Sunday, May 3, 2009

Limescale

I love living in London. It makes me very happy. If pushed, the one thing I can think of that lets London down is the water. It's hard. I was used to soft water before moving to London. I was used to soap that lathered with ease and a kettle that wasn't in permanent need of descaling.

I hate limescale. If you've only ever lived with soft water you probably don't know what I'm going on about. If you've only ever lived with hard water you probably just accept limescale as a fact of life and struggle to see how I can actually hate it. But I do. And I reckon anyone who's lived with soft water and then moved to a hard water area probably does too.

There are products that help to get rid of it... but they only ever bring temporary relief. A day or two later and limescale will have crept back to your showerhead, your taps and anywhere else that water reaches. Got a glass shower door? In a hard water area it'll never, ever, ever look anywhere near as nice as it did when it was new. Once water hits it, no matter what you do to try and prevent it, hard water will leave its mark. You show me a Londoner with a sparkling clean, limescale free bathroom and I'll show you someone who doesn't wash. Their taps might be glistening, but believe me, so are their armpits.

It strikes me that limescale creates its own special economy. I assume people in soft water areas aren't bombarded with adverts for Calgon. Well there's no reason why you should be spared the annoying jingle. Go on. Watch this.

Now try and sleep at night without hearing that choir singing the "Washing machines live longer with Calgon!" jingle every time you close your eyes. Go on. Try.

I hate limescale so much that I recently thought about buying a Scale-Beater II. It is - as far as I can make out - a small magnet that clips on to your cold water inlet pipe. It gets rid of your limescale by... hang on, I have no understanding of quite how a magnet can get rid of limescale. Nope. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. But that's how much I hate limescale - enough to consider a completely irrational purchase. I might as well buy a magic incantation or a limescale voodoo doll... and I'd consider those too.
A quick google reveals that the scale-beater II is (or has been) a Reader Offer for The Times, The Independent, The Daily Mirror and loads of local newspapers too. I could go on about how these organisations should be embarrassed to associate themselves with a product as shonky as this but I won't bother with that today. Instead I'll say this: if putting a small magnet on my cold water inlet pipe removes the limescale why don't the water companies put a massive big magnet on their cold water outlet pipe and just soften the water for all of us instead of pumping us this calcium rich, washing machine destroying, iron killing, bathroom defacing, kitchen spoiling rot.

I don't really know how rational the whole anti-limescale economy is. It's certainly motivated in large part by fear. Ads like the Calgon one above work by persuading us to spend a few quid protecting our washing machines - something that costs hundreds of pounds to buy. I've never actually met anyone who's had to replace their washing machine because of limescale build up but I'm persuaded by this culture of fear that it happens and as a consequence I add stuff to my wash to prevent it. (Not necessarily Calgon, mind you, I tend to just use some soda crystals.)

If limescale is as damaging as it is unsightly then it seems to me those of us living in hard water areas are caught out financially one one way or another. If we don't spend money on products designed to fight the stuff - there's a never ending list of special gels, powders and liquids on the market all aimed at your loo, your kettle, your shower, your dishwasher, your washing machine, your taps, your iron etc etc - then we surely end up spending our money on new washing machines, new irons, new kettles and so on. Those of you who live in soft water areas don't just have nicer looking plumbing (missus!) you also have a few extra quid in your pockets that we hard-water victims don't have.

If there was a way of softening the nation's water it's not only limescale that would be wiped out. This whole economy of fear would be wiped out too. Sales of kettles would fall. Washing machines would last longer with or without Calgon. Calgon itself would be gone.

A year ago I'd have been in favour of this. A year ago we weren’t in a credit crunch. We can’t let the economy slow down any more than it has already. As I type this, below-average-looking-women-with-above-average-singing-voices is Britain's only growth industry. The government goes out of its way to protect the car industry. Incentives are discussed to stimulate growth in the new car market... well why shouldn't washing machine retailers be given the same attention? And what about plumbers?

I might hate limescale but I'm prepared to take one for the team here. I have a plan to help rescue us from financial doom and gloom. It’s simple. We need Hard Water For All.

