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What to Do About Hardness in Your Water

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What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that contains lots of dissolved calcium and other minerals. These minerals get picked up by the water as it travels through rock [such as limestone or dolomite]. Minerals, dissolved into water this way, are not harmful to your health. In fact they are known to be related to lowered risk factors for heart disease and other ailments. See the Health Benefits of Calcium Page. You need a certain amount of hardness in order to ionize at all.

Hard Water Scaling

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The problem with very hard water, calcium in particular, is that it tends to scale due to its crystalline shape. This scaling can cause clogging inside a water ionizer or any water-related equipment. In particular with water ionizers, the calcium scale can build up on the electrodes or between electrodes. When this happens the effectiveness drops. For this reason all water ionizers have self-cleaning systems. The  water ionizers with the best internal, water-cell cleaning systems are those with continuous-cleaning. The quality of internal cleaning  is an important concern. Insisting on a good water ionizer self-cleaning system is always a smart idea.

Hardness is Reported in PPM [parts per million] or GPG [grains per gallon].

The perfect hardness for a water ionizer is about 80 - 100 parts per million or 6-7 grains per gallon of hardness. Even though 75 to 100 ppm of hardness is considered hard, it's not going to interfere with ionization at those levels. But, over time you may experience a bit of a scaling issue, which can be resolved by protecting your water ionizer with the EOS Device, see the link in the #1 suggestion, below.

Feel free to contact us for a free consultation on your water quality and hardness.

Here is a link to the USGS water quality map, chart and other information online: http://water.usgs.gov/owq/hardness-alkalinity.html#chart Water is considered soft or hard according to the PPM or GPG of calcium and magnesium in the water. Most references report the following:

  • Soft: Below 17 ppm [or 0-1 gpg]
  • Medium: 18 – 75 ppm [or 1 - 4 gpg]
  • Medium Hard: 76 – 150 ppm [or 4 - 8 gpg]
  • Hard: 151 – 200 ppm [or 7 – 11 gpg]
  • Very Hard: Over 200 ppm [or over 11 gp **Very, Very Hard: Over 300 ppm [Note: can go as hard as 500 or more ppm] If your water is very, very hard, you will need to do extra filtration of it before you can get good results with your water ionizer.

Reverse Osmosis [with a remineralizer] is the standard way to filter very hard water properly.

Hardness appears as a yellowish/whitish [or even greeny-blue] film, but if there is also a high iron content in the water it will be a brownish film.]

What to Do About Hardness in Your Water

If you live in a super hard water area [over 150 ppm of hardness or over 10 grains of calcium per gallon] you have very hard water and will want to read this. Hard water is a problem for water ionizers. Even medium-hard water can cause a water ionizer to lose its pH or ORP (oxidation reduction potential), in other words, ionizer effectiveness, over time. This is due to scaling on and between the plates. If the water ionizer has continuous-cleaning, it may not scale up inside the water cell, but the other water lines in the water ionizer may scale in such a way as to ruin the water ionizer. You would start to see this in a reduced water flow. After time you would notice the flow too slow to ionize. And, finally the machine may either burn out (because sufficient water flow is part of a water ionizer's cooling system).

Solutions to hard water are the following [listed in order of cheapest to most expensive]:

  1. EOS (Elimination of Scale) Device: The EOS Device is the least expensive and easiest way to prevent scaling from hard water. It is a healthy way as well. I highly recommend it even if you use all of the other hard-water solutions, below. Go to the product page for more information.
  2. Ionizer Shield prevents hard water from sticking to your water ionizer as it passes through it. Good for medium-hard water, 6-8 GPG [grains per gallon] or up to 150 PPM of hardness.
  3. Reverse Osmosis: The Reverse Osmosis Remineralizer System is the best, because it was made for water ionizers, specifically. But any reverse osmosis is an excellent filtration method to get rid of hardness in water. The problem is that RO water flow is slow. Make sure to either use our system [made for water ionizers] or to use a system that has a large enough tank and fast enough output-water flow-rate. A fast refill time is also desirable. Your system needs a Remineralizer or two (if it doesn't already have that). It's an easy task to add on to the line just prior to the tank. 
  4. If you use a water softener, you should contact us. No-salt softeners will protect your equipment, such as your water ionizer, but may not solve another problem water ionizers have with hard water (of interference with splitting the two streams of alkaline/acidic water properly). In this case you might need to go with #2, above. If you use a salt-based water softener you will definitely need to also use #3, above, to solve the over-kill of sodium (which will burn out a water ionizer over time if it isn't solved. Only RO is capable of removing sodium; nothing else will do it.

