Complaints about the washer or dishwasher not cleaning very well are one of the more common ones I get from grasshoppers at my website and from paying grasshoppers in the field, also known as customers. The first thing I always like to figger out in these cases is how hard the water is. What’s water hardness and why’s it so ding-dang important? Well, Hoss, hang on ’cause I’m gonna ‘splain it to you.
Hardness is a term them fancy-pants engineers use to talk about dissolved minerals, mostly calcium and magnesium, in the water. Water picks it up as it flows in rivers or in aquifers under the ground, dontcha know. It varies from place to place according to the types of rocks you got.
Anyway, them fancy-pants engineers went on and created a way of measuring hardness. They call it grains per gallon, and you’ll see ‘em write it as "gpg." So, the more grains of calcium or magnesium dissolved in each gallon of water, the harder it is. Here's how they talk about hardness in numbers:
1 gpg = 1 grain per US gallon = 17.1 mg/l CaCO3 (US water hardness)
1 ppm = 1 mg/l CaCO3 (US)
1°e = 1 grain per UK gallon = 14.29 mg/l CaCO3 (English water hardness)
1°d = 10 mg/l CaO (German water hardness)
1°f = 10 mg/l CaCO3 (French water hardness)
1 gpg = 1.712°f
1 gpg = 0.959°d
1 gpg = 1.198°e (gpg UK)
1 gpg = 17.120 ppm CaCO3
So, what’s wrong with having a little calcium and magnesium in the water? Nothing if it’s just a little, like less than 3 gpg. But, when you start getting water with 7 gpg or more, you gots what we in the trade call, "hard water." And if it’s more than about 10 gpg, it’s called "damn hard water." This nifty little table summarized what I be sayin':
Y’see, Hoss, in a washer or dishwasher, these little calciums and magnesiums suck up the soap or detergent leaving less of it available to clean the crud off your clothes or dishes. As a result of water hardness, it takes more soap or detergent to get your clothes or dishes to an acceptable level of cleaness. Now you see why I always wanna find out what the water hardness is when I’m dealing with a poor cleaning complaint?
Now here’s something else to think about. The detergent instructions on the box are based on average hardness. Average hardness in the U.S. is defined as 6.6 gpg and 6.1 gpg in Canada. Now this cuts both ways, Hoss, hang with me for a minute. What if your actual water hardness is only 2 gpg but you’re putting detergent in your washer based on the directions on the box (typically a standard "scoop" or "capful")? Well, it don’t take a certifiable appliance guru like myself to figger out that you’re using too much freakin’ detergent! You’re not only wasting money, but you’re wearing lots o’ that stuff in your clothes, too.
Awwite, what if your actual water hardness was 15 gpg and you’re putting in detergent according to the amount on the box? Why, it means you are one dirty dude ’cause your clothes ain’t getting clean when you wash ‘em. Think about that next time you put on a pair of "clean" underwear.
Not only is hardness a problem from the standpoint of cleaning your stuff, it messes up your appliances, too. Oh sure, after a while, all kinds of "scale" from the hardness collects on the innards of your washer and dishwasher and screws it all up. But hey, I love the work it generates so I ain’t complainin’!
Now, the question you’re all axin’: "how do I measure the hardness of my water?" Piece of pie. Come git you the ==> Maytag Water Hardness Kit