Monday, March 24, 2014

A Wedge of Lime

When we had the house inspected as part of the sale transaction, we also had the well inspected and its water tested.  The report came back that our water was a little bit hard; we have some lime, but not very much and there was even a disconnected water softener under the house that we were told we could re-install if we wanted to.  We decided to give it a go without the water softener, partly because we'd heard that softened water feels weird and since the lime is not a health hazard why add stuff to what we drink and bathe in?  This does mean that we do our cleaning differently and that sometimes water shoots out of faucets at odd angles without warning.

We don't even use the sink sprayer all that often, at least I don't.  It completely clogged once without us realizing what had caused the malfunction. Luckily, I figured it out quickly and without calling a plumber.

About a month ago we finally got a steamer for the wood stove. The air can be quite dry here and this seems to help mitigate the side effects of that, such as dry eyes and sinuses.  This is what the inside looks like after about 6 refills of tap water.  It's kind of cool, like a kitchen sink science experiment.

It washes out very easily at least.  I wonder if it can be made into a Halloween prop.

We'll even find little bits of lime in a drinking glass if we let ice cubes melt in there!  Even though I didn't like doing it, this is why we decided to go back to store-bought dishwasher detergent and using the heated dry feature on the dishwasher.  All those years of hearing about water spots in commercials and now I know what that's all about!

I like vinegar just fine and at first the smell of cleaning with it just reminded me of dying Easter eggs as a kid.  It's less nostalgic now and the scent doesn't thrill me, but it's better than fake pine or whatever else most store-bought cleaners are supposed to smell like. I'm pretty sure no one involved with naming those scents has ever been to a mountain stream or a tropical beach.

All our water fixtures are cleaned with vinegar or some kind of vinegar mix.  I'm going to try to use some of the old empty bottles of my next batch of homemade clothes soap.  At least we can still use that. Guess what we use in the fabric softener dispenser... that's right, vinegar!  It keeps the static down quite a bit (another issue with the dry air) and doesn't leave a coating of super-scented mystery chemicals on our clothes, towels, and blankets.  Nothing comes out of there smelling of vinegar, either.

One part Dawn original dish washing soap and one part hot vinegar in a spray bottle makes an excellent cleaner for the showers and sinks.  The vinegar gets the lime scale and the dish soap gets the oils and soap scum. It's viscous enough to cling to the vertical surfaces, too, so I let it sit on there for 30-45 minutes.

I'm not going to put pictures of toilets here, but for those we use one part baking soda and one part vinegar, let sit for 20-40 minutes.  In all cases, if the lime has managed to get thick, a cloth soaked in vinegar and set on the surface for a time will loosen that lime right up.  Dog water dishes get cleaned with straight vinegar, too.

I should mention that the slightly hard water isn't all that big of a deal.  It still feels new and strange to buy white vinegar by the gallon and remove the residue of what I think should be "only" water from our fixtures and belongings.  At least one guest commented on how the hard water made her hair more manageable, but I gave up managing my hair so haven't noticed.  I know there are plenty of lime-busting products on the market, but I like that we are putting fewer unknown chemicals into our septic and on our things.  I also like that we get just as much cleaning power for a fraction of the price; why wash money down the drain?  We haven't done any research, but I do wonder if there is a reasonably cost-effective method of filtering the lime out rather than adding something to the water.  Anyone know about that or have a good layperson's resource?

Here's what our new steamer looks like on the outside. So CUTE, that bear smilin' like a bear with a toasty warm rump!  These things can be quite expensive, especially if they're decorative at all. I had my eye on a different form, but when this one went on sale I struck.


  1. Vinegar is such a great cleaner and so cheap. I've tried to use it in our bathroom but our whole house ends up smelling like vinegar and I don't like it. Perhaps I should really try to get use to the smell as it is more natural and so cheap. Cute! steamer.

    1. And at Costco it's essentially half price! I try to run the vent fan, but that only helps a little with the smell. The steamer tickles me.

  2. *Hee hee* The hard water here in Boise does EXACTLY what you've shown in your pics- even the city water does that! So far as I know, the only alternative to investing in vinegar is...using the water softener. I do know that using a charcoal filter results in lime deposits on the filter housing (and the filter itself), but not sure how it works with something like a reverse-osmosis setup or anything. I've never seen the Dawn/vinegar method- that's cool! I usually fill a container with vinegar and then let the showerhead soak in it (after I use a ladder or stepstool to bring the container up the level of the showerhead). Your way looks a LOT easier, LOL!

    1. I definitely recommend giving the Dawn/vinegar method a shot. I use a half a cup of each and it does our tub/shower, both bathroom sinks and counters, and the kitchen sink with maybe a smidgen left over. I can't believe you get a step stool into your shower! Ha!

      One weird thing is that our neighbors about "2 blocks" away doesn't have lime, but they have iron/rust. You never know what you're gunna get here!

    2. Ugh. Neighbors "don't" have lime. Sigh.

    3. *Giggle* Well, it's a big shower. And the showerhead's one of those fancy ones with a hose, so it hangs almost- but not quite- to floor level, if unholstered.
      And boy, do I feel sorry for your neighbors- iron's NASTY for staining porcelain!

    4. Ah, that makes sense. Right next to that shower head in the post is one on a hose, too. There's some kind of diverter on the supply pipe. Both of them are lower than the tops of our heads and usually I'm too lazy to hold one over my head when I can just duck a little. ;) You got that right on the rust!


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