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How to Test the Hardness Water Level in Your Home

by Peter Lombardi

Quality Specialist, Consultant

> 4 min read


If you’ve noticed that your dishes and glasses remain spotty even after cleaning or find it challenging to clean stains from your tubs or sinks, you may have hard water flowing through your pipes. Hard water is one of the most common household issues today and is easy for homeowners to neglect.

Testing the hardness water level in your home is simple, and you can either do it yourself or bring in a professional. A bit of knowledge about the water coming into your home can go a long way in keeping your family and your home appliances safe in the long run.

HERE ARE OTHER QUESTIONS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE ABOUT WATER:

  • Water Filters: Do I Need This?

What is Water Hardness?

Water hardness relates to the amounts of dissolved minerals, like magnesium and calcium, found in your water. This accumulation can occur in both public water systems and home wells. Depending on the mineral levels, hard water can irritate humans and pets, along with other issues in your home.

Signs of hard water in your home include:

  • Filmy, spotty glasses and dishes
  • Stubborn stains in tubs, sinks, and toilets
  • Soap scum accumulation
  • Residue on hands after washing with soap and water
  • Increasingly dry hair and skin
  • White crusts forming around showerheads, faucets, or drains
  • Low water pressure as a result of clogged pipes
  • Damage to your water heater or other devices

As hard water is heated, it results in solid deposits of calcium carbonate forming. This can be harmful to your home appliances, such as hot water heaters. The effect can also lead to higher electricity costs for heating the water, clogged pipes, and lower water efficiency overall. If allowed to continue, you’ll replace your valuable home equipment more frequently. 

On the positive side, hard water is sometimes touted as beneficial in providing minerals to support a healthy body. Yet, in the long run, the levels may eventually run too high and, in turn, be a detriment to all.

Ways to Test the Water Hardness Level in Your Home

If you have concerns about your home’s water hardness level, it’s time to test it. However, if you find you have extremely hard water, there’s no need to fret or pack up your things and move. Installing a high-quality water softener improves mineral filtration and creates gentler water for you and your family.

Now you must determine how to test hardness water level in your home. There are three testing methods. Start with one of these and determine how your water measures up.

The Soapsuds Test

A simple test you can do to test your water hardness is called the soapsuds test. Find an empty, clean, clear bottle, either plastic or glass, with a cap. Turn on your tap and fill the bottle approximately one-third full. 

Add a few drops of pure liquid soap, tighten the cap, and vigorously shake for 15 seconds. For the test to be most effective, the soap should have no detergents, dyes, or perfumes.

Set the bottle to the side and watch. Do fluffy bubbles appear in the tap water? If there are no bubbles, or the water turns milky or cloudy, you have hard water.

City Or Water Provider Reports

If water comes to your house through municipal means and not a well, contact the provider and ask for the most recent water quality report. You may be able to find one of these online as well. If you need explanations or have questions about the report’s data, contact the provider again with your questions.

While these reports provide good information, data is based on the water measurements as it leaves the treatment facility. By the time it reaches your home tap, it may have picked up various sediments or minerals from the piping along the way. 

Overall, these reports are helpful for learning about water hardness levels in your neighborhood and the larger area but are not accurate or precise regarding the water hardness level in your home.

High-Quality Hard Water Test Kits

For more accurate test results, consider purchasing a high-quality hard water test kit. Included in most kits, you’ll find test strips and information on decoding the results, such as a color chart. Other options are also available and require more steps.

Once you have your standard kit, fill a container with tap water and immerse the test strip. After a set time, as outlined in the brand’s instructions, remove the strip and observe the resulting color. Compare this to the color chart and information in the kit.

Measure for Hardness Level

How to test hardness water level is just the first step in the process. Next, you need to know the measure of hardness level or your number to interpret your test results accurately.  The lower the number is, the better.

The majority of tests report results in grains per gallon (g).  If your number is over 14 grains, your water is known as extremely hard. Anywhere between 7 and 13 grains, and you’ll begin seeing hard water effects in your home. If you do have hard water, you may want to address the issue now or simply monitor the signs in your home moving forward and take action if they become more pronounced.

How to Treat Hard Water Levels

If you find hard water levels high in your home, you have options. One of these is to install a water softener. Water softener systems replace the high level of minerals in the water with sodium ions. While these sodium ions are considered safe for most households, there are a few things to consider.

If you, family members, or a pet require a low-sodium diet, you might want to choose a salt-free water softener system. These work by crystallizing hard water minerals, so they are no longer a factor in sticking to surfaces. 

There are benefits and challenges to either type of water softener, so consider all factors when choosing the best for your home and family.


The Right Choice for Your Home

The effects of hard water in your home will vary depending on the hardness level. If, after testing, you discover your water is a low-level measure for hardness, you may want to leave it as is. However, continue to monitor your water regularly, and if the signs of hard water increase or become more noticeable, consider purchasing a water softener to filter out those minerals.

Peter Lombardi

About the Author

Peter is a Los Angeles based water quality specialist, and works as a surveyor for businesses and communities looking to be informed and active about the quality of their water. He shares his expertise with 64 oz. to ensure everything is accurate, and to prevent the spread of misinformation about water contaminants.