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In this article, I want to give you the BEST tips on how to naturally remove hard water from hair.
Since I like to travel, I often go to different places, and whenever I go to places with hard water, I see their immediate impact – my hair gets dry, and I have a super itchy and flaky scalp.
It is a huge pain, so I decided to find the easiest and best solutions. Let’s jump right in.
Let’s first take a look at –
Why hard water is bad for hair?
Ever noticed how hard water leaves your hair feeling dry and fragile? That’s because it’s loaded with minerals like calcium and magnesium, which create a stubborn film that blocks moisture absorption.
The mineral buildup from hard water can leave your hair feeling dry, dull, and weighed down.
Hard water can also cause scalp irritation and flakiness. I experience this, and let me tell you – it’s a pain in the a**.
Additionally, in a study with 70 guys, they discovered that when their hair encountered hard water instead of deionized water, it lost its strength. And you know what happens when hair is weak and prone to breakage? It starts to thin out.
Signs of hard water on hair
Here are some symptoms that indicate your water is hard –
- Dry hair
- Dry, itchy scalp
- Flakey scalp
7 Natural Ways To Remove Hard Water From Hair
1. Apple cider vinegar rinse
This easy DIY solution is something I always do to get relief from an uncomfortable uncontrollable itchy scalp. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is mildly acidic (with a pH of 2-3), which helps the scaly buildup of minerals such as calcium and magnesium from your hair.
Since hard water tends to be alkaline, using apple cider vinegar helps neutralize the alkalinity, promoting a healthier environment for the hair.
It also combats increased fungal growth, a common cause of itching and flaking, by inhibiting pathogenic activity and restoring scalp pH balance. Distilled white vinegar can also work, but ACV is generally preferred.
How to make apple cider vinegar rinse:
All you need to do is dilute ACV in water and use it as a final rinse after shampooing.
You can experiment with the ratio, but it can be anywhere from 2 to 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar. If you have curly hair or color-treated hair should, you should make a much more diluted solution.
As a start, try 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar, and see how it works. If you don’t see a huge improvement, make a less diluted solution and adjust until you find the correct ratio.
Since everyone’s hair is different, you may need to adjust the vinegar-to-water ratio or frequency of use based on your hair’s needs and sensitivity.
Once you have it, pour the mixture over your hair after shampooing & conditