Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dealing with Hard Water

Das Wasser in many areas of Deutschland is hard- meaning it has a lot of calcium and/or lime in it. How do you figure out if yours is? You can check online (google your city + Trinkwasseranalyse). Here are Bamberg´s and Nürnberg´s. As you can see, it´s either hart (hard) or mittlehart. If your hair is acting funny, your skin is dry and irritated, your whites turn dingier with every wash, and your soap doesn´t bubble- you have hard water.  
Hard water is not only unfriendly to your skin and hair, but on your appliances as well. has over 1,800 products for degunking your appliances (search for "Entkalker"). Most will contain some sort of an acid (vinegar or citric) or salt. To combat hard water, you need one or the other. 
What can you do? 
- If you own your house, and can afford a whole house water softener, that is a great option. 
- While not everyone is so sensitive to hard water, I am, and we have installed in shower water softeners. About €25, they last 6 months. This has made a HUGE difference. This one (which can be delivered to Germany) has been recommended, as well as this one from 
- A Brita filter will soften your water. Use filtered water in your tea kettles and coffee makers.
- Buy descaling products for your washing machine. Actiff Antikalk Tabs work well, towels especially are noticeably softer. Calgon makes several products (they will also send you free test strips to test your water for hardness). Any larger supermarket, DM, Müller, etc. will have a variety of products in various forms (tablet, powder, liquid).  

For whites, I have a routine. I soak whites for 2 hours in Heitmann Reine Soda  before putting in the machine, and/or I use Heitmann Wäsche Weiss. Both are less than €2, and available at most larger supermarkets, DM, and Mäc-Geiz.  
- For lime deposits in tea kettles and the like, add some vinegar (or lemon juice) and water and let it sit. 
- For shower scum on doors and on sinks, I recommend concentrated vinegar (Essigessenz). Note that this is highly acidic, NOT for consumption! At 20% or more acidity, this can also be irritating to your skin. Highly effective, but rinse quickly and thoroughly. 
- For the chrome faucets, I recommend a tooth paste scrub. (seriously, it works!). If your shower head or faucets are so built up that the water comes out funny, tie a bag full of white vinegar to it, and leave overnight. 
- Every once in a while, pour vinegar down your drains. 
- Do a vinegar rinse of your coffee machine. Run some vinegar through it, follow with 2 or 3 water only runs. 
- For your hair, you can do several things to de-gunk. 
  • Do a vinegar rinse. I use a 1 to 3 ration of apple cider vinegar to water. The smell does go away when your hair dries. 
  • Do a lemon juice rinse. Add some lemon juice to water as a final rinse. 
  • Use a chelating shampoo once a week, Joico makes a good one (not available here). Paul Mitchell Shampoo 3 is also good. Deep condition afterwards. Chelating products bind to the minerals, and everything else, stripping your hair of moisture as well. Here is a post about chelating products, including the ingredients to look for.
  • Add baking soda to your shampoo to make a paste (link to 10 beauty uses for baking soda from Dr. Oz). Let it sit a few minutes, condition. Called Haus Natron in German, Arm and Hammer is available at Real and (some) Rewes and Edekas. 
  • Use hair products aimed at getting rid of Kalk. Schwarzkopf makes a shampoo and conditioner especially for hard water. I personally did not find that they worked that well. 
  • Check your labels for EDTA and/or citric acid. Make sure they are closer to the top of the ingredient list, meaning it is in a higher concentration. Pantene and Garnier tend to have higher levels of EDTA. 
  • Available in the States, the Malibu-C Weekly Demineralizer is recommended. 
  • There is a wealth of information in this thread on Toytown Germany-
For your body?  
  • In the bath, add bath salts. Salt softens hard water. For the shower, a salt based body scrub. 
  • For extremely dry skin, use products containing Urea (uric acid). Usually in 5 or 10% concentrations. 
 Your face? 
  • Disposable face cleansing cloths or Cetaphil, and avoid water all together!
  • Clarins Cleansing Milk (available at Karstadt or Douglass about €20) neutralizes the effects of hard water. 
  • Use products that contain some sort of acid. Vitamin C, citric acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid. 
  • Products containing papaya enzymes (especially masks)
  • Baking soda has just enough salt to soften the water. Try any one of these ideas
  • Again, Urea (or uric acid) for very dry skin. Eucerin has a good one. 
  • To remove the build up that happens even with a filter, I like Origins Clear Improvement mask. €27 and a tube lasts me a year. 
  • Microfiber face cloths tend to remain the softest when washed in hard water. 
Can you drink it? Yes. Some say that the water can contribute to kidney stones. My doctor said that is not true. If you are concerned, purchase a Brita water filter. 

What do you do to combat hard water? 


1 comment:

LifestyleAsh said...

This is really informative. I will try to find out which works best for me.