Doesn’t the term “squeaky clean” give you a nice clean feeling? You can just imagine freshness, purity, whiteness, and perhaps clean linens gently blowing in the breeze on the clothesline. When you Google “squeaky clean,” the thousands of results include advertisements from soap companies saying that their product will leave you squeaky clean and fresh. From the ads of WWII laundry soap, to today’s shampoos, dish detergents, and body washes, what these companies aren’t telling you is that the “squeaky clean” feeling, is actually not clean at all. In fact, that squeaky feeling may be quite gross and dirty. For people with hard water, that feeling may actually be nothing more than remnants of grime, dirt, soap scum, and particles of dead skin clinging to your hands after you wash them.
Other soap and shampoo companies brag about leaving your skin smelling fresh. Over the years, we have been programmed to associate fresh smelling with cleanliness. Fresh smelling should instead be associated with the perfume in your soap. In fact, if you smell the soap on your skin, it doesn’t mean that you hands are clean, it means that you didn’t get all the soap rinsed off your hands. Once again, hard water is to blame, causing your perfumed soap to cling to your skin. Here’s an interesting test if you ever have the opportunity to try it: Wash your hands with soap in hard water. Rinse and then smell them and notice the scent of the soap clinging to your hands. Now, wash your hands with the same soap in soft water. Once again rinse and smell your hands. You will notice significantly less scent clinging to your hands this time. That is because there is no residual soap – or “perfumed soap scum” – clinging to your hands.
Hard water refers to water that is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Magnesium and calcium are helpful to us, but often at lower levels than we get from ground water. So while this may not develop into health problems, it is not allowing your soap and detergents to function properly. You may ask what water has to do with soap, so let’s consider this simple explanation: The cleansing action of soap is determined by polar and non-polar structures and solubility principles – okay, so that doesn’t sound so simple. Let’s just say that the presence of calcium and magnesium in the water, when combined with your soap, creates insoluable compounds that interfere with the cleaning properties and capabilities of the soap. Basically, hard water makes it so that your soap will not work as effectively or efficiently.
Perhaps you live in an area with hard water. You know precisely how much shampoo to use, how much dish detergent to squirt into the sink. Have you ever traveled to another place that has soft water? You probably noticed that if you use the same amount of shower gel in the soft water as you use at home, you had way too much and had suds going everywhere. Also, when you did finally get it all rinsed off, your skin felt slick? That slick feeling is because you are used to having soap scum clinging to your skin after a shower, and since you washed in soft water, there is no soap scum! In addition, you will notice that you require fewer skin moisturizers and lotions when washing with soft water. The hard water soap scum clinging to your body causes dry skin and irritation, resulting in the need for lotions.
It doesn’t stop there though because hair is also affected by hard water. Like soap, your shampoo is affected by hard water. Since it does not completely rinse out in hard water, you are left with residual shampoo and conditioner in your hair after your shower. Eventually, your hair can become dry and difficult to style due to the shampoo products being left behind.
Good water means good cleaning and good hygiene. When soap isn’t working properly, it isn’t effectively cleaning the dirt and germs from your hands and body. Poor hygiene, while certainly frowned upon in most locations in the United States, can facilitate the catching and spreading of illnesses and diseases. Hard water, while it may not add up to this level of poor hygiene, may still not allow your soaps and cleansers to do their job 100%. Perhaps this is part of the reason we have become so enamored with antibacterial soaps – because somewhere along the line someone realized that the germs weren’t being washed away. So, now we wash with antibacterial soaps that promise to kill germs. Great, now we have dead germs as opposed to live germs stuck in the soap scum clinging to our hands. This just gets better all the time!
