Its funny how we humans innovate ways to bypass a problem than to eliminate the problem itself.
Most of the times this bypassing creates even bigger problems. Like one of our esteemed leader asked to reproduce more to balance the population few days ago. Would have been better if he suggested taxing people who procreate without thinking about society, resources or planet. Even ‘His Holiness- The Pope’ failed to mention population control in his great message on environment last year.
We have behaved exactly in the same way with our life giver- Water. When water started becoming “Hard” we invented a stronger and non-natural cleanser “Shampoo/Detergent” to get the same foam as we used to get with soft water and natural soap made from oils and Lye. This polluted our water bodies and the chemicals cleaned out everything from our skin/hair including our natural oil. This also gave rise to multibillion dollar hair industry.
Things would have been different if we had looked at the cause of hardness of water and ways to re-soften it.
What is hard water?
Hard water is the water which has lots of minerals dissolved in it. Hard water is formed when water seeps into the ground through limestone and chalk which are made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates. Increasing demand for water lead to using ground water which is extremely hard.
What are the effects of hard water?
Hard water is not life threatening. It leaves a scaly finish on bathroom tiles as well as inside pipes and on taps. It causes hair and skin to be dull, dry, tangled, brittle, strangely colored and constantly parched. The minerals in the hard water block natural soap’s working by reacting with it and forming a “Scum”. Soaps don’t lather and this scum sticks to skin and scalp blocking pores. Also hard water is alkaline in nature and our skin is acidic. Alkalinity is very harmful for our skin.
Minerals dissolved in the hard water create a scaly film on the hair. This prevents the moisture from entering the hair. The result is dry, dull, tangled, and strange colored hair. Hard water can also cause build up on the scalp, causing a dandruff-like condition to form.
What was our way of dealing with it?
We invented synthetic cleansers (detergents) mostly petroleum based, to work in hard water. This is even more harmful for us and environment.
What we should have done?
Try to re-soften water by removing the minerals.
Rainwater harvesting is the best solution but there are many ways to remove these minerals. Traditional way is to boil the water. Boiling precipitates temporary hardness which can be filtered by a cloth. This is an energy extensive process.
Using RO water This is also energy extensive process unless we use solar RO plants to provide soft and clean water.
Use of water softeners-
Water softeners use a resin which exchanges Calcium and Magnesium ions in the water with Sodium ions. This water is then called soft water falsely as it still contains minerals. This water is good for plumbing and bathroom tiles and washing clothes but as it contains Sodium it is still very alkaline and not good for skin and hair. In my travels abroad I have seen houses having a small water softening plant in the basement for “soft water” in all the taps. It’s mainly to decrease plumbing issues.
What is then a universal method to get water which is harmless for skin and hair?
I was fed up by using expensive bottled water or continuously recharging water softeners. We get bore well water and I stay in an apartment where we have to use water softeners individually for each outlet. I was also fed up with cotton clothes getting brittle with tiny holes in them and later getting torn easily. I spent a lot on hair serums and hi-fi shampoos but the frizz kept on increasing. Running from one trichologist to another .
Searching through web I found an old chain of comments in a homemaker’s forum from the state of Arizona, USA which is known for very hard water.
The answer was not in removing water hardness but rendering it ineffective. They had used a combination of chelating (binding) agents harmless and easily available in kitchen to bind the hardness and reduce the alkalinity of water to be suitable for skin and hair. First thought would go to Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) but Apple Cider Vinegar rinses do NOT remove hard water minerals already dried on the hair from a previous wash, they just keep new minerals from sticking to the hair.
These two important chemicals are Citric acid and Ascorbic acid. Citric acid is used in food canning and available in grocery stores and ascorbic acid is available with chemists. These two are the harmless and best chelating agents to bind the water hardness.
Though these chemicals are available but measuring the right ratio of them is difficult without scientific balance. Thankfully nature has provided a source where they are present in correct proportion. Which is a whole lemon/lime.
The recipe is to add a tiny amount of Citric Acid powder and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) powder to tap water you will be using to wash/rinse your hair. Citric acid on its own can also remove chlorine/chloramine. This water gives a very good lather and cleanse well. Many shampoos and soaps have included citric acid and EDTA (synthetic water softener) to produce lather in hard water. But the rinsing water too needs to be soft otherwise hardness will stick to clean hairs again.
Since I don’t have patience to weigh accurate powders I juice a full lemon (rind also) in grinder and mix it in 2 buckets of water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Even for water coming out of softeners. What I get is wonderfully smelling and completely soft water to bathe in. Sometimes I store used lemon rinds and grind them all in water. Essential oils in lemon rinds are very good for skin problems and body odor. I use lemon and orange peel juiced in the last cycle of washing clothes and now they are again soft. Vinegar wash is also good for clothes.
This tip was accidentally given to me by a trichologist of a renowned homeopathic chain of clinics. I held on to it and it gave me freedom from life long hair medication which I was undergoing.
If problems are free so are the solutions…..