Installed Water Softener - Still Getting Water Spots

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by Rob Patrick, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Hi - first post although I have lurked and learned her for many years.

    We have a well and the water is leaving white scale deposits wherever it collects and dries - counter tops, shower walls, toilet bowls, etc. I had the softener installed and the problem showed no improvement.

    The only local lab I have in my town can only test for Calcium Carbonate. In my opinion they are not a very good lab - maybe I am expecting too much but they seem to be happy doing mainly bacteria tests. They tested the Calcium and the softener is actually doing it's job - it went from 15 grains (IIRC) down to 0 so clearly there is something else in the water causing the scale.

    I have asked around and was told that maybe it is some other carbonate. What I think I should do is get the water analyzed and know exactly what is in it before spending more $ on a 'maybe' solution.

    Assuming this is a good approach - how can I find a lab and what kind of testing should I request? I have looked on line and there are several mail-order labs but I don't want to spend several hundred dollars on tests that are not going to tell me what I need to know.

    Any pointers on how to start solving this scale problem much appreciated!

    Rob
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
    A water softener replaces calcium and magnesium with sodium. Sodium salts still will leave water spots, but they can be readily rinsed off, unlike calcium and magnesium. If you want some horizontal things to dry spot free, you will either have to towel off the water drops, or you will need to rinse with distilled or reverse osmosis water.

    On the shower walls, you can get the water to flow off better with less spotting with some wetting sprays that they sell for the purpose.

    If you want to compare your water with friend's water for spotting, consider a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter as a rough indication of the relative spotting. The water softener will not affect TDS much, but the spots from softened water do wash off.

    If it bothers you much, you might consider replacing the black toilet with white and the dark shiny counter top with a lighter less uniform surface.

    Now if you are really motivated, there are whole-house RO systems that I have heard of.
  3. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Hi Reach4 thanks for the reply. The scale I am getting is definitely not salt - I could live with it if it would rinse off when we clean but this not dissolving and unfortunately we cannot keep up with drying everything after it gets wet. I am hopeful that I have something else that is easily removed and can simply change the media in my softener and fix the problem. Figuring out what it is first is the first step, I think...
  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
    A good water test would be a good idea. http://www.ntllabs.com AKA www.watercheck.com is often recommended. Not cheap. I think Watercheck 1 & 2
    Code: 9000
    Price: $102.00
    Description: Tests for heavy metals, minerals, inorganics, and physical factors. Great for well water and city water testing.
    would test for what you are looking for.

    Sodium salts can be sodium chloride, and can also be sodium bicarbonate and others.

    For the toilet, is that a yellowish-white ring at the water line rather than a water spot problem?

    I would get a Hach 5-B softness testing kit for hardness testing now, but also to check performance later.

    Have you ever flushed your water heater?
  5. Bannerman

    Bannerman New Member

    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    The Calcium and Magnesium ions within the hard water, are being exchanged with sodium ions - not salt. The amount of sodium in the softened water is directly proportional to the hardness of the pre-conditioned water.

    The best method to determine the source of your problem is to obtain a comprehensive water analysis. You didn't indicate where you are located but often, a county agricultural office or state university may provide testing. Alternatively, contact your local health department or a reputable well driller to see if they can recommend a lab.

    Your test should include more than hardness as you will also need to know other water conditions including TDS (total dissolved solids) and what the TDS is comprised of.

    Although you indicate seeing no improvement upon installing the softener, if your plumbing, especially water heater have been exposed to hard water for any length of time, they will likely have calcium and magnesium (scale) deposited on their inner surfaces. The softened water will slowly cause the scale to desolve into the water. Depending on the amount of scale, it may take some time before the scale is fully desolved.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  6. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    I found that lab and this is exactly the recommendation I was looking for - I tried searching for labs on the forum but must not have been holding my mouth right - did not find any listed here.

    The hard water stains in the toilets are on the bowls at the water line and coming down in several lines from the rims where the last bits of water drain down after a flush and dry. It is a dark off white - not really yellow, but enough to be clearly seen against the white porcelain.

    The kids toilet gets yellow - but for entirely different reasons :eek:

    Once I get a handle on what the minerals are, I plan on getting a test kit that will help me keep a tab on it - I saw the Hatch - good to know that is also recommended.

