How to Reverse the Effects of Hard Water on Your Hair

Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Gaga

How many of you struggle daily to reverse hair damage caused by using hard water? Water hardness refers to the percentage of mineral salts that water contains. Hard water has a high concentration of dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium, but may also include copper, iron, and chlorine. Soft water, such as clean rainwater or distilled water, is typically comprised of very little or no calcium and magnesium ions.

If you travel across the world, you’ll typically find that the effectiveness of your hair care products varies from one area to another. In turn, your hair will behave differently from place to place. When you reside in a hard water area, the minerals in the water interfere with the cleansing agents in your shampoo, making it less effective. It takes longer to create a lather, so you need to use larger quantities of shampoo, even if it contains sulfates. When used with soft water, shampoos or body washes tend to lather more quickly and clean more effectively compared to hard water.

 young woman taking shower in the bathroom with hard water

The high mineral content in hard water is difficult to rinse out completely, which can cause a mineral buildup in your hair. The same chemical compounds in water that cause whitish scum on your bathtubs and shower curtains, also leave deposits on the surface of your hair.  You can even add more and more build-up with every hair wash, without even realizing it. Let’s learn more about how to reverse this curse of hard water!

Many people aren’t aware that the water they’re using for washing and bathing has an impact on their skin and hair. Around 85% of American people live in areas with hard water. Hard water is considered healthy to drink, but it can have adverse effects on your skin and hair and can cause scale deposits on your household appliances. If you live in a hard-water region, special precautions should be taken to protect your hair from the damaging effects of water hardness.

Hard Rockers: The Effects of Hard Water on Hair

If you live in a hard water zone you’ve probably noticed the negative effects of mineral deposits and metal traces on your hair. A high concentration of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper in your water can damage your hair and cause it to look dull, limp, and unmanageable. Some effects like dullness or brassy orange tints are easily noticeable, while other damaging effects may slowly accumulate over time before becoming obvious. Let’s examine some nasty effects of these hard rockers in the water world:

1. Dirty Dancing: Greasy and dirty-looking hair: While the movie is iconic, dirty hair isn’t! Minerals dissolved in water form deposits on your hair, weighing it down. Your hair may feel sticky and dirty near the scalp, no matter how often you wash it. At the same time, your ends may become overly dry and prone to splitting and breaking.

2. Chameleon Curses: Changes in Hair Color: Mineral deposits and the high content of iron in hard water can cause color fading or even stifle the results of salon coloring services. In other words, it can give you a chameleon curse on your color! Iron in water specifically acts as an oxidizer, causing brassy tones in light blonde hair and coppery red highlights in dark hair. The more you wash your hair, it’ll continue to turn orange. Blond highlights may look orange even with a water softener system installed.

3. Plain Jane: Dry and dull hair: Mineral scales can cause your hair to look greasy and frankly quite Plain Jane! As a result, you’ll then need to wash your hair more frequently and use more shampoo. Overwashing leaves your hair dry, straw-like, and brittle while your scalp may feel itchy and flaky. The mineral build-up also causes a loss of shine, leaving your hair looking dull and lifeless.

4. Wild Child: Unmanageable Hair: Frequent washing and use of sulfate-containing shampoos will disrupt the cuticle layer, increasing the rough texture of your hair, making it prone to fizziness, and full of split ends. Rough hair gets easily tangled and may be difficult to style. Damaged hair doesn’t hold curl well and your perm will fade faster. Tame that wild child water!

5. Disappearing Act: Thinning hair: Mineral build-up hinders hair’s overall elasticity, making it more prone to breakage. Hard water buildup on the scalp may clog the roots and interfere with the growth of new hair. Calcium deposits on the scalp may cause a dry and itchy scalp with powdery flakes. No one wants this disappearing act, right?

Mineral Mania: How to Prevent Mineral Build-up from Developing

To curb mineral mania from tackling your hair, here are a trip simple tips:

1. Soften your water: Installing a water softening system throughout your entire home is a good way to address hard water. The minerals and metal cations are eliminated before they get to the tap, resulting in softer hair and skin.

2. Get a shower filter: Replace your old showerhead with one that’ll purify your shower water. A water-softening showerhead is an easy and affordable fix if you don’t want to fully invest in a home water-softening system. The filter should be replaced every six months.

3. Use a chelating shampoo: Use a chelating shampoo: This type of hair shampoo is made to remove dirt, product residue, and mineral build-up in your hair, leaving it shiny and clean, and fresh. Clarifying shampoos shouldn’t be used frequently to avoid the excessive dryness they may cause.

woman taking shower in the bathroom with hard water

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911: Chelating Shampoos

There are specialized shampoos designed to help get rid of mineral deposits accumulated in your hair. These shampoos may be more expensive than regular shampoos, but they’re efficient in combating the adverse effects of water hardness. These will serve as your hair’s 911! 

1. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampooir?t=softerhair 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B07MYCXKGG

This chelating shampoo gently removes the buildup from hair products, environmental pollution, and mineral buildup due to hard water. The triple detox shampoo deeply cleanses your hair without causing scalp dryness.

