Hard water is water that contains a high mineral count. It is formed when water trickles through deposits of calcium and magnesium which contains minerals like chalk, limestone and dolomite. Hard water is not harmful for health however it can cause major problems with household appliances, which can be quite expensive in terms of repairs, replacements and higher energy bills.
Almost 60% of the UK has hard water with the main problem areas concentrated on the east and southern coast of England with the region of Lincolnshire recorded to be supplied with an extremely high level of hard water. According to the USGS, ‘The amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in water determines its hardness. Where the water is relatively hard, you may notice that it is difficult to get lather up when washing your hands or clothes. You might even end up having to spend money to soften the water, as hard water can damage equipment.’
There are two types of water hardness, temporary hardness and permanent hardness. Temporary hardness is caused by dissolved calcium hydrogen carbonate. It can be removed by boiling the water which makes the calcium hydrogen carbonate dissolve and break down.
Permanent hardness is caused by dissolved calcium sulphate, which cannot be removed by boiling the water like temporary hardness. Substances containing sodium carbonate which combats with the calcium and magnesium in the water.
Hard water is a main cause of limescale build up. Water guide.org.uk explains that, ‘when hard water is heated past 55°C or left to stand, the dissolved minerals in it solidify as the moisture evaporates. These solidified minerals are what limescale is made of, and they can be a serious problem in and around the home. The visible effects of limescale are nothing compared to those effects which can’t be seen. Hard water contains an average of 300mg of dissolved minerals per litre, so a four person household can accumulate up to 70kg of limescale in a year.’
Limescale coats household appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, kettles, coffee machines, central heating pipes and boilers, causing inefficient operation in those appliances. According to British Water, ‘Even a 1.6mm coating of limescale on a heating element can make it up to 12% less effective. This could cause you to waste up to £200 worth of energy every year. It could also cause your appliances to burn themselves out much more quickly than normal.’
To find out about the level of water hardness in your area, refer to the list of water suppliers below:
SembCorp Bournemouth Water
Cholderton & District Water Company
Dee Valley Water
Dwr Cymru - Welsh Water
Essex and Suffolk Water
Severn Trent Water
South East Water
South Staffs Water
South West Water
Sutton and East Surrey Water
United Utilities Water
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Approximately 60% of the UK population live in hard water areas; therefore Limescale is affecting a large part of the British population. Not only does it look particularly unpleasant it can also cause issues with many household appliances containing heating elements such as kettles and coffee machines and in some cases even your washing machine and dishwasher. However, it is not always a subject that is discussed, so here are a few answers to clear up any queries you might have regarding Limescale.
What is Limescale?
Limescale is an off-white chalky substance which comprises bicarbonate and calcium. It builds up over time and is the remnants of hard water. It is formed due to the transfer of minerals from limewater or chalk to water.
What are the effects of Limescale?
The effects of Limescale include:
• Staining of surfaces
• Clogged pipes
• Skin irritation
• Decreased energy efficiency of household appliances because of heating elements being coated in Limescale
If Limescale is allowed to build up over time, it can hinder the proper functioning of appliances leading to extra costs to repair them or buy new items.
How can Limescale be prevented and removed?
There are several options available ranging from low cost day to day measures to more complex long term remedies. Below are a few popular methods:
Many believe in the power of the ‘home remedy’ to prevent the build-up of Limescale, through the use of lemon or vinegar. However, these remedies only work on a small scale and take much longer to generate results. They also tend to leave a rather unpleasant residue that affects that taste of the water afterwards.
Water softeners are devices that are installed alongside the mains water supply and treat the hard water as it passes through the device. They are expensive and treat the water before you have even used it. This means that you get the benefits of soft water, which include more lather in the shower and less Limescale in your pipes. Turning hard water into soft water may seem like the ideal solution, however, the water in hard water areas regularly wins awards as it contains a natural combination of calcium and magnesium that give it a very distinctive taste. Water softeners are an expensive way of removing these minerals and you may find it affects the taste as well.
There are many Descalers available from the high street and online that can be used to specifically target Limescale. Whilst they all help remove Limescale, the level of protection against its reappearance differs from product to product so it is worth doing your homework. Most of them will also eliminate the unpleasant smells that Limescale may create within your appliances but be careful as some just replace these smells with unpleasant odours of their own.
In the UK today we spend a larger proportion of our disposable income on coffee than at any time in history. The recent explosion in high street coffee shop franchises such as Costa and Starbucks has triggered a huge demand for freshly brewed coffee in homes and offices across the country. There are literally hundreds of different coffee makers on the market, some that are cheap but complicated to use and others that are expensive but can offer a more convenient quick fix through the use of pre-filled capsules. Whatever you chose you are going to have spend time descaling your coffee maker and, depending on your part of the country removing limescale deposits that make that 30th cup taste nothing like the first one.
So, why the fascination with coffee? Well, A little known fact…Coffee has been around for over eleven centuries and is currently the most consumed beverage in the world. Over 400 billion cups are consumed every year.
The first historical reference to coffee is made in the year 850 in Persia, yet more legendary version of the discovery of coffee go back much further in time. However, it seems most likely that the true history of coffee began in the late 6th century AD in the Caffa region of Ethiopia. Here, legends have claimed, a goat herder noticed a strange disquiet in his flock after they had eaten the berries and leaves of an odd unidentified plant. Monks from a nearby monastery heard of this phenomenon, and after various trials discovered that by roasting, grinding and infusing in water the seeds of this plant, a unique beverage could be acquired, the beverage helped to keep them awake through long hours of prayer.
It is most likely that because of this characteristic, that word and use of this drink spread amongst monasteries and was taken to Yemen. The use of coffee then spread as far as the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The word was further spread by the great number of pilgrims from all over the world who visited these cities, tasted coffee for the first time and took it back to their own countries. The Turks pronounced it ‘qahve’ which not surprisingly became caffe, which then became café in European languages. It was the Dutch who literally brought the coffee plant to the rest of the world. They brought the first coffee plant from Yemen to Holland in 1616.
The first London coffeehouse was opened in the 17th century. These coffeehouses soon became known as ‘Penny Universities’, it was remarked that you could get an education for very little money while enjoying a coffee, just by paying attention to the great minds whom shared their voice and opinion in these shops. Coffeehouses now began to open all over the world. In 1686, the first Paris coffee house opened called 'Le Procope', and is still open today.
Top 5 Countries per capita consumption of coffee
Scandinavians are some of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world and are likely to remain that way. It is seen that because the nation’s younger generation are climbing on board the coffee wagon, the drink continues to soar in popularity through franchises such as Starbucks and Costa. Coffee has therefore been rejuvenated as a far more modern drink than tea of any of its hot beverage counterparts such as hot chocolate. Although more coffee is consumed in volume by coffee drinkers in Brazil and America, Scandinavia still tops the charts in terms of per capita consumption.