Diagnose Your Water | Flanders

Common water quality symptoms, causes, and solutions

Hard Water

Appliance Symptoms:

  • Dishwashers: spots may be visible on your glasses and dishes. (Place a cloudy glass in vinegar for a few minutes. If the spots disappear after rinsing and drying, you have hard water deposits).
  • Washing machines: your clothes may feel stiff, scratchy, wear out faster and will look less vibrant because hard water is abrasive to the clothing and causes damage to the fibers.
  • Water heaters: when hard water is heated, the minerals precipitate and form scale build up which not only damages the heater but also causes a high energy bill and slows the efficiency of the other appliances in your home. Mineral deposits can form a barrier between the heating element and the water to be heated.
  • Plumbing: hard water leaves deposits in pipes, which can cause blockage. Over time, you may notice a reduced water flow.

Bodily Symptoms:

  • Skin and hair cannot be rinsed completely. Hard water can leave a film on your skin or hair. On skin, the film can trap bacteria or dirt and may even cause breakouts and irritation. Hard water can cause your hair to be dry, sticky, dull or limp, and hard to manage and style.

Other Symptoms:

  • Hard water leaves soap scum on dishes and glassware, glass doors, tiles, bathtubs, and fixtures.
  • Generally, anything requiring soap (washing machine, dishwasher, liquid dish soap, shampoo, etc.) would need more soap to compensate for the hard water. The harder the water, the more soap will be required.

Cause: As groundwater travels through rock and soil, it picks up minerals along the way, including calcium and magnesium (commonly referred to as “hardness”)

Solution: Water hardness is corrected by the use of a water softener/conditioner. Hard water passes through the softener’s main tank which contains resin beads coated with sodium (soft) ions. The calcium and magnesium (hardness) ions are exchanged for sodium (or potassium) ions, thus softening your water. When the beads have trapped all the hardness they can hold and need to be regenerated, the softeners control valve recharges them with the brine from the brine tank. During regeneration, the hardness ions are freed from the beads, replaced with sodium or potassium ions; and the system is ready to soften water again.


Symptoms: Iron can leave stains in sinks and toilet bowls, and on your clothing and linens, and iron scale build-up in pipes and appliances. Iron can cause water to have objectionable taste, appearance and sometimes odor.

Types of Iron Problems:

  • Clear water iron (Ferrous Iron):  water appears clear because the iron is soluble and dissolved in the water – but leaves reddish stains or deposits after standing for a time as the iron mixes with air to oxidize into ferric iron. Ferrous iron gives water a metallic taste, and when the iron combines with tea, coffee and other beverages, it produces an inky, black appearance and a harsh, unacceptable taste.
  • Red water iron (Ferric Iron): water appears cloudy or reddish brown – the iron has already oxidized and is in its insoluble form.
  • Organic Iron: Organic Iron occurs when Iron combines with a naturally-occurring organic acid. Water with organic iron is usually yellow or brown, but may be colorless.
  • Tannins and Iron: Natural tannins produced by vegetation can stain water a tea color. In coffee or tea, tannins produce a brown color and will react with iron to form a black residue.
  • Iron Bacteria: When iron exists along with certain kinds of bacteria (organisms that occur naturally in shallow soils and groundwater), the bacteria can use the iron to survive. A smelly bio-film (reddish brown or yellow slime/gelatinous sludge) is created in the process, which can clog plumbing and cause an objectionable odor. This biofilm may be noticeable inside of the toilet tank.

Cause:Iron Water is created when water passes through iron bearing rocks in the earth. As rainwater enters soil and the underlying geologic formations, it dissolves iron into aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater for wells.

Solution: Small amounts of ferrous (clear water) iron can be corrected with the use of a water softener. Ferric (red water) iron, larger amounts of clear water iron, and iron bacteria can be controlled by running the water through an “Iron Breaker” filter. The Iron Breaker stores a “bubble” of air, compressed by your well pressure, within the media tank. As your water passes through the air, the iron is converted to a particle which is then trapped by the catalytic filter media in the tank while the air “bubble” is gradually consumed by the passing water. When the air bubble is used up, the unit “backwashes” itself, removing any iron particles it has trapped, then replenishes the “air bubble” and is ready to oxidize and trap more iron particles.

Acidic Water (low pH)

Symptoms: Most commonly, acidic water can cause blue-green staining. It can also erode chrome, etch dishes and glassware, and corrode appliances. Over time, acidic water that passes through plumbing can leach metals from previous build-up or from the piping or fixtures (lead, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc) into the drinking water.

Cause:   The pH of a water source can vary naturally. Groundwater passes through rocks and soil in the earth. Some types of rock and soil, such as limestone, can neutralize acid water more effectively than other types of rock and soil, such as granite. The ideal pH is between 6.5 and 8.5.

Solution: Acidic water passes through a Neutralizer tank filled with Calcite (a naturally occurring Calcium Carbonate). Upon contact with Calcite, acidic waters slowly dissolve the calcium carbonate to raise the pH which reduces the potential leaching of copper, lead and other metals found in typical plumbing systems. In addition, a food grade hexametaphosphate cartridge can be used to coat piping. The FDA grade phosphate crystals slowly dissolve in water to form a protective coating on metal surfaces, safeguarding against corrosion of piping due to acidity.

Taste and Odor

Symptoms: Objectionable taste (metallic, chlorine, other) or odor (“rotten egg” sulfur smell, fishy smell, other smell).

Cause:   Tastes and odors can have many possible causes: including chlorine, chlorine compounds, decaying organic matter, Hydrogen Sulfide, and dissolved gases or minerals. Hydrogen sulfide is formed by sulfur bacteria that may occur in water. These bacteria use the sulfur in decaying plants, rocks, or soil as their food source and produce hydrogen sulfide.

Solution: Most bad tastes and odors can be treated with a granular activated carbon filter (coconut shell coal carbon) which adsorbs tastes and odors. Hydrogen sulfide problems require a Sulfur Breaker. The Sulfur Breaker uses natural oxidation to remove sulfur from your water for moderate problems of bad odor. More severe odor problems may require the use of a chlorination system.


Questions? Call us today at, 800.447.2366.
We can help you identify, confirm, and treat your water quality problems.

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