As far as I can tell, in Britain the soft-water areas are Devon and Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and parts of North West England. Well they've had it too good for too long. Let's pump calcium and magnesium into the water supply for the whole country! Scotland: your whisky might taste better with soft water but your plumbers need the work! Come on Devon and Cornwall, your soap might lather up with ease but you're simply not buying as many washing machines per lifetime as the rest of us. Come on Wales, your bathrooms might have effortless sparkle, but if each of you bought just one bottle of descaler that’d pump some much needed cash back into the system. Come on Manchester… your water’s soft. It wears a coat in winter and likes doilies. You can’t be happy with that.

Come on Britain. We need to spend our way out of trouble and if the only way to do it is to make everyone’s lives more limescaley, I for one am prepared to go with it. And if it works for us there's no reason why this can't be rolled out across the globe. After all, the recession is global.

In Australia, Adelaide has hard water... but Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra have it soft. Time for that to end. The water in Canada is generally quite hard - except on the West Coast. 85% of American homes have hard water - but that still means there are 15% of homes that can join this new economy with just a little chemical adulteration to the water supply.

Come on world. Let's make our water - and our economy - harder together.

35 comments:

Haworth said...

No its ok dave, im quite happy to have never bought calgon (or any other limescale removing/preventing products, branded or unbranded. In stead what we could do to help the economy is sell are soft water to you! Its whole new industry of soft water trading that could outstrip all others especially the limescale removing/preventing products sector.

Meaghan said...

Why can't you just buy a water softener? I live in part of the 85% of Canada with hard water, and the solution in every household is to buy a water softener. It lives in your basement, you put salt in it, and you get soft water. I find that, in addition to the horrible limescale everywhere, hard water even tastes differently.

Dave Gorman said...

@Haworth: that's not stimulating the economy - that's just a transfer from one sector to another. The hard water people already pay to deal with the problem... with your solution they'd still pay - just for a different solution. (That and there isn't a surplus of soft-water for you to sell us anyway.)

@Meaghan: How sweet that you think we all have basements for water softeners to live in. As it goes the Drinking Water Inspectorate - who knew our government gave us one of those? - suggests that even if you do use a water softener you maintain a supply of hard water for drinking and cooking. (Apparently there are potential health benefits: http://www.dwi.gov.uk/pubs/hardness/ - yet another reason why my plan of giving everyone hard water will be good for us).

The Zomeister. said...

Dave.
I live in Plymouth, a lovely soft water area. I also have relatives who live in Scarborough, a hard water area.
I'd have to say that soft water is better than hard water.
When you come down to Plymouth in March, I'll bring you some presents.
Some effervescent denture cleaning tablets which'll work wonders on your Kettle limescale and some bottles of soft water from my very own tap for you to use back home.
:)

Meaghan said...

Dave,

Hmmm true. I do forget about your lack of basements. However, surely you have water heaters? Most of the time a water softener just lives next to that. So it could live in a closet. And upkeep of a water softener does cost money and thus stimulate the economy. Mind you, I've never actually had to do anything to do with a water softener aside from ringing through the salt at a grocery store. Soft water doesn't make you replace your coffee maker every year, but there's still upkeep where its concerned.

The website doesn't sound too firm on the cons of soft water. It sounds more like it's trying to make you think its good to have hard water so you will care less.

eric the fish said...

This is what happens to people who move to that London. The Beatles did it and never had an entry in the Hit Parade afterwards.

I bet you didn't realise my father (and Elton John's father) had a big effect on Unilever's hard water testing.

Queerlad said...

You are all however missing the point. You are all thinking of ways to kick start the economy however the economy is the issue. It is always going to have up's and downs we just need to be better prepared. If we must insist on continuing with money and finance then why dont we look at the areas that actually do under perform across the board and then raise them to either stopping them or actually making them work.
The words of HUG the WORLD come to mind. Well Seany as usual has spoken. Crap as normal. Kiss the world.

jurojin said...

Thanks for this Dave,
I am now looking at my taps with a sense of real pride

Marzipan said...

I hate shower screens, they're just stupid. I don't even live in a hard water area anymore, and I still shudder with horror every time I see one, thinking of the impossible task of trying to keep them clean... Why would anyone put one in their house on purpose? What's wrong with shower curtains?

