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How Do I Choose the Best Soap for Hard Water?

Soaps can build up on the skin when washed with hard water.
A water softener is the easiest way to reduce hard water buildup when bathing or washing clothes.
Body washes are often a good option for people with hard water.
A bar of soap.
Castile soap will soften hard water and can have a high concentration of coconut oil.
Soaps for hard water are specially formulated to lather and rinse well.
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  • Written By: Elizabeth West
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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A soap for hard water is specially formulated to lather and rinse well despite the minerals it contains. Detergents and additives exchange calcium and manganese ions in the soap the same as a water softener would, or prevent them from binding in the first place. Body washes, shampoos and laundry boosters all help, but using a water softener unit is the easiest way to reduce hard water buildup when washing yourself or your clothing.

Hard water comes from aquifers deep beneath the surface where it has long exposure to minerals such as manganese, calcium and limestone. These substances dissolve ions into the water that are suspended in a solution. While not harmful, they leave a deposit on bathroom fixtures, skin and hair. When it comes in contact with soap, the result is a sticky, hard-to-remove film.

Soap doesn’t lather well in hard water because the minerals bind with its elements. This keeps it from foaming properly, which many people feel is essential to removing body oils, dirt and grease. A soap for hard water contains additives that are designed to soften the water as they come in contact with it, thus improving lather and eliminating the film. One of the best varieties is called a castile soap, a mild formula with a high concentration of coconut or other oils.

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Manufactured body washes are usually made with detergents that don’t bind with mineral ions as well as the sodium stearate in traditional bar soaps. Body washes come in many popular colors and scents, making them an appealing soap for use when bathing in hard water. They also frequently include moisturizers that remain behind after rinsing and soften skin. While a bit more expensive than bar soap, they are a good choice if you can’t install a water softener, such as in a rental unit.

Clarifying shampoos, designed to remove buildup, are typically the best soap for hard water to use on hair. They usually contain ingredients that strip substances from the cuticle. Clarifying shampoos work not just on hard water buildup but also that left by products such as hairspray that capture mineral deposits and make hair appear dull. The ingredient ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) binds to minerals and removes them before they can be deposited. EDTA breaks down to an environmental pollutant, however, so products with Ethylenediamine-N,N'-disuccinic acid (EDDS) offer a more biodegradable alternative.

Water softeners exchange the mineral ions in hard water with sodium or potassium ions. This eliminates the deposits on clothing, skin and fixtures that bond with soap to make scum. They require adding sodium periodically to recharge them. A softener unit will add sodium to the water in your home, so if you or anyone in your house are on a low-sodium diet this may not be the best alternative. If a softener unit isn’t economically feasible for your household, you can simply add packaged water softeners like borax to laundry to help get clothes cleaner and continue to use a specialty soap for hard water to shower and bathe.

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Discuss this Article

Drentel
Post 2

I read an article the other day and it said three out of four homes in the United States has some type of issue with hard water. I bet if you asked people if they have hard water then most of them would say no because they are unaware they have hard water. This should concern people because hard water can cause a lot of problems other than your water not getting soapy enough.

I have a friend who had to replace two dishwashers long before either one of them should have worn out. It wasn't until his water pressure got really low in his kitchen that he called a plumber and found out that the hard water was leaving deposits and closing off the pipes.

The plumber also told him that the hard water was probably the reason he was having a tough time keeping his dishwashers running properly. When you have really hard water you need to find a way to filter it before it reaches your appliances and does serious damage.

Feryll
Post 1

Whether my water was soft or hard is not something I have given much thought to for most of my life. I guess this means that the places where I have lived didn't have a problem with hard water because I noticed something was going on as soon as we moved into our new house.

Instead of coming out white, my socks and other whites were coming out of the dryer with a yellowish color to them. When I looked closer when I was washing clothes, I also saw that the wash water was not as soapy as it should have been. So far we have been able to do a few things to help with the laundry problem, but we are still trying to find a soap that will leave us feeling cleaner after we bath and shower.

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