Pro's Corner

Hard Water: How it makes cleaning Harder

Hard water impacts your equipment. It also binds up some ingredients for water softening instead of their cleaning function.
This makes it necessary to use more chemicals to make up for what was used up in softening water. Salt is very inexpensive in comparison to using a professional cleaning product to soften water.

Hard water refers to water that has a high content of dissolved minerals. The most common particles dissolved in water are positive ions (cations) of calcium and magnesium although several other minerals and metals may be present in small amounts.

“Pure” water with nothing dissolved in it is rather rare. This pure water is aggressively seeking something to dissolve. Free-flowing freshwater will quickly dissolve carbon dioxide from the air forming small amounts of carbolic acid in the water.

Water hardness is not a black-and-white issue. Hardness covers a wide range of possibilities. Hardness is commonly measured in grains* per gallon (gr/g) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). To convert from gr/g to mg/L multiply by 17.11. The U.S. geological survey calls 60 mg/L or less soft water. (That is about 3 ½ grains per gallon.) Hard or very hard water is anything above 120 mg/L. In between those levels is moderately hard water. Most of the U.S. has water in the moderate, hard, or very hard ranges.
Hard Water map complete
There is some evidence that hard water is good for our health due to the extra minerals we get from drinking it. But hard water is definitely not good for the health of our cleaning equipment.

As the water gets hotter, it can not hold as much calcium. So, the calcium precipitates out of the water in the form of calcium carbonate. This white, chalky crud coats the inside of any pipe, hose, or part the water flows through. This coating is especially harmful to heat exchangers because the coating acts like insulation that slows down heat transfer. You will now require more fuel and more time to keep your water hot. You do not need that additional expense!

The calcium carbonate coating is like making your hoses narrower. If you don’t descale on a regular basis, flow rates will drop, and hoses and other parts can even fail completely if the build-up remains excessive. Like plaque in our arteries, this will also raise pressure while decreasing flow rates. One TM manufacturer demands a water softener for their warranty to be effective. The use of alkaline cleaning products can increase the rate at which these minerals precipitate.

The addition of an acid rinse agent running through your Truckmount or portable carpet cleaning unit helps to slowly dissolve some of this build-up or keep it from occurring in the first place. In short, acid rinses offers benefits beyond getting carpet cleaner and rinsing away residue.

If you make a switch from using an alkaline to an acid side product in your rinse, the acid will begin to remove the build-up inside hoses and plumbing. As this gunk is cleaned out, you will find filters and jets clogging or gunk in the water dispensed. So activate the wand over a sink, in the yard, or somewhere other than a client’s nice white carpet until the water runs clear. Then clean the filters.selfcontain watersoft AC40B

Many cleaning products have cleaning ingredients that also combat the effects of the minerals in hard water. These include phosphate, sodium carbonate, chelating agents, etc. These ingredients bind to calcium, magnesium, and other minerals to aid in taking them out of circulation. Formulators add these ingredients for a cleaning function and not for softening water. We tested one product at 1 to 640 dilution that used up 80% of its ingredients intended for cleaning to soften water. This greatly handicaps a product's ability to perform its intended cleaning and rinsing function.

Soft water offers significant savings on chemical usage while leaving less residue. You may find that you only need about half the concentration of prespray or other cleaning agents. (Label dilution rates are usually provided for “average” water hardness. So, you use slightly more if the water is extra hard and less for soft water.) This is another potential savings for soft water users. Your clients will also appreciate the benefits. With increasing awareness of the number of chemicals coming into our homes and the trend toward “green”, this is an advantage you can market.

One home water softener manufacturer promotes a study by Purdue University** stating that fabrics washed in hard water tend to wear out 15% sooner compared to those cleaned in soft water. We don’t know if these numbers hold true for carpet cleaning, but it can’t hurt and likely extends carpet life to cleaning with soft water.


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