When an Aussie homeowner imagines cleaning their bathroom, the first thing that comes to mind is often scrubbing away the chalky residue that builds up around their taps, drains and shower screens.
These stains and build-ups are caused by hard water – water containing high levels of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. When the water dries, the minerals are left behind to clump together and bond with whatever surface they were left on. These leftover limescale deposits are typically a yellowish-white colour, but depending on the levels of iron in your water, they may also have a brown or red tinge.
Limescale is an issue that affects some parts of the country more than others. If you live in soft water areas like Hobart or Melbourne, for example, you may barely notice any mineral deposits building up from one month to the next. For millions of other Australians, though – especially those living in South or Western Australia – visible signs of limescale can start showing up after even a single use of a shower or kettle.
Mineral deposits and limescale stains are often dismissed as commonplace, easily removed bathroom annoyances, but if left untreated, this chalky substance can end up costing you a lot of money. This blog will look into some specific examples of how limescale affects different surfaces, materials, and appliances – and what you can do about it.
Element of Surprise
Some of the most expensive issues caused by hard water are also the least visible. Limescale forms faster in higher temperatures, so larger appliances with internal heating elements like washing machines, boilers, and dishwashers are particularly vulnerable.
Heating elements are highly susceptible to hard water damage, as limescale actively interferes with their functionality. When a film of mineral deposits builds up around a heating element, it creates a layer of insulation, forcing the element to draw more power in order to heat the water around it. There may not be a noticeable change in the quality or temperature of your water, but you’ll certainly notice the difference in your power bill.
Limescale can also damage the heating element directly – or rather, it can make the element damage itself. Mineral deposits don’t form around the whole element at the same time, and this uneven coverage can lead to specific spots on the element being significantly hotter than others.
Limescale will eventually make the heating element break down completely, often years before the end of its natural lifespan, leading to expensive repairs and replacements.
Large Scale Problem
Hot water may be the easiest place for limescale to form, but the build-up doesn’t exclusively target the thing doing the heating. Smaller devices like irons, steam cleaners, and coffee machines use boiling water for external functions, so the dissolved minerals are carried beyond the heating element by steam and water vapour.
Boiling your water before you use it is a great way to reduce limescale and hard water damage to your drinking glasses, but that’s just because you’re transferring the problem to the device that did the boiling. The high temperature of the water inside these devices accelerates the formation of limescale, and then the steam and water vapour carry the mineral deposits directly into the device’s pipes and nozzles.
Irons, steam cleaners and even steam cookers can easily become clogged after using hard water, and limescale in coffee machines can even affect the flavour and temperature of the coffee produced. Just like with hot water systems, the build-up of limescale leads to issues with energy efficiency and will eventually force you to replace the defeated devices.
Scratching the Surface
If you live in an area with hard water, occasional calcium stains have likely become a perfectly normal feature of your bathroom, laundry and kitchen. These more obvious cases of limescale accumulation are the easiest to detect and deal with, but they’re also the most often taken for granted.
Glass and stainless steel surfaces can be permanently damaged by calcium deposits. If left uncleaned, a stubborn limescale stain on your shower screen can eventually etch into the glass, leaving the surface clouded and damaged even after you clean off the calcium. For stainless steel, the culprit is bacteria living inside the limescale rather than the minerals themselves, but the pitted metal is just as irreversible.
Damage can also come from the effort of cleaning a substantial accumulation of limescale. Granite countertops are typically very durable, but a lot of the chemicals commonly used to deal with limescale stains can damage the finish on these surfaces. The additional elbow grease required to remove those more stubborn stains can also cause damage to steel or stone surfaces, especially if you’re cleaning with harder implements or wire wool.
Tiles can be more resistant to limescale if they have a glossy or smooth finish, as these surfaces are harder for the scale to form strong bonds with. Natural stone tiles, on the other hand, are much more vulnerable to limescale, as the cavities in these naturally porous surfaces provide ample opportunities for calcium accumulation and staining.
A Softer Solution
At the end of the day, the minerals in our water are still serving a purpose. Our bodies need minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium to function properly, and a lot of those minerals come from the water we drink. Stripping any and all dissolved particles in your water typically leads to issues that outweigh the benefits of reducing limescale.
Fortunately, completely purging all minerals from your water is not necessary to avoid expensive hard water damage. Our Complete Home Filtration systems use a dedicated softening resin to deal with hard water without stripping away any of the health benefits, altering the calcium and magnesium particles through an ion exchange process.
By exchanging calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions, the Complete Home Filtration system essentially neutralises the limescale-forming minerals so that you still get all the benefits of mineral-rich water without having to also have mineral-rich pipes and appliances. These kinds of water softeners are also effective for filtering out particles like tannins or excess iron that cause darker stains on your taps and sinks.
Whole-home water filters with built-in softeners save you the time and money that would otherwise be wasted dealing with limescale and hard water damage. To find out how a Complete Home Filtration system could make a difference to your home, send us a message below or fill out our quick contact form.