What’s up with hard water?

I have many memories from when I was a teenager. My favorite songs, my friends, playing tennis for my high school and so on. One memory I wish I didn’t have is the effects of the hard water we had in our old house. So, when I came to Lagos, the hard water memories resurfaced and I had to think of ways to deal with it.

What is hard water?water art-4

Hard water is water with a high concentration of dissolved minerals, usually calcium and magnesium. The term “hard water” was originally coined to refer to water that was difficult or hard to work with. Hard water requires much more soap, shampoo, or detergent than soft water; and the minerals in hard water can decrease soap’s lathering capabilities.[1]

How can you tell if you have hard water?

Black Hair Information recently did an article on “How Hard Water Affects Your Hair Care Routine” which shows an easy test for determining if your water is hard.

  • Get an empty bottle and put some water in it filling it half way.
  • Empty the bottle and repeat, this time adding a few drops of dishwashing liquid, maybe about 5 to 6 drops.
  • Put the cap back on the bottle and shake it.
  • If your bottle is full of suds to the point where the suds are flowing out when you remove the cap, then you do not have hard water.
  • On the other hand if you are struggling to get suds, and they don’t seem to last in your bottle then chances are you do have hard water.

Effects of hard water on your hair

Over time, hard water can have some detrimental effects to your hair and skin. Some of those effects on your hair include:shower-head-1

  • It leaves the hair feeling dry and weighted down.
  • Calcium builds up on the scalp causing flaking of the scalp, giving the appearance of dandruff.
  • Calcium can choke the hair at the mouth of the follicle causing the hair to break off, and then coating the scalp, blocking further new hair growth.
  • Magnesium can inhibit the proper processing of perms, color and relaxers.
  • Magnesium causes hair to lack shine.[2]

How to deal with hard water

Hard water can work your first, middle, and last nerves so you need some strategies on how to deal with it.

Soften your water

If you have hard water, one of the best ways to prevent hair loss involves simply decreasing the mineral content of the water. Water softener machines are specifically designed to solve this problem. You can also install a showerhead filter A water softener can be very expensive but it may be worth it if hard water is having a serious effect on your life.

Use a chelating shampoo

black-woman-washing-hair Chelating shampoos are specifically designed to prevent and remove mineral buildup in your hair. A chelating agent will chemically bind to minerals, removing them before you even have a chance to notice that they’re there. Brands can use various terms like “clarifying,” “chelating,” or “neutralizing” to describe a chelating shampoo.[3]  So, to be sure you’re using the right product, look for one that has the ingredient EDTA. Since a chelating shampoo will strip your hair, they should only be used once a month or every other week, if your water is really hard. Shampooing should always be followed with an intensely moisturizing conditioner. An example of a chelating shampoo that is easily found in Nigeria is ORS Creamy Aloe Shampoo.

Make an apple cider vinegar rinse

An apple cider vinegar rinse will not only remove buildup from your hair, but also give it bounce and shine! There are many different types of ratios used for an ACV rinse but you should dilute it with some water. You may have to experiment with the ratios to find the right one.

Use rainwater to wash your hair

Rainwater is also a good substitute to hard water when washing your hair. Place a large bucket outside during rainfalls, collecting as much of the liquid as possible. When it is time to take a bath or shower, heat the water on the stove to medium heat, and use when bathing. I am not sure if I would try this one but it couldn’t hurt. You could also try using bottled water.[4]

Now that I am armed with some strategies, I will be able to deal with hard water.

Have you had to deal with hard water? What did you do to cope?


[1] http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/idascorner/shampwater.aspx 
[2] http://www.prowatersolutions.com/articles/view.php?conf=articles&id=4
[3] http://blog.freepeople.com/2012/10/4-ways-beat-hard-water-hair/
[4] http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Hair-Loss-Due-to-Hard-Water
Image Sources: TradeBox, OSA Waterworks, Black Girl Long Hair