A description of hard water as water having many minerals, producing white flakes in the shower, or as having a high amount of dissolved salts fails to imply the hassle and annoyance associated with it. A year ago I began attending college in St. Paul, MN, after having lived most of my life in Portland, OR. At home, the water was particularly soft and pure, originating in a protected wilderness in the mountains. I'm not sure what the source of the water is in Minnesota, but it certainly isn't coming from any mountains, and is rather hard.

Hard water is no fun, I discovered.

One of the first things I noticed was the taste; the various minerals in the water impart a distinctly unpleasant flavor. The texture of the water is also noticeable; "hard" water does feel hard, while "soft" water is much smoother and feels much better going down. When I purchased some highly purified water at Whole Foods (Buying water for home use? Unthinkable! At least, so it seems to a Portlander.), the soft texture was one of the first things I noticed.

While back home in Portland one could use a water filter to effectively clean water rendered questionable by old plumbing, in the Twin Cities I find that even water cleaned with a simple home filter pitcher to be unacceptably, well, nasty in flavor. I have thus resorted to buying water in gallon jugs at the grocery store, as I mentioned above.

The failure of soap to lather in hard water is more troubling than one would imagine. Soap doesn't go very far in Minnesota. Soon after I have applied soap to my washcloth, it is gone, and I must apply more soap. This results in greatly increased soap usage and, due to the need to reapply soap so often, longer showers.

In addition to spending more time in showers and money on bath soap, one with hard water must purchase and use more dishwasher detergent. My dishwasher has a note on the door by the detergent cup specifically stating, "Fill for hard water, use less for soft water."