Activated charcoal absorbs excess oil from the scalp and while mild surfactant helps remove pollution from the hair. An anionic polymer helps remove product buildup, while chelating agents help remove hard water mineral buildup. A soothing complex with witch hazel helps nourish and moisturize the scalp. Patented Healthy Hair Molecule repels dirt and oil, keeping hair clean for longer.

The product is free of sulfates, parabens, silicones, and phthalates. It is safe for color and chemically treated hair

If you have hard water in your bathroom, leave the shampoo on for 1-2 minutes before rinsing. Your hair will feel smooth and silky again.

2. Ion Hard Water Shampoo

Ion Hard Water Shampoo is developed to prevent mineral build-up in your hair and reverse the undesired effects caused by hard water like discoloration and dullness. In addition to deep cleansing, it adds moisture to dry strands, leaving your hair soft, shiny, and easy to detangle.  

This gentle chelating shampoo removes mineral deposits without exposing your hair to abrasive cleansers. It is free of harsh sulfates and is suitable for all types of hair.

3. California Dreaming: Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Collection

Being free of sulfates and other harsh chemicals, this chelating shampoo is less likely to cause severe dryness than sulfate-containing clarifying shampoos. It leaves your hair nourished, soft, and easy to style.

It doesn’t interfere with chemical services including coloring, highlights, perms, and hair straightening treatments.

The Malibu shampoo helps eliminate brassy tones and brighten blonde hair. It is safe to use on colored hair.

Malibu Hard Water Wellness Conditioner infuses hair with moisture and adds silkiness for easy detangling. Get that “California Dreaming” sensation!

a young woman in the shower

Life Vest: Demineralizing Hair Treatments

Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Hair Remedyir?t=softerhair 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B07CX4JCCY

This product does a great job of removing hard water residue and keeping the brassiness under control. After just two treatments, you’ll usually see a noticeable reduction in the brassiness if you have blonde or gray hair. It has more strength to remove mineral deposits than chelating shampoos.

Demineralizing treatment prevents and eliminates hard water buildup, restoring shine to your locks. Apply once a week to get rid of mineral deposits and improve the look and feel of your hair. You can do this treatment at home instead of paying for the salon demineralizing treatment. Think of these treatments like life vests for your tresses!

Apply after rinsing out your shampoo and leave the product sitting on your hair for 5-10 minutes. Massage to ensure even coating. Apply heat for better results. Rinse thoroughly and continue with your conditioning routine.

Malibu C In-Salon Treatment Instructions – YouTube video by JCarlos Pimentel

The manufacturer offers a complete treatment kit, which includes shampoo, conditioner, and hard water weekly de-mineralizer.

Malibu C Blondes Weekly Brightener

This weekly brightener for blonde hair is formulated to eliminate mineral deposits from hard water that make hair unmanageable and cause brassy and yellow tones in blonde hair. Malibu Blondes Wellness Remedy prevents hair breakage from bleaching, restores softness, and eliminates brassiness to keep your locks bright and shiny. It works for natural blonde, bleached, and highlighted hair

This product should be applied to wet, freshly shampooed hair. Add some water to dissolve Blondes crystals in your palm, then rub your hands together and massage the product into your hair. Leave it in for 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Just for DIY fanatics: Home Remedies to Reduce Damaging Effects of Water Hardness

Vinegar rinse: Apple cider vinegar is a natural clarifier and works well to remove buildup from hair products and minerals in your hair. Rinsing with diluted vinegar helps smooth your hair’s cuticles for increased softness and natural shine. It also prevents hair color from fading.

Lemon rinse: Diluted lemon juice works similarly to vinegar for removing residual minerals from hair and reducing dullness. Lemon rinse helps prevent oily hair and relieves scalp issues like flaking and dandruff.

Captured rainwater: To prevent damage from hard water, use captured rainwater to wash your hair. Rainwater collected from clean surfaces is naturally soft and free of salts and minerals.

Distilled Water: If you’re visiting a hard water area, you can wash your hair with distilled water or at least use it for the final rinse after shampooing.

 woman with shiny hair after using chelating shampoo

About the author

Website | + posts

Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.


4 thoughts on “How to Reverse the Effects of Hard Water on Your Hair”

  1. I didn’t know that there were remedies you could use to reduce the effects of water hardness. Using apple cider vinegar sounds like a wonderful solution. That is until I’m able to invest in a water softener.

  2. I get highlights and keratin treatments. What shampoo and conditioner can be used with Keratins? You’re not supposed to
    Use sulfates ingredients or salts.

  3. Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo and Nothing But Clarifying Shampoo don’t contain harsh sulfate cleansing agents or sodium chloride while having the ability to remove hard water and mineral deposits and chlorine buildup from your hair.

  4. There is hard water where I live. I have grey hair dyed dark golden blonde and highlights. My hair is curly and high porosity. Once a month a do a rinse with filtered water from the refrigerator (it’s cold) and apple cider vinegar. My bottle holds 1 1/2 cups water and I add 1 capful of vinegar. That’s my final rinse. I do not rinse out. The smells goes away. Leaves my hair soft and shiny. My hair is 2 inches below my shoulders and it’s thick. If you’re hair is longer and thick I would double the amount of water and vinegar. The Malibu line for hard water is not for grey hair. Need to read the fine print.

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