How Do You Know How Hard Your Water Is?

Most municipal water is thoroughly tested, and they usually report their results online. However certain things, like hardness, are not always reported. If your water quality report doesn't show your water's hardness, you can call the water company and ask, though, or you can do some testing on your own. If you use well-water, you should test your water hardness, among other things. Well water is often very hard [not always, but it should be tested]. Some municipalities will test your well water hardness and other things for free.

At Alkaline Water Plus We Offer Free and/or Super-Inexpensive Solutions for Testing Your Water

Comprehensive Water Test Kits: For a single test of your water for 9 of the most important things you should know about your water. At Alkaline Water Plus we will do a free water analysis for you. If you only want to test your water hardness, our hardness-test-strips are all you need. You can get the two-strips option, but I suggest getting the full pack of 25 to test periodically, because hardness is something that fluctuates throughout the year. If you find your water is of poor quality, or too hard, there are always ways to fix it, so you can have perfect ionized water no matter what. Just contact us if you need help with this. If you don't do something to handle the water hardness and excess TDS [total dissolved solids] you will eventually have a problem.

WATER HARDNESS, SCALE & VINEGAR WASH

WHAT WATER HARDNESS & SCALE HAS TO DO WITH WATER IONIZER CARE

Water ionizers care for themselves, by removing calcium deposits (a very thin layer of scale, caused by water hardness) inside the water cell with what's called acid-washes. These acid washes are either done periodically or continuously. The water ionizers with better self-care methods use continuous-cleaning. Continuous-cleaning is far better than just automatic, periodic cleaning of the water cell. The water ionizers that use continuous-cleaning never get a thin layer of scale and so the water cell tends to get more efficient water ionization over the entire life of the water ionizer. Water ionizers with continuous-cleaning will last longer and perform better over time than other water ionizers.

What to Do if You Don't Have Continuous-Cleaning: If you have a water ionizer that self-cleans [acid washes] but not continuously, there is an extra routine you can add to your day to help clean calcium film from the plates. This is important, because even the slightest film of calcium on the plates will reduce the efficiency of ionization. What you do is manually "reverse-polarity" once or twice per day. You can do this by pushing the acid water button and letting the acid water come out of the top spout (which means the alkaline water will come out of the bottom hose during this time. You can collect the alkaline water for drinking out of the bottom hose when you do this, or discard it if you prefer.

HARD-WATER SCALE INSIDE THE WATER IONIZER'S INTERNAL WATER LINES

Hard water causes scale-build-up of calcium crystals inside the water lines. These water lines are external to the water cell, but inside the water ionizer (where you can't readily get to them). Hard water scaling usually manifests itself with a slower water-flow. No matter what type of internal cleaning your water ionizer has it can be subject to this internal water-line scaling if your water source is very hard. Calcium-hardness varies around the country, and depending on where you live, you may need to fix the scaling problem with a periodic vinegar wash (see below). A vinegar wash (or citric acid wash) is an extra way of caring for your water ionizer to protect it from scale.

HOW TO REDUCE SCALE BUILD-UP NATURALLY, WITH AN ANTI-SCALE DEVICE

Before we get into the vinegar wash, I want to mention a very good way to reduce scaling inside your water ionizer. This may not completely solve the hard water problem, but it will definitely help to keep your internal lines (and water cell) free of calcium (scale) for a much longer time. It's called the Elimination of Scaling Device, or EOS for short. I highly recommend it for anyone with water hardness over 70 ppm.

WHAT TO DO IF WATER-FLOW SLOWS DOWN

If either your pH-levels start to drop [which is more likely with water ionizers that don't have continuous-cleaning systems] or your water-flow starts to slow down [which can happen with any water ionizer, regardless of its automatic cleaning system], I suggest you do a vinegar or citric acid wash. Even if your water ionizer has slowed down to a trickle, the vinegar or citric acid wash will work to clean out the scale. You may have to repeat the process on different days if you've let it get so bad that one over-night cleaning doesn't completely fix the water-flow issue.

