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3 Signs of Hard Water on Hair and How to Prevent Them

by Ann Ferguson

young woman struggling to comb her hair at home

At a Glance:

What are the signs of water damage on hair?

Why does hard water damage hair?

How can I prevent hard water damage to my hair?

What is the best water softening system?

Hard water in your area

Hard water hair damage FAQs

Why Trust Spencer's?

There is a lot of talk of hard vs soft water, especially in the health and beauty space. This is because hard water contains a lot of minerals that can be very rough on your skin and hair. The difference between hard and soft water is the concentration of these minerals. Water that runs through a water treatment system — such as a water softener — does not have as high of a concentration of minerals, which preserves the health of your hair and skin better.

So, what are the signs of hard water on hair, and how do you prevent damage?

Explore Water Treatment Solutions

Learn more about the ways water softeners can help treat hard water in your home.

Water Treatment

3 Signs of Hard Water on Hair

Sometimes, it’s hard to know if your water is hard or soft, and it can be difficult to tell if damage to your hair is due to the water quality or to other factors. To help identify the differences, here are three signs of hard water on hair.

1. Dry Hair

If your hair is overly dry regardless of the shampoo and conditioner you use, it may be a sign of hard water. Hard water contains minerals that create a barrier, preventing moisture from getting to the hair. Hair washed in hard water may become excessively dry, leading to other problems in the future.

2. Hair Damage and Breakage

With continued use, hard water may lead to weakened hair strands and follicles. This means the hair will be more prone to damage and breakage. Simple haircare like everyday brushing and hairstyling (like ponytails) may cause more damage to hair that is already affected by hard water.

3. Hair Loss

The effects of hard water are not limited to the strands of your hair. In severe cases, hard water can negatively affect your scalp, leading to hair loss; however, this is a less common sign of hard water on hair alone. Hard water hair loss is more common in individuals who also experience eczema and psoriasis.

➤ Additional Hard Water Effects on Hair

  • Build up and greasy hair
  • Flaky, itchy scalp
  • Reduced hair growth

➝ Related: Effects of Hard Water on Skin and How to Prevent Them

The Reason Hard Water Damages Hair

Like we mentioned before, hard water contains a higher concentration of minerals. These minerals bond to hair strands, creating a barrier that deflects moisture and other substances. This film clings to the outside of the strand, which can make your shampoos, conditioners, and other hair treatment serums ineffective. It can also make hair dull, frizzy, stiff, and more prone to tangles. These effects are heightened when hair is washed with hard water over a long period of time. The buildup may be more difficult to penetrate with serums, masks, or other treatments.

➝ Related: Hard vs Soft Water: How They Affect You

How to Prevent Hard Water Damage to Your Hair

young woman applying shampoo on her hair in bathroom

The best way to prevent hard water hair damage is to buy and install a water softener. Water softeners filter out most of the minerals that make hard water so damaging to hair. With a much smaller concentration of minerals, your hair won’t develop the water-blocking film that dries it out. Your scalp is also less likely to become irritated with soft water, further preventing issues like hair loss.

To install a water softener, you first need to select the right system for your household. There are several options in this space, differing in brand and capacity. Selecting the right size is important, and it is dependent on your water demand and generally your household size. A system that is not large enough to support your water demand can result in water delivery issues.

You may want to consider hiring the help of a plumber when installing your water softener, to ensure that it is done properly; however, it is possible to install a water softening system yourself. There are also solutions to preventing hard water damage if you are unable to install a water softener…

4 Ways to Prevent Hard Water Damage to Your Hair:

  • Install a water softener.
  • Wash your hair with purifying shampoos and conditioners.
  • Use hair masks or treatments regularly.
  • Massage your scalp when you shampoo.

Our Top 3 Water Softener Picks

For a household water softener, we recommend an Envirotec model. Envirotec water softeners come in different sizes to satisfy different needs. Here are our top picks from our catalog:

1. Envirotec Water Softener System ET64H

Envirotec Water Softener System ET64H

Shop Envirotec's Water Softener System ET64H

This Envirotec water softener system features a multiple-tank design. This allows for easier movement of the system for service work or relocation to a new home. It has a very large capacity of 64,000 grains. This size system allows the system to regenerate the least, extending the system’s lifespan. The large capacity also eliminates hard water bleed-through, giving you a better result.

