Many of our most-used appliances rely on water. Coffeemakers, kettles, dishwashers, irons and washing machines all are powered with water from the tap. If your water contains excess amounts of minerals such as magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate, it's known as hard water. While hard water is almost never a threat to your family's health, over time the mineral residues left behind when the water dries can affect the performance and even the lifespan of your water-dependant appliances (it can also ruin the taste of your coffee and make your silverware streaky). There are a number of home remedies for dealing with hard water buildup, or scaling, in your kitchen and laundry room.
Hard Water Buildup in Coffee Makers and Kettles To deal with scaling in your coffee maker or kettle, simply make a solution of half water and half white vinegar. Then pour this mixture through your coffee maker (or boil it in the kettle) to remove the scale. Repeat once or twice if necessary, using a fresh mixture every time. If this fails to solve the problem, you may need to seek out a commercial limescale remover. Check the label to be sure it's safe for use on food appliances first.
You should try to avoid using abrasive materials or cleaners on your glass coffee pot. Abrading the glass weakens it, which can cause the glass to crack the next time it's filled with boiling water.
Dishwashers with Hard Water Buildup
Pour undiluted white vinegar or another acidic cleaner (lemon juice, for example) into your dishwasher's detergent container and run the machine to clear residues that affect the performance of the machine. If hard water spots on your dishes are what's bothering you, there are specially-formulated detergents for hard-water areas available. If buildup on working parts of your machine are extreme, you may need to scrub with very fine steel wool to loosen the deposits on areas you can see, and then follow up with a vinegar rinse.
Hard Water Deposits and Washing Machines
Clothes washed in a machine with serious hard-water buildups are never quite clean. They become stiff and rough and sometimes have whitish marks on them after they've dried. Adding some vinegar in with the detergent can help this, but it leaves an unpleasant smell. Chlorine bleach should work to prevent hard water problems on laundry that can tolerate it. As with dishwashers, several companies now make laundry detergent formulated especially for hard water.
If hard water is affecting the performance of your washing machine generally, you may have mineral deposits clogging up the works. If you're the handy type, you can follow the manufacturer's instructions and clean the inlet screens on the machine's water lines with a toothbrush and a paste made of baking soda and vinegar. After re-attaching the water lines, you can then pour white vinegar (your old friend) into the machine's detergent container and run it once, empty, to clear out any remaining debris.
Worst-Case Scenario for Hard Water: Consider a Water Conditioner Mineral deposits from hard water are easily treatable in many appliances. But for complex major appliances, such as your hot water heater, simply running a cup of vinegar through once in a while isn't feasible-and wouldn't work anyway. If the water in your area is unusually hard, have a professional in to remove scale buildup, and then begin to research water conditioners. These filtration systems pre-treat your water to remove minerals that cause deposits before they come in contact with your appliances. This will extend the lifespans of your appliances, and save you money in the long run.