Water hardness and limescale

Water hardness

Most of the water in the Wessex Water region is naturally hard as it comes from groundwater sources. Find out more information on hard water and what you can do if it causes limescale to build up around your home.

What is hard water?

It is water that has percolated underground through layers of limestone, chalk or rock - it means hard water has high mineral content with lots of calcium and magnesium.

While hard water has known health benefits, particularly for bone health, it can cause limescale to build up in household appliances as well as taps and showerheads.

Can I reduce water hardness in my home?

If you prefer your water to be soft, you can install a domestic water softener in your home using an approved supplier.

If you do so, it is recommended that you leave your kitchen tap unsoftened for drinking water and food preparation as most softeners add higher levels of sodium to the water.

Due to the high sodium levels required for soft water, we are unable to artificially soften your water supply during the treatment process as it would be impossible to provide you with a separate unsoftened water supply for drinking and this would be bad for your health.

Water conditioners are also available. These alter the nature of the hardness minerals which form hard scale when the water is heated. Unlike softeners, they do this without changing the chemical content of the water.

There have been reports that in some cases conditioners do not work or are not as effective as expected. We don't recommend using water conditioners.

Do I have hard water?

Check the water hardness in your area using our handy postcode checker.

How can I get rid of limescale?

Kettles

Squeeze the juice of a lemon into the kettle, chop up the lemon into small chunks and put them in too. Fill the kettle with enough water to cover the chunks of lemon, boil the water and then leave it to cool down for a few hours.

Once cooled, pour away the water and remove the lemon chunks before wiping the inside of the kettle with a soft sponge. 

Descaling solutions are also available from most hardware shops and chemists.

If you're thinking of buying a new kettle and you live in a hard water area, plastic kettles tend to be worse for limescale than metal ones because they are smoother and hold the scale less firmly.

Washing machines

Start by spraying the rubber gasket and detergent drawer with white vinegar and wipe them thoroughly with a microfibre cloth. Then pour two cups of the white vinegar into the detergent drawer and run the machine on the highest cycle at the hottest possible temperature.

Once the cycle is complete, pour half a cup of baking soda into the drum and repeat the same cycle on the hottest setting. Once complete, wipe down the drum, rubber gasket and detergent drawer with a microfibre cloth.

Dishwashers

Many dishwashers contain a built-in softener which uses salt to reduce water hardness. This stops a white film forming on glassware or crockery and will prolong the life of the appliance itself. Don’t forget to refill the dishwasher containers with salt and rinse aid when they need it. 

Some dishwashers need setting to a water hardness level to get the best performance – check your appliance manual for instructions and remember to use the correct value which will be given as a degree of hardness (Clark/UK, French or German).

Taps

Cut a lemon in half and rub it over the end of the taps. For extra stubborn bits of limescale, soak a cloth in white vinegar and place it over the affected area, leaving it to soak for an hour. Once done, wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Showerheads

Pour white vinegar into a plastic bag and cover the showerhead with the bag, making sure the areas with limescale are submerged in the vinegar. Tie the bag in place with an elastic band.

Leave for four to five hours before removing the bag and scrubbing the showerhead with a brush to catch any leftover bits of limescale. Finish by wiping the showerhead clean with a damp cloth.

Shower screens and doors

Cut a lemon in half and rub the whole shower screen with the inside of the lemon, allowing the juice to soak in.

Then get a clear spray bottle and fill it half with water and the other half with white vinegar. Spray the solution on the shower screen and leave it to soak for an hour.

Wipe clean with a damp microfibre cloth and rinse.

TOP TIP: When using lemons for cleaning, try where possible to use ones that have already been chopped or squeezed for eating and drinking to get the most out of them. Bottled lemon juice could also be used as a more cost-effective alternative.