Of course, now I live in Devon, the magical land of soft watr where I have never once descaled my kettle (I just looked inside it; I've had it for two years and it's still like a mirror inside). Bizarrely, though, we do still get Calgon adverts...

Andrew said...

If I mail £15 to a kettle company can I keep my lovely soft water?

Dark Farm Owl said...

I live in Birmingham where our water is not only soft and fluffy, it's Welsh. But inexplicably, we do get bombarded with the Calgon commercial. My worry about all this is the human element. I mean, if it does that to washing machines what is it doing to your insides?

Balance Board Blog said...

Our Swansea water is lovely and soft. I always wondered why these sorts of ads kept banging on about limescale - I've never even seen the stuff in my house. =D

Dave, smug, Manchester. said...

I always wondered what all this banging on about limescale was for. It must be just ghastly.

Carole said...

Dave,

Here in Cornwall we might have lovely soft water, and our soap might last longer, BUT we do pay the highest water rates in the UK, mainly to keep our lovely Cornish beaches clean for everyone including the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock here every year.
My flat's for sale, so if you want to move down to enjoy the benefits, just let me know.

Carole

Vicus Scurra said...

The freshly squeezed blood of recently murdered hamsters will remove limescale from shower doors.

Cal said...

If you want water with 'free gifts' in it try living in the middle east!! I am sure there are much more unpleasant beasties along with the lime-scale to contend with here. Clogged up kettles, knackered washing machines and E.Coli...... great!!

Anonymous said...

I live in a hard water area in Devon (grrr) and the bane of my life for three years was the heat exchanger on my combi boiler: it had to be replaced every 10 months due to scale build up. I had a few devices fitted but the only way to know if they actually work is to wait 10 months... I could never get a consensus on whether a water softener was the answer and anyhow getting one would require me to get a water meter. Long story short: latest device is called Combimate and 15 months on we still enjoy hot water.

andrewhickey.info said...

I live in Manchester and I'm not falling for that. If you put calcium and magnesium - minerals - in the water, that turns it into *mineral water*. You won't get us drinking your poncy Southern mineral water just by calling it hard...

dan said...

The ASA also have something to say about the 'scale beater' http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_42106.htm

Sounds too good to be true - it usually is...

stephencoley said...

"Instead I'll say this: if putting a small magnet on my cold water inlet pipe removes the limescale why don't the water companies put a massive big magnet on their cold water outlet pipe..."It also kinda implies that there must have been a Scale-Beater I... Which clearly failed in it's quest to beat the pesky scale, hence the introduction of the Beater II, which I'm guessing (I'm clearly no expert!!!) will have a very similar success (or lack of) rate!!!

Paul said...

I had no idea what my water was. Just gone on Yorkshire water and looked up for my postcode: Hard.

Can't say i've got a problem with limescale or anything but would be interesting to try some of this 'soft' water and see if it tastes good! Anybody fancy bottling some and sending it t'Yorkshire?

Carole said...

Paul,

I don't know why, but apparently harder water is better for your insides than soft water, so probably best to stick to drinking the hard stuff.

I'm smiling, because the word verification code says "upperph" why is what you get if you have hard water, more pH!!

Ben Nuttall said...

Dave,

It's brilliant to find someone who hates limescale as much as I do.

I'm from Sheffield and the water's hard there (or maybe just in the area of Sheffield I live, which is on the border of Rotherham and Derbyshire), but now I live in Manchester where the water is lovely and soft. I might bottle some and take it home for my Mum (but not for my Dad who refuses to de-scale the kettle).

It's great to see you taking a hit for the good of the economy. You should appear on that TV programme - what's it called? The one with people's Genius ideas? With that guy with the beard...

Best wishes (and all the best with your cycling training). Looking forward to seeing you in Sheffield next year!

Ben

Chris said...

It's funnny to read this as it mirrors my experience. I remember when I first moved to Hull (hard water) from yorshire (soft water) I bought a new kettle. After a week or two I noticed this disgusting stuff on the inside and in the water. I was about to take the kettle back and demand a refund when my wife explained what it was! I couldn't believe I'd gone 21 years without realising what limescale was.

