent-impregnated paper that changes color when in contact with liquid. The intensity of the color will vary depending on the concentration of salts.

Detailed instructions for use are indicated on the package with tests.

Indicator strips are pieces of reagent-impregnated paper that changes color when in contact with liquid.

The main disadvantage of the method is that it is sometimes difficult to correctly interpret the result obtained. Then the test is repeated several times, by eye determining the intensity of the color and comparing it with the proposed palette.

And if you consider that high-quality indicator strips are most often foreign-made, you also have to convert these units of measurement from European to Russian.

In addition, even the strict observance of all the conditions of the test does not guarantee one hundred percent accuracy of the result. It is much better to use a special device – a salinometer, or a TDS meter, capable of determining the stiffness based on the electrical conductivity of the water.

However, such a device costs a lot of money and requires certain skills from the owner.

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There are several ways to check the level of hardness, but this is only half the battle. Of course, if the water is soft, then no additional action is required, but increased stiffness is a problem that needs to be addressed. The following methods are used for this:

  • Heat treatment (boiling). It is considered the best option to neutralize the hardness formed by hydrocarbons, but is not suitable for other cases.
  • Purification by reverse osmosis. The method is based on the passage of liquid under pressure through polyamide membranes, permeable only for particles whose size is less than or equal to the diameter of water molecules (for example, oxygen). Water passes from a more concentrated solution to a less concentrated one, that is, in the opposite direction for osmosis, as a result of which it is purified from most harmful impurities.
    Purification using reverse osmosis will help make water less hard.

The cleaning efficiency can reach 99.9%. Among the drawbacks of the method, it is worth noting the inevitable preliminary preparation of the fluid supplied to the membrane.

  • Reagent softening, that is, adding a certain amount of soda or hydrated lime. In this case, alkaline earth salts pass into insoluble compounds, subsequently precipitating. The method involves the exact dosage of the reagent and subsequent filtration.
  • Electrodialysis is the process of changing the concentration of a solution by extracting salts from it under the influence of an electric current. The method is time consuming and quite expensive, therefore, it is used mainly in industrial installations.
  • Cationisation – passing a liquid through a special material called cation exchanger. During the filtration process, cations that promote the formation of scale are absorbed by the material and are replaced by sodium or hydrogen ions. Single-stage cationization reduces the level of hardness to 0.05–0.1 ° W, and two-stage cation – to 0.01 ° W.
  • A person consumes at least two liters of liquid per day, the quality of which has a direct impact on his health. Clean water with an optimal content of essential trace elements helps to restore balance in the body and ensure the normal operation of the latter, therefore, monitoring its characteristics is extremely important.

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