If you live in a hard water area, or your water has calcium additives inserted by concerned councils have you had to add Calgon to save your washing machine from breakdown? If you have a dishwasher no doubt it will have a water softener to leave your glasses gleaming. What about your hair though? If you have installed a water softener – no problem! Your hair will be as squeaky clean as your drinking glasses. If not you may be getting desperate, trying all the different shampoos, conditioners, visits to the hairdresser to sort it all out. Ever thought that your hairdresser might have a water softener?
Trouble is, water softeners aren’t cheap and who wants to wash in rainwater? That was the way housewives got around the problem when there was always a tank to collect it from the roof but after the polio scare in the 1950’s, and Surf and Omo washing powders made their appearance to replace soap flakes, every tank in the UK was dismantled. OK for the clothes perhaps, but not for the ladies. Some demanded softeners immediately, but the majority couldn’t afford them.
What about using bottled water? Throughout the world bottled water is produced but most is from boreholes or springs and is rainwater that has been filtered through porous limestone. As rainwater is mildly acidic it dissolves some calcium from the limestone and produces vast underground caverns beloved by potholers, complete with limestone stalagtites and stalagmites. It also allows the bottlers to call their product ‘mineral water’ as it contains calcium and other dissolvable salts. These are all good to drink but make the water ‘hard’. If you try to make a hot drink with it, your kettle will soon have great masses of white calcium attached to the element as the heating process displaces the salts in the water, just as when sea water evaporates, the salt in it is left behind.
Some bottled water is produced that does not presume to be called ‘mineral water’. This is called ‘table water’ and can be taken from any municipal supply, from the tap. This is hard to find and in any case may also be ‘hard water’, as the calcium salts are deemed to be beneficial.
People that enjoy the benefits of soft water only live in areas where this is produced. These are places that have high rainfall and it is collected in lakes and reservoirs surrounded by volcanic mountains with impermeable rock strata. In the UK these areas are in the Peak District, Wales and the highlands of Scotland. In Europe the mountains produce soft water, some from glaciers. In Canada, the water in British Columbia is very soft. People who like tea say that soft water brings out the taste and visitors from hard water areas really can tell the difference and enjoy it. Eczema sufferers especially babies experience much relief from bathing in soft water and it is evident that all skin feels softer after washing in it.
There does not seem to be any evidence that any bottled SOFT water has been produced ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Now for the first time in history people power can make a difference. If you live in a hard water area and like the idea of washing your hair in soft water whenever you want to make a special impression or you would like your tea and other drinks to taste much better you will need a ready supply. Soft water in bottles can be provided from safe municipal supplies in Wales and the Peak District of England, and I predict that worldwide producers will take up the challenge and eventually bottled soft water will be available for you to enjoy wherever you live.
Bottled soft water will be safe to drink; perfect for making tea; will not ‘fur up’ your kettle; good for washing babies; washing your hair; leaves your skin silky soft. Trials of using water heated in a kettle have shown that one pint (1/2 litre) is sufficient to wash a head of short hair, and that perhaps two pints (1 litre) would be needed for long hair, mixing hot and cold water in a jug for washing and rinsing.
If you cannot wait for bottled soft water, water softening equipment is widely marketed. Modern versions rely on magnetism to stop metallic salts being deposited on pipework. These are considerably cheaper and more environment-friendly than ion-exchange types that use volumes of salty water to renovate exchanger vessels.