Don't keep repeating the process beyond a couple of times, though, without contacting your dealer or manufacturer's support terminal about the problem.

If your water ionizer was working fine and then suddenly loses its water-flow, it probably is something else that's wrong, so in this case immediately contact your support terminal.

WHY DOES A VINEGAR WASH WORK?

There is a fairly simple method of cleaning your water ionizer of its scale build-up. In high school I once did an experiment where I took a hard boiled egg and placed it in vinegar over night. I was amazed that the next day I could bounce that egg like a rubber ball. What happened was the calcium, which made the egg shell hard, was eaten away by the vinegar. Vinegar [soaked overnight], or a strong enough citric-acid concentration, will react with the calcium, which is clogging up your water ionizer, and will loosen it up and allow you to then flush it away.

VINEGAR WASH OR CITRIC ACID WASH? HOW TO DECIDE WHICH ONE

Before you start the steps for a vinegar or citric acid wash, first decide which one you want to do.

The chart, below, tells you what type of wash is sanctioned by each water ionizer manufacturer. It's important to know this, because you don't want to do anything to void your manufacturer's warranty. A reason that I was told why some water ionizer companies don't sanction the use of vinegar in their washes has something to do with the material used for padding between the plates in their water ionizer's water-cell. If the padding is not made of a sturdy enough material, then it could possibly be damaged by vinegar. It could also have to do with the manufacturer wanting their customers to buy their citric-acid-wash products, but I'm just speculating on that one.

 Sanctioned for
Vinegar, Citric Acid,
or Either
Chanson Water Ionizers Citric Acid
Enagic Water Ionizers Citric Acid
Jupiter Water Ionizers Either
AlkaViva H2 Water Ionizers Citric Acid
KYK Water Ionizers Citric Acid
Nexus Water Ionizers Either
Vesta Water Ionizers Either
Tyent Water Ionizers

Citric Acid

Super-Sanitizer

Either

HOW TO DO A CITRIC ACID WASH WITH A SPECIAL CITRIC ACID FILTER 

Some manufacturers provide a citric acid cleaning cartridge, which goes into your filter port. If you have a dual filter system, this would go into the 2nd filter port.

  1. Put the filter in place.
  2. Run the water on any alkaline ionized water setting for 3-5 seconds.
  3. Let it sit (without using) for 20 minutes.
  4. Run it again for another couple of seconds.
  5. Let it sit again for an hour or so (I like to let it sit over night).

This is all you do if you use this method. Remove the citric acid cartridge and replace your regular filter in the port the next morning.

HOW TO MANUALLY DO A VINEGAR WASH OR CITRIC ACID WASH

Watch the video, below. It may not completely apply to your water ionizer, but it will help you to see the demo. Then follow these simple instructions for either a vinegar or citric acid wash of your water ionizer.

  1. Pour about 10 oz of vinegar into a cup or prepare 10 oz. of citric acid solution (stir in citric acid powder until it no longer dissolves -- about 1/4 - 1/2 cup).
  2. Take the two hoses (stainless spout and the acidic water hose) and bend them  &/or prop them up so as to have them facing up and at least above the top of the water ionizer.
  3. Now, pour vinegar into the larger of the two hoses until it starts coming out the other hose. This tells you that the water cell is full.
  4. Let it sit an hour or over night.
  5. The next morning, you can blow/suck through one of the hoses to agitate the solution inside the water ionizer lines and break up any stubborn calcium from the line.
  6. Depending on how bad off your water ionizer was before the wash, you can let it sit another hour and repeat the agitation step or you can end off on the wash.
  7. Once done, you should turn both hoses down (back to their original positions) and run the ionizer for a minute or more to see if the water-flow has returned to normal.

If the vinegar wash didn't solve the problem, there may be something else causing the slow flow. Sometimes it is a clog in one of the filters. Sometimes it is something in your water input line somewhere. Use diligence to check every possibility.

If there wasn't improvement and you can't find a reason, do not keep repeating the vinegar wash. Instead, contact your manufacturer support terminal for advice.

HERE'S A DEMO VIDEO WITH THE ATHENA WATER IONIZER - HOW TO DO A SIMPLE VINEGAR WASH

The Classic Athena is easier than most water ionizers, because it has a mineral port. But the procedure otherwise is the same.