dealing with hard water

we all know know by now how hard water is our hair and skin’s “worst enemy” in the crunchy world. it can upset our delicate facial skin and leave our hair feeling gunky, gummy, and dull. what you’re experiencing is the hard water’s mineral deposits (calcium and magnesium, mostly) staying on your hair.

you’d think i’d have a real post on this by now! apologies, crunchies!

combating hard water can be simple, but it’s hit and miss, and costs vary greatly. let’s get into it!

combat hard water

how do i know if i have hard water?

does your hair feel gunky and sticky near the roots just from being under the water? does castile soap leave a sticky film on your hair and skin? do you notice a lot of white spots leftover in the shower and/or on your dishes? if you answered yes to one or more, chances are you have hard water.

to definitely check, reference your area’s Drinking Water Quality Report (click to search – new reports coming out July 1st 2015).

if you can’t find it, you can also do a simple bottle & soap check –

  1. get a clean, empty bottle (can be glass or plastic)
  2. fill halfway up with water, cover opening, and shake. dump water out.
  3. fill the bottle up halfway again, but this time add a few drops of liquid soap (whichever kind you have). shake.
  4. if you see a lot of bubbles, you do Not have hard water. the less suds/the more you shake, the harder your water. no suds at all? you water is extremely hard (arizona, i’m lookin at you!)

there are a few ways to combat hard water:

  • install a water softener (very expensive yet permanent)
  • install a shower head filter (helps a bit but must be replaced often and combined with a rinse)
  • rinse your hair in filtered/distilled water (must be brought into shower with you; laborious)
  • do an acid rinse after ‘washing’ (whatever ‘washing’ your hair entails)


by far the easiest method is to do an acv rinse in the shower after you ‘wash’ your hair. in order to do so, you’ll need an old plastic water bottle (usually about 16 ounces), water (can be bottled or from the tap), and an acid. your acid can be acv, lemon juice, or lime juice.

  • in your water bottle (can be full of bottled water or tap), put 2 tablespoons of your acid into the bottle. this will give you a ratio of 1 part acid to roughly 16 parts water (the harder the water, the more acid you should use). shake.
  • after you wash, pour this mix onto your scalp, massaging gently. you can either rinse immediately or let it sit for up to 5 minutes. if you have hair that is on the dry side, rinse immediately.

once your hair dries, you – 1. won’t smell the vinegar/lime/lemond, and 2 – won’t have gunky hair. if your water is very hard, you may need to increase the acv/citrus juice.

depending on your hair type, you may notice the lemon lightening your hair over time and/or the acv bringing out red hues in your hair. please keep this in mind! you also may need to supplement with a leave-in conditioner or tiny amounts of your favorite oil on the length/ends of your hair to combat the drying effect the rinses may have on your hair (depends on hair type and history).

if hard water is still a constant issue, consider going low-poo with an all-natural “shampoo” alternative!


leave your tips below!

also, please leave feedback about the new AE blog look; either improvements or approvals! this blog is for YOU, so it needs to be what YOU want! 🙂

oh, and if you didn’t hear on instagram, i’m finally on my way down the holistic esthetics path, thanks to YOU guys!!

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16 thoughts on “dealing with hard water

  1. Hi! I have recently found your blog. I am using the wo-method as well, and wondered if you can tell the things you can put in your hair that can be washed out with only water / do not mind if it stays. And, applesauce, is it sebum removing or is it okay? And.. other tips when going on wo-method would be good reading 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Alex, I’ve been ROM-ing for five weeks now and I’m coping pretty well with it … except that every time I was my hair I notice a white powdery waxy build-up especially in the day or two after washing. I’ve tried the washing up liquid test which didn’t seem to show my water was hard, is there anything else this build-up could be?
    Thank you!

  3. Hi Alex! A Norwegian reader here 🙂 I want to say thank you for all the awesome information you share. I have read pretty much every single post on this blog and cannot express how useful it has been! When it comes to “natural” beauty solutions and products, there is no one I trust like you, haha.
    This leads to a question I have had a long time; have you heard about a brand called calia? I have been wanting to some shampoos an conditioners they make (like these: ) but I am not sure if all the ingredients are “crunchy-approved” so I really hope to your opinion on them.
    Again, thank you for an amazing resource! Keep up the good work!

  4. Just wanted to mention for other readers that going low-poo won’t necessarily help your hard water situation. I went low-poo about 3 months ago and after about a month of using Shea Moisture Shampoo, the entire length of my hair started to get sticky/waxy. For the past month or so I’ve been using the ACV rinse instead of the Shea Moisture conditioner to combat this issue.

    1. I also found when I went low-poo that the hard water became more of an issue! I do bring filtered water in the shower with me now to help the situation. I’ll have to try the ACV rinse, too!

  5. Hi Alex, you know I’ve been trying to go water only for the last 3 months, before that was the classical BS/ACV routine, I have to say that I haven’t feel completely happy about results with any of the the two routines, but I keep trying I really don’t want to go low poo. My hair is kind of waxy and dull and when gets oily I scritch and preen… I have to say I have had bad days and not so bad days.

    I’m trying to understand better the relation between the oil in my hair and acv, since it’s a conditioner it seems that it won’t get rid of the oil. Right?

    After your Q&A you recommended a mask of acv and honey, I tried that yesterday, but! I also tried a very very diluted rinse of Castile soap. JACKPOT!!!!! My hair was incredible! specially loose I could put my fingers through it!!! Problem is I don’t know what it was that helped… hahahaha.

    Now this mask with the acv and raw honey will help with built up in my hair? I don’t think my water is that hard. If my hair is on the oily day and I apply a conditioner mask, won’t that make it worst?

    I need some pointers!

    Thank you!

  6. Thanks for this post! I try to go rinse only and have hard water. I travel a lot for my job, so the filter option is out of question. The hard water test with the soap in the bottle is really helpful! I’m already trying around with different rinses, and I found that dry citric acid is very easy to travel with. I’m just wondering about the right amount. Do you have a hint for me? I use around 1 teaspoon on one liter of water. Will too much damage my hair? But still, in the days after washing, I always get white powder in my BBB when brushing. It’s not dandruff… Can it be minerals from the water? Do I need more acid?
    Thanks so much!

  7. LOVE the new blog look! Very cool! This oost was just what I needed today and congrats on your new holistic adventures! I xan’t wait to see what all you accomplush!!

    Good grief sorry for all the typos! One glass of wine and I lost all sense of spelling! Haha!

  8. Hi! Your blog had a menu-ish page before with links to all the pages before, and since I can’t find it anymore I’m having trouble finding some of the older posts, like the ones about facial skin care and argan oil. Do you think you could put a link to a similar page up? If there is one and I’m missing it, my bad! Thanks! ❤

    1. ah, julie – it’s currently under construction. it hadn’t been updated in moooonths. there’s a search bar at the top right for now. i’m so sorry for the inconvenience!! forgive me 🙂 ❤

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