Let’s talk for just a moment about the ingredients in your soap. Soap makers realize that a huge percentage of our country has hard water. They also know that their basic soap ingredients will not lather or clean well when combined with calcium and magnesium in hard water, so they add special water-softening agents to the soap to counteract the water that their customers will use when washing with their product. Of course every ingredient that is added to a soap product raises the price of that product and decreases the amount of actual soap you purchase in a bottle. Natural and pure soaps have fewer ingredients, keeping the cost to a minimum. Companies put many ingredients in soaps, including these softeners, oils, perfumes, and much more to get their soap to feel squeaky clean and smell pretty. But do you really know what you are putting on your body? Pure and natural soaps are not only more cost-effective, but dermatologists recommend pure soap over popular brands. When you use soap that has pure and natural ingredients you don’t have to worry about your skin drying out primarily because soaps that are pure and natural contain more glycerin and less other ingredients than normal store brands. People who are prone to skin diseases of any kind, including eczema, will frequently find that soaps that are pure and natural will not cause any skin irritation like other brands do. The American Association of Dermatologists also acknowledges the effects of oily, perfumed soaps on your skin. They define those effects as dry, irritated, itchy, and fragranced skin. So all in all, fragrance doesn’t necessarily mean clean.
Hard water doesn’t just affect the cleanliness of your skin. Imagine that same soap scum that sticks to you sticking to your dishwasher, clothes washer, shower doors, and sinks. Unfortunately, your appliances and fixtures can’t slough off the excess layers the way our skin eventually does. It just keeps building up and finally decreases the useful life of those items. The costs add up all the way around. Consider these: Clothing washed in hard water will look dingy and lose their softness. According to Hardwater.org, continuous washing of articles of clothing in hard water can damage fibers and possibly even shorten the life of the clothing by forty percent. Lime scale buildup in pipes has been estimated to increase energy bills by about 25%.
So let’s look at some estimated math. Let’s say you spend $20 per week on soaps and detergents for your family. But the soaps and detergents last half as long as they should because the hard water and residue are making them difficult to use, therefore your family members are scrubbing more, so you lose about 25% of the value of the soaps. Then you spend about $100 on clothing per month for your family. Yet, as data shows, about 40% or $40.00 of that value is lost due to hard water effects. You are also spending about $10.00 each week on products to help you clean the soap scum from something that is supposed to be cleaning you! Eventually, you will need to fix pipes and appliances that are not functioning anymore, at an estimated cost of $500.00 over several years. Oh, and don’t forget the taste of your water may not be great, so you spend about $20.00 per week on bottled water for your family. If you add up what you are spending to “improve” your current hard drinking water, plain old water doesn’t seem like an inexpensive commodity anymore.
Fortunately, you don’t have to continue on this way. First, find out if hard water is present in your home. According to Hardwater.org, if you are on a municipal water system, the water supplier can tell you the hardness level of the water. If you have a private supply, you can have the water tested for hardness. Then, with a little research you will find that there are various solutions at your fingertips. Treatment can most effectively and inexpensively be treated with a water softener, which replaces calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium ions. Sodium ions do not cause buildup in pipes, on shower doors, or as soap scum. The water softening process has proven to be so successful that many types of service and manufacturing businesses also choose to use water softeners to ensure that their products are properly working. For example, plating processes, circuit board manufacturing, laboratory analysis, water-based coolant developers, printers, car washing, film processing, window washing, and aerospace component manufacturing are all using water softeners. If soft water is so vital to inanimate objects, shouldn’t your body benefit from it as well?
Of course, untreated water seems like your least expensive option, but you must also factor in the financial losses you assume by continuing to utilize your hard water. Soft water does require the initial investment of purchasing a water softener unit and a small maintenance cost of salt, but there are many savings. Soft water does not mix badly with soaps and detergents. This means no “soap-scum” that can’t be washed off, bathing is more effective and soap lathers better. Your hair and skin are softer. The washing machine cleans your clothing better and since the mineral deposits are eliminated, your clothes last longer and stay brighter. You spend less on laundry and dish detergents, shampoos and soaps, and household cleaners designed to remove lime scale and soap scum. The savings of electricity for less washing, fewer expensive appliance repairs and more peaceful mind for your safe and clean water far outweigh the onetime expense of buying a water softener. A water softener can quickly pay for itself and the maintenance, and still save you money.
Between the taste, safety, hygiene, and maintenance of your appliances, a water softener is your best bet. The one-time cost associated with this product, or those similar to it, will save you money in the long run, and also save you the headache of scrubbing soap scum and residue from your family’s shower – and your family. Get your water tested today, look for pure soaps, eliminate soap scum, and save some money.