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Does Germany have hard water? How does that affect you, your hair and skin?

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Why does Germany have hard water? The hardness of the water in Germany affects the taste and texture of our water and affects household appliances and fittings. 

Regarding the hard water in German houses, the lime contained in the water is responsible for the degree of hardness: the more lime, the “harder” the water. In the case of drinking water obtained from groundwater or spring water, the hardness of the water is strongly dependent on the composition of the respective soil. In areas where the groundwater comes into contact with limestone (e.g. chalk, marble, dolomite), the water hardness is high, while surface water is rather soft.

What is water hardness anyway?

Water hardness is the ratio of different minerals in drinking waterCalcium and magnesium play an important role in this. These, in turn, can form chemical compounds with other substances and harden if they occur at high levels. We then perceive this hardening as lime in the water that settles on taps and tiles, for example. You have probably already noticed that the hardness of the water in Germany is different everywhere.

Why does the lime in the water varies in Germany?

First of all, the hardness of the water basically depends on which rock layers it has seeped through, or how much calcium, magnesium and other minerals it has absorbed on the way. And since the composition of the soil varies depending on the region, so does the hardness of the water. After all, there is not just one central extraction point, but countless sources in Germany.

Is hard water bad water?

Not at all! In the household it can of course be a nuisance if the kettle looks the same as before three days after descaling.

Water with a high level of hardness is no longer a problem for washing machines if you know the hardness of the water in your region of Germany and use the appropriate dose of detergent. 

For humans, hard water is even healthier due to the higher calcium and magnesium content.

Hard or soft? The water hardness is not the same everywhere in Germany! 

Hard water in Germany is different depending on the city you live in.

Hardness ranges according to the Washing and Cleaning Agent Act (WRMG)

On February 1, 2007, the German Bundestag passed the new version of the law on the environmental compatibility of detergents and cleaning agents. The new version came into force on May 5, 2007. According to § 9 of the law, the water supply companies are obliged to indicate the hardness ranges of the drinking water to the consumer. The information must be given in millimoles of calcium carbonate per liter:

  • Soft hardness: less than 1.5 millimoles of calcium carbonate per liter
  • Medium hardness: 1.5 to 2.5 millimoles of calcium carbonate per liter
  • Hardness range hard: more than 2.5 millimoles of calcium carbonate per liter

The three hardship areas are based on European law.

City Calcium carbonate Degree of hardness           
Berlin
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Bremen
between 1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L
8.4 to 14 ° dH
Dortmund
between 1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L
8.4 to 14 ° dH
Düsseldorf
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Frankfurt
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Freiburg
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Hamburg
between 1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L
8.4 to 14 ° dH
Hannover
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Kassel
between 1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L
8.4 to 14 ° dH
Kiel
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Köln
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Leipzig
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Munich
more than 2.5 mmol/L
more than 14 ° dH
Nürnberg
between 1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L
8.4 to 14 ° dH
Stuttgart
between 1.5 – 2.5 mmol/L
8.4 to 14 ° dH

What can you do if the hard water bothers you?

If you live in any area in Germany with hard water, the limescale deposits are likely to bother you.

  • You can get rid of the limescale quickly and effectively with limescale remover sprays on tiles, in the sink and bathtub as well as in the shower. It effortlessly removes water stains and leaves a water-repellent film that prevents lime scale in the future.
  • The best way to descale the kettle is with diluted citric acid or a dash of vinegar essence in water. 
  • Your laundry may also feel stiff. How about a fabric softener for more suppleness and a great fragrance?
  • If you have hard water, think about buying a water filter. Many people like coffee, tea and the like better from soft water. Extra tip: There are also kettles with an integrated filter – a pretty practical invention!
  • Another possibility is to counteract a lot of limescale in the water by installing a limescale protection device. However, the Federal Consumer Agency classifies many devices as ineffective – only the principle of “seed crystal formation” fulfills its purpose – and points out that such a device is often expensive to purchase, install and maintain

Can I safely drink the hard water in Germany?

hard water

The Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) sees at least two good reasons to drink tap water:

  • “Drinking water is one of the best controlled foods in Germany.”
  • “Drinking tap water creates less than one percent of the environmental pollution of mineral water.”

However, the Office also recommends that you should never drink stagnant water. In this case water that has been stagnant in the pipes for more than four hours. To drink tap water, just let the water run until it gets noticeably cooler

And what about the lime in the water? Will it clog my arteries and lead to heart disease?

That is a myth, says an expert from the German Heart Foundation. The deposits did not lead to the relevant diseases, but vice versa. Rather, known risk factors played such as smoking, diabetes mellitus or sedentary lifestyle play a role. Hard water is not one of them.

Does hard water affect your skin?

hard water

Similar to the tiles, hard water also leaves a fine mineral film on the body. This is not visible, but noticeable. Hard water removes fat from the skin, has a drying effect and thus irritates. 

You may experience redness, a feeling of tightness after showering, or itching. In rare cases, the dryness even creates tiny micro-cracks in the skin, in which germs and bacteria can settle. 

Eczema and dandruff are possible consequences. It has been proven that there are more cases of neurodermatitis in regions with very hard water than in regions with water that is poor in lime. Even blackheads can be due to lime. If mineral residues settle in the pores, they can clog and pimples develop.

Does too much lime also affect hair?

hard water

Of course, mineral residues don’t stop at the hair either. We know this effect from vacation. Who has not thought elsewhere that their hair somehow feels different, that it can be combed and styled differently? The water here probably had a different degree of hardness. The more lime it contains, the more dull the hair is. At the same time, it feels grippier and rougher, which in turn can be an advantage when it comes to styling. The hairstyle holds up much better. The scalp, on the other hand, suffers. Hard water has a drying effect and can also lead to dandruff on the head.

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