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Hey Matt:

My wife has been blaming our water for her dry skin, split ends, etc., ever since her friend told her that San Diego has "really hard water." What the heck is "hard water"? Can it really cause dry skin, split ends? Is San Diego known for having "hard water"?

H20-challenged in Talmadge

Hard water? San Diego? Jeez, the elves get out of the shower covered with bruises. It's like a hail storm in there. Yes, we're world renowned for our crappy hard water. Hard water, wherever you find it, is H2O with more than its share of dissolved minerals in the form of positive ions. Magnesium and calcium are the most common. It comes from long contact with soft rocks with a lot of the offending minerals. Your wife is complaining now about her hair. Wait until she sees her laundry slowly turn gray and stiff. The problem in both cases is the chemical reaction between the hard water and sodium or potassium in most soaps and detergents. Soaps hit the calcium molecules and form a super-calcium crud that sticks to hair, clothes, sinks; it makes glasses and stainless steel spotty; it's enough to make Grandma cry, as she did often before she went on strike to get her water softener (which replaces positive ions with happy, groovy negative ions). So there's a good chance your wife's hair complaints might be legit. Then again, she may just be angling for an extra trip or two to the beauty parlor.

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