Mike said...

Don't think of it as hard water but as mineral water on tap.

Leanne said...

I lived in the hard water north east until I was 22. Now then, that means I grew up thinking that the layer of hard water scum on the top of a cup of tea was normal. I also never had any decay or fillings in my teeth.

I'm now 31 and live in Manchester, a soft water area. I drink a lot of tap water and within a year of living here I had to have two fillings! I have a good diet and tend not to eat sugary foods...my dentist put it down to 'demineralisation' - his way of saying that my teeth had been so used to mineral-rich water that the sudden step down caused decaying.

So, there are /some/ benefits of living in hard water areas!

Hannah Boraster said...

Hi guys, I've lived in london nearly all my life, and have just excepted the evils of limescale. However in my youth I went to Uni in Cornwall, and for the first 6 months suffered with terrible stomach upset. To cut a long story short it turned out to be because of the soft water. So I say lets rally the economy, turn everywhere hard, and I won't have to use bottled water whenever I go to these soft water parts of the country. Win win I say

Ben Nuttall said...

@Leanne: I lived in a hard-water area (Sheffield) all my life until a few months ago and I have never had any fillings or other dental problems. I know live in Manchester so maybe I'd better watch out for my teeth!

It could just be good dental care, though.

Ben

Wombat said...

I've been trying to swap the handle on my shower for one that is nominally less ugly. You know why I can't get the old handle off? The bloody hard water has limescaled up the hexagonal hole in the bolt that's hidden away inside the handle and I can't get the allen key in. I now have a sandwich bag full of Heinz vinegar gaffa taped around the damn thing hoping it will dissolve the limescale. My bathroom smells like a chip-shop.

NostrilSoup said...

"below-average-looking-women-with-above-average-singing-voices"

I think you owe a writing credit to one C. Brooker for that hyphonated sentence?

Christ... I'm in too deep. Help me.

Pat said...

Hi there, I live in Canada. Must be the worst country for hard water. The only answer for hard water problems is HydroFlow. No other product works like it - and I have tried them all! I bought a magnetic no salt softener for my house years ago, and it didnt work. Bought a wirewrap thingy from Canadian Tire (really, really terrible product - dont want to mention names... starts with "S")- didnt work... bought the HydroFlow unit a year ago - and this little thing is amazing. Water pressure increased, no scaling, no smelly water. Could not believe it. I did my research on it, and it works because it has patented technology that no other softner has. Check the product out, do your own research - the manufacturer is in the UK - (Hydropath Holdings) but you can buy it anywhere in the world. Hope this helps! Cheers.

Tish said...

I also hate hard water. I lived with beautiful soft river-water and rain-water all my childhood (not a filling until I was 21), and was horrified at the texture and taste of London water when I moved there in my mid-20s.

What got to me the most was the scummy bit on the surface of my cup of tea. Nasty. I could never bring myself to drink it down, although sometimes I'd forget where I was and take a big swig at that last remaining mouthful. I shudder to think of it even now.

Now I live in a semi-hard water area... semi in that I have a slight lining of limescale in my kettle after 18 months of use. I'm not complaining.

In fact, I found this very website while doing a search for how to get rid of it, as (un)fortunately I haven't seen Calgon or anything similar in the shops here.

But, er, thanks for the reminder of the Calgon jingle... after 5 years away from London the tune is now ensconced in my brain once again. And I only had to read the text to hear the tune.

I hope it takes fewer than 5 years to disappear again.

LA la la LA la LA la la LA la!

Tiffany said...

Does anyone have any information on the health impact of ingesting limscale - when one sees what it does to the kettle, can't help but wonder what it does when you drink it?

Ian said...

I was, in a way, rather pleased to read that someone whose job is to weed out lies and exaggerations had found one: http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_42106.htm (that link already posted by someopne else ages ago).
But then I read this:
http://www.waterimp.co.uk/report.html
And now I don't know what to believe...

Limey said...

Hard water is healthy for you:
http://www.terradaily.com/2004/040115193958.duopimlh.html