Just because some of the contaminants in your tap water won’t adversely affect your health, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give them a second thought.
Most people are focused on removing contaminants like chlorine, viruses, bacteria, cysts, fluoride, heavy metals and other health related water contaminants, which can cause serious health issues if they’re not addressed.
While these are important, contaminants that aren’t a danger to your health can also cause problems in your home.
Most of the time these problems don’t appear immediately, so it’s easy to see why some of these contaminants don’t get enough attention.
To help you prevent the issues caused by these contaminants, we’re shedding light on the most troublesome non-health related water contaminants, so you can prevent them from causing issues before it’s too late.
Sediments are any particles of suspended solids – rust, silt, sand, rust flakes, etc. – that can make their way into your tap water.
Seemingly, sediments do not cause any issues that you might need to immediately worry about.
It’s only when water using kitchen appliances start to malfunction do people start paying attention to sediments in their tap water.
As we’ve mentioned, beyond aesthetic reasons (sediments can affect the clarity of water or ice), there aren’t any health problems that sediments may cause.
Home appliances, on the other hand, can become clogged as sediments accumulate over time, and then they can suddenly break down.
How to Remove Sediments?
To remove sediments from water, you need to install a dedicated sediment filter or make sure that at least one filter cartridge in your residential filter system is a sediment filter cartridge.
Sediment filters will trap fine solids in the filter media and remove them from your tap water, preventing damage to home appliances that use water.
Since they’re designed for the removal of fine particles, unfortunately, sediment filters alone aren’t suitable for other types of contaminant filtration.
Therefore, a typical multi-stage filtration unit will feature other cartridges that are designed to solve other tap water contamination issues that might arise in a typical household.
Such filters may include carbon block filters, granular activated carbon filters, ceramic filters, reverse osmosis membranes and other taste and odour, or water pH/alkalinising filters.
You might not immediately notice the damaging effects of the sediments that might be present in your tap water, however, there are usually some signs that may indicate the presence of a fair amount of suspended solids in your tap water.
How Can You Detect Sediments in Your Tap Water?
A simple visual inspection of your tap water can tell you a lot about its quality, especially if you know which are the signs that might indicate a problem in your water system.
If you’re testing for sediments look for signs of discoloration or cloudiness:
- Cloudy or milky discoloration is usually not a sign of a problem, and it’s usually caused by air bubbles trapped in the water distribution system;
- Yellow to dark brown discoloration is a sign of sediments in water caused by sediment accumulation in your hot water tank. Another cause could be iron or manganese sediments in your water pipes that have accumulated over time;
- Green or blue discoloration is a sign of copper plumbing deterioration;
- Black sediments or particles are a sign of precipitated iron or manganese.
In most cases, flushing the distribution system and replacing faulty items will make the problem go away.
Installing a sediment filter on your water system will ensure that your drinking water is significantly clearer.
Limescale is another contaminant that even though it’s not a threat to your health, it is one of the most annoying problems faced by people living in areas with hard water.
Limescale is a hard, off-white substance, which appears in the inside of kettles, pipes, faucets and any home appliance or surface that hard water touches.
It is caused mostly by the precipitation of calcium carbonate, which will stick to surfaces and accumulate over time.
Extensive build-up can cause a series of issues that may be hard to deal with, including:
- Damage to faucets and other kitchen or bathroom surfaces;
- Clogging, energy inefficiencies, malfunction, breakdowns, and damage to home appliances;
- Detergent inefficiencies, discoloration and damage to textiles;
- Dry hair and skin, etc.
The biggest issue with limescale is that it requires constant removal from surfaces and equipment to prevent it from causing any damage in your household.
Unfortunately, removing limescale is not always easy and it requires special cleaning supplies. However, removing scale deposits will not prevent future deposits, which leads to a never-ending vicious circle.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with hard water problems, and that’s by treating your incoming water supply to prevent precipitation of calcium carbonate.
How to Prevent Limescale Deposits?
Currently, there are two major ways to deal with calcium scale:
- Softening water;
- Inhibiting limescale build-up.
Each method can be efficient against hard water problems and each has its pros and cons.
Water softeners are appliances plumbed into your water system that exchange minerals for sodium. This process is called ion exchange.
Water softeners are fitted with a mineral tank that contains negatively charged resin or zeolite beads.
Calcium and magnesium ions carry a positive charge, which makes it easy for them to cling to the resin beads as hard water passes through the tank.
With time, the resin beads will become saturated with minerals. This is where salt comes in.
Water softeners also have a brine tank in which common salt is mixed with water to create a strong solution that can wash away minerals.
Therefore, a water softening cycle has the following steps:
Hard water goes into the mineral tank → Calcium and magnesium ions move to the beads replacing sodium ions → Sodium ions go into the water
At some point, resin beads become saturated with minerals. This is where the water softener enters a regeneration phase:
Backwash phase (water flow is reversed to wash out dirt from the tank) → Salt solution is carried from the brine tank to the mineral tank, where sodium ions replace calcium and magnesium ions and sends them to the drain.
The advantage of water softeners is that they rid water of hardness minerals, improving detergent and soap efficiency and leaving your hair and clothes significantly softer.
One major disadvantage of water softeners is maintenance, which involves replacing salt in the tank.
Another problem is that the sodium that ends up in the treated water will alter the taste of the water.
Limescale inhibitors are a water treatment solution that are used as an alternative to traditional salt-based softeners.
Unlike water softeners that use a chemical process to soften water, limescale inhibitors prevent limescale build-up through a physical process that focuses on inhibiting the precipitation of hardness minerals. As a result, hardness minerals can no longer stick to surfaces.
Therefore, with a limescale inhibitor, hardness minerals aren’t removed from water, they’re just simply prevented from depositing and causing problems in your household.
Limescale inhibitors don’t add anything to tap water, nor do they alter the taste of water. They’re low maintenance water conditioners that are considered a viable alternative to water softeners, especially in situations when softened water is not a requirement.
Neither water softeners, nor scale inhibitors are suitable for treating health-related contamination issues. A separate filter system is required to remove these contaminants.
How to Detect Limescale in Your Tap Water?
Usually, there is no test required to detect limescale in your tap water because you’ll notice the effects of hard water as soon as deposits start to form.
There are tests to detect hardness minerals and their levels, however, you can just as easily test the pH of your tap water to see where it stands on the water hardness spectrum.
If your water is hard, it’s time to act and prevent further issues by installing a water softening system or a limescale inhibiting filter.
Taste and Odour Issues
While strange tastes and odours in your tap water can be caused by health-related water contaminants like chlorine, organic matter, bacteria or pipe erosion, there are cases when off tastes are owed to the differences in the catchments that your water is sourced from.
Even if there are no contamination issues affecting the taste of your tap water, you can still use an activated carbon filter to improve the taste of your drinking water.
Whenever you notice something out of the ordinary with your water source, contact your water provider to make sure there are no contamination issues that may pose a health risk.
As you can see, not all water contaminants are a risk to your health, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address them.
Sediments and limescale are two of the most common contamination issues that won’t cause any health problems but should be removed from water nonetheless to prevent other issues in your household.
Multi-stage water filter systems are usually fitted with a sediment filter cartridge and some filter systems also feature lime-scale inhibiting cartridges.