Capacity: 64,000 grains


  • Highest Capacity
  • Multiple Tank Design
  • Regeneration Tank
  • Maxflow™ Valve
  • Enviroguard™
  • Ultrastar™ Resin High-Temperature Resin
  • Outstanding warranty

➝ Related: Top 3 Benefits of Salt-Free Water Softener Systems

2. Envirotec Water Softener System ET50HWS

Envirotec Water Softener System ET50HWS

Shop Envirotec's Water Softener System ET50HWS

This water softener system from Envirotec features a new efficiency booster that knows precisely when to regenerate, saving water and salt usage up to 75 percent over conventional water softeners. The valve has excellent service flow rates for better water pressure at your showers and faucets than other systems.

Capacity: 50,000 grains


  • Digital Demand Monitoring
  • Superior Capacity
  • Multiple Tank Design
  • Regeneration Tank
  • Maxflow™ Valve
  • Enviroguard™
  • Ultrastar™ Resin High-Temperature Resin
  • No warranty compares

➝ Related: Top 5 Benefits of a Water Softener

3. Envirotec Water Softener System ET42H

Envirotec Water Softener System ET42H

Shop Envirotec's Water Softener System ET42H

This is the smallest of our chosen Envirotec water softener systems. This is designed to handle harsh water conditions with MaxFlow, giving the system a high flow to meet the demand.

Capacity: 42,000 grains


  • Designed to handle harsh water conditions
  • MaxFlow™ high flow metered demand valve

➝ Related: Spencer’s Fun Guide to Water Treatment Systems

Hard Water in Your Area

Do you suspect that you're experiencing hard water hair? Hard water is a growing issue across the United States. Hard water can be measured using the water hardness scale. In parts of the U.S., particularly in the Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast, hard water is common due to its prevalence in these areas' geology. The water hardness scale is a way of classifying the mineral level of water, ranging from 0 to 14 grains per gallon (GPG). Soft or slightly hard water is classified as 0-3.5 GPG, moderately hard water ranges from 3.5-7 GPG, and very hard water is considered anything above 7 GPG. While hard water is generally safe to drink, it can be a nuisance for homeowners and cause problems such as clogged pipes and limescale build-up on fixtures and appliances.

How to Tell if You Have Hard Water

The easiest way to tell if you have hard water is by using a home testing kit or checking the local water report. You can also use a water hardness test strip or drops that will display a color-coded result on the accompanying chart, which measures calcium and magnesium levels to determine your water's hardness according to the water hardness scale. The higher the level, the harder your water is considered.

Map of hard water in the US

Image Credit: United States Geological Survey

Hard Water Hair Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can hard water cause hair loss?

A: Yes; in severe cases, hard water can cause scalp irritation leading to hair loss. Mineral deposits from hard water can build up on the scalp and block important nutrients from reaching your hair follicles, resulting in weakened or stunted growth. In severe cases, it can even lead to permanent damage of the hair follicles, causing baldness or thinning hair. To prevent this type of damage from occurring, it's important to understand your local water hardness scale and use special treatments designed for hard water types. These treatments help remove mineral deposits that may have already accumulated and protect against future buildup. Additionally, deep conditioning treatments are recommended to restore lost oils and moisture to your hair strands that may have been stripped away due to high levels of minerals in the hard water.

Q: Is hard water bad for your hair?

A: Hard water contains more minerals than soft water, which can have adverse effects like drying, leading to damage and breakage.

Q: How do you prevent hard water hair damage?

A: Install a water softener. The best prevention is eliminating contact with hard water altogether. Other treatments like clarifying shampoos, hair masks, and rinses may also help minimize hard water damage.

Q: How do you reverse hard water effects on hair?

A: Wash your hair with soft water. Washing with soft water will help rid your hair of the buildup caused by hard water. It may also help to use a clarifying shampoo, a hair mask, or a rinse, as these products can help expedite the process.

➝ Related: 10 FAQs on Water Treatment Systems

Why Trust Spencer’s TV & Appliance? 

Since 1973, Spencer’s TV & Appliance has grown to 10 locations throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. The secret to our longevity is simple: personal service. Customer satisfaction have always been the focus of our business, and throughout the years, we have been able to work hard with our suppliers to bring you the best prices. After all, getting customers the best price and personal attention is how we compete with big-box stores, day in and day out.

Not only do we offer top-rated appliances, name-brand electronics, and the best mattresses on the market but we also provide water treatment solutions and perform kitchen design services. Stop by your nearest Spencer’s and see what you’re missing!

Shop Water Softeners at Spencer’s TV & Appliance

At Spencer’s TV & Appliance, we provide high-quality, brand-name appliances for great prices. Shop water softeners online to reduce signs of hard water on hair or visit us today at one of our locations in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Glendale regions.

Learn More: Top 11 Impurities in Contaminated Water (and How to Get Rid of Them)