    Thanks to you and Bannerman both - I have lived with this for years on the main part of the house out of necessity but I just recently finished 2 baths in a basement and have not started using them due to this scale. Once I get it solved, I can 'christen' them :p
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
    For the toilet ring, I suggest the Kaboom Scrub Free system (can be refilled with a small pool chlorine tablet as alternative) . The Fluidmaster Flush n Sparkle chlorine type can help too, but their cartridge is harder to refill. They inject into the tank overflow so they don't hit the rubber stuff with chlorine. If you have a low-flow toilet, there could be a problem in that they would reduce the refill slightly. Your septic can deal with a little chlorine (or bromine, which some use for smell reasons).

    For the existing ring, I suggest a pumice stone such as Pummie brand. They are readily available at some big stores. It takes some scrubbing. Then at least swish the waterline with a toilet brush every couple of days.
  8. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Messages:
    1,842
    Location:
    Ontario California
    A detailed water test needs to be done to determine what is going on. ntllabs.com is a great place to get testing done for a reasonable price. Otherwise we are all simply guessing.

    You could do a simple acid cleaning of the spots, if acid does not easily clean it then try a base cleaner (don't mix them!). I have found many times that using Lye (Sodium hydroxide) cleans many stains that acids wont touch. Not that doing this will tell us what the problem is, but it would give us indication of which treatment methods to consider.
  9. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    I ordered a test kit from NTL - once I get that and get their analysis, I'll be back - thanks again for everyone's help.
  10. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
    Hope to hear back in September.
  11. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    OK - so I got the water analysis back. Below is everything that was detected in mg/L.

    When I took the sample, I bypassed the existing softener and flushed the tank and lines good to get an actual untreated well water sample.

    Calcium - 36.9
    Copper - 0.073
    Magnesium - 5.79
    Manganese - 0.040
    Silica - 31.1
    Sodium - 13
    Zinc - 0.004

    Alkalinity - 140
    Hardness - 120
    TDS - 170

    So which of the above do you think is flowing through the existing softener and how do I stop it?

    What would you suggest as next steps in troubleshooting my existing softener?

    Thanks in advance for your sage advice!
    Rob
  12. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
  13. Smooky

    Smooky Member

    Messages:
    623
    Location:
    NC
    If the water that is making spots is going through the softener, I think I would do a test without bypassing the softener. The bypassed sample is good to know so it was not a waste. Now you will know what the softener is doing or not doing.
  14. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Reach,

    I was hoping it was not silica since I have heard it is hard to remove. I have not tried the test since l wanted to wait and see what the lab said first.

    I can tell you that CLR and other such products do nothing to remove it. The only way to clean it off is a mild abrasive (like Amaz) and a lot of elbow grease.
  15. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Smooky - you read my mind. I wish I had thought about that and only had to pay the postage once, but live and learn I gues.
  16. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
    At $100 and 3 weeks per test, is a post-softener test needed? Silica - 31.1 ppm is pretty high, and it would explain the symptoms. From what I read, softeners are not expected to remove silica.
  17. Rob Patrick

    Rob Patrick New Member

    Messages:
    8
    OK so I started searching for silica solutions and found a pretty good article at http://www.watertechonline.com/arti...fficient-method-of-silica-removal-from-waters that mentioned 4 ways of dealing with silica:

    Lime softening - Googled this and found a pretty good video on YouTube. This looks like an easy process - if you are a municipal water treatment plant. Although it looks easy to do, I could not find any self-contained, small systems suitable for home use.

    Ion Exchange (also called Demineralization) - same idea as a traditional softener but with different media and a nasy acid generation process. Looks like it could be a workable solution - there are several companies that build these but I'd have to deal with the acid and floor space in the basement. Not sure of the cost on these but from the looks of them, not cheap. Oh and they will require a lot more maintenance than a typical softener.

    Electrocoagulation - Google it if you want to know how it works, but this seems like a good approach except for the fact that the systems are quite large - and similar to the demineralizer above, appear to be complex systems that will require fairly frequent monitoring. I am looking more into this as an option.

    RO - talked about here quite a bit - not sure I have much to add except that this right now looks like the best solution unless the Electrocoagulation system comes through.

    I've been up since way too early and my eyes are starting to cross - more info as time and sleep permits.
  18. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,303
    Location:
    IL
    I went back and looked at my water tests. It included over a hundred organic compounds not detected. But it does not have a number for silica. :-(
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