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I'm not sure whether my house receives really hard water, or water that has a lot of junk or sediment in it, but I am constantly having to soak my faucet spreaders and shower heads. Recently, I noticed that a number of the jets in my dishwasher are clogged with some build-up as well.

How can I prevent these minerals from entering my house in the first place? Do I need to put a water filter, or water softener, or both, on the outside of my house? If so, how would I do so?

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dishwashers generally have there own facilities for dehardening water (look for a salt reservoir in the bottom you'll need to refill it regularly) –  ratchet freak Feb 8 '12 at 1:16
    
Thanks, @ratchetfreak –  Eric Feb 8 '12 at 3:08
    
If it doesn't, try a dose of Cal-Gon with each load of laundry and dishes; it'll help prevent calcium deposits and residue. If it's really bad, an empty run of the machine with a dose of CLR will get rid of it. The Cal-Gon is just temporary though; you'll want a water softener if you do have hard water. –  KeithS Feb 9 '12 at 21:18
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Sounds like classic symptoms of hard water. Others:

  • Spotty dishes, clothes that don't seem to get clean without using a lot of detergent.
  • Soap doesn't get very "sudsy" when you get it wet.
  • Soap scum on your bathtub.
  • Buildup of mineral-like crust on shower-heads.
  • Water softener heating element failure.

You are very likely going to need a water softener to solve the problem.

Diagnosing: Most hardware stores sell kits to test your water hardness that are very easy to DIY. Some stores that sell water softeners even have free test strips next to the water softener display.

Also, if you are not put off by a big sales pitch. Companies like Culligan will generally do a free water evaluation for you so they have an in to sell you their products/services.

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You should get a water softener as soon as possible. The same thing that is happening to your faucet spreaders, shower heads and dishwasher jets is also happening to your pipes, only it will be much harder and more expensive to fix them.

Picture of clogged pipe

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