The proper hardness level in water can control how long your water heater lasts, how sudsy your soap gets and even how the glasses in your cabinet look.
So what is hard water? In this case, the word "hard" means that the groundwater contains mineral deposits, usually calcium and magnesium. The more mineral deposits, the "harder" the water. According to the United States Geological Survey, groundwater in the Cincinnati area is very hard.
If your glasses begin to look smokey after you have had them for a while or have spots, that is an effect of hard water. You can also notice that the suds in your washing machine or dishwashing soap are kind of skimpy because of the way the minerals are interacting with the soap. You may also notice a slight slimy feeling on your hands or body immediately after washing. Another sign of hard water is a film buildup on ceramic tile or fixtures.
Hard water is not a health hazard in most cases. In fact, calcium and magnesium are both needed by humans to maintain good health.
Here are some quick links to check your water quality:
However, hard water can also have an effect on your plumbing, especially with appliances that use heated water like water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines. The minerals are separated from the water during the heating process and build up in the pipes. This can cause reduced water flow and increased stress on pipes. Appliances also end up working less efficiently and wearing out faster.
One easy way to test for water hardness is to buy a test strip at a local hardware store and run it under your water. A color gauge that is supplied with the strip can give you an idea of how hard your water is.