I live in a city that has some of the hardest water in the UK, and so for half my life I’ve been living with taps get dull-looking in hours and crust up over time, with showers that get scaly and smeary, with kettle full of white flakes, and generally knowing that my plumbing is in constant decline.
But about a month ago, I got a smart water softener – the Smart HarveyArc – and I can’t overstate what a game-changer it is. Obviously, water softeners aren’t anything new, but I’d always dismissed them as being too much hassle between the installation and needing to keep them topped up with salt… but that’s because I never understood what a drastic difference it makes day-to-day even, from cleaning the kitchen to using one of the best coffee machines. So here’s my attempt to help you avoid my foolishness if you’re in a hard water area, too.
Softly does it
First things first, I should say up front that the ‘smart’ part of the Smart HarveyArc isn’t the game-changing part. It’s very nice – it means that the water softener sends me a message when the salt is getting low, so I can replace it (or order more from the app) in good time – and I’d really miss this feature if I switched to one that doesn’t have it, but it doesn’t change how you use the whole product the same way the ‘smart’ part of the best smart lighting does.
No, it’s the good ol’-fashioned water softening part that’s vital, and as I mentioned above, it’s not just that lower limescale means boring things like your washing machine not breaking down as quickly.
My taps remain shiny and clean-looking between bathroom deep cleans with just a quick wipe, and the shower screen needs only a little spray and a polish; both of these things used to need a proper scrubbing if you wanted them to look presentable even just 24 hours after the last scrub. In very hard areas, a glass shower screen especially just looks horrible after the very first shower as soon as those hard deposits dry on it. But my shower screen is clear a week after it was last polished. If you have friends coming over, being able to take 30 seconds to make things look nice instead of half an hour is incredible.
The taps and anything else water comes out of used to develop a build up around the spout and in any nooks and crannies. You can try your best to hold it back, but it becomes ugly, rough and always visible over time. There’s none of that now. It’s a whole annoyance simply gone from my life.
I bought a new shower a month before I got my water softener. In those four weeks, every little spray hole on it already developed a ring of limescale. I cleaned it thoroughly and hard the day before the water softener was installed. I’ve now had the softener for a longer time than I was without it with this shower, and there isn’t a single white ring. Not a hint. This is an entire maintenance job I just don’t have to do any more.
The draining board in the kitchen no longer needs a deep clean of its own regularly – it just wipes down back to shininess. I use a water filter jug, and again it used to be covered in smears and build-up because it got covered in water every day. Now it’s just… fine. All the time.
At the same time as getting the water softener, I replaced my kettle with a boiling water tap. I obviously wanted my shiny new piece of equipment to be protected and not to clog up inside with limescale, and that seems to be working perfectly – both the boiling water spout and the main part of that tap are in as pristine condition as the day they were installed.
Save money, save brainpower
I need half as much soap and washing up liquid as I used to, because the hardness of the water doesn’t interfere with power of the detergents, so these things are lasting me longer. The money saving isn’t nothing, though it’s not huge, but the great thing is that I don’t have to buy them as often – I’ve reduced the number of things I need to check each time I shop.
It also makes a clear difference when washing yourself. The ‘use less product’ rule applies to shampoo and conditioner, too – the latter in particular because my hair is softer and generally in better shape, because the water can get into the follicles easier. That applies to my beard too, which is more comfortable when it’s naturally a little softer. I use product to shape my hair, and that works much more reliably and faster, so mornings are overall easier – less time spent on showers and grooming.
Oh, and speaking of, in the past, the hard water here has caused two WaterPik water flossers and at least one electric toothbrush to stop working by gumming up the works with limescale over time. No problems now, though.
Not perfect, but I wouldn't go back
I know I’ve been gushing harder than Victoria Falls over the benefits of a water softener, but it’s one of those things where 20 small improvements add up to something that really makes life noticeably easier, and I’m so happy I have one as someone who never realised how big a change it would be.
You do have to be careful if planning to get one – a result of their softening process is that the water has more sodium in, which is not great if you need a low-sodium diet for health reasons. It’s also not ideal for pets. However, when you get one installed, you can ask to have a tap put in before the softener gets involved, so you’ve always go water au naturel if you need it.
And you also don’t want to have it turned on for power washing the patio or filling a hot tub, because you’ll really eat through the salt blocks that way – but they come with a bypass valve, so you can effectively disconnect them from your water supply whenever you need. Some will require a tool to do this, mine just has a button, effectively.
Personally, the only downsides to the water softener are that I have to get my cat’s water from a slightly awkward tap in a kitchen cupboard, and the cost of the salt blocks it requires. But I’m happy to pay those prices for how much easier I’ve found things, and how much nicer everything water-related in the house looks, despite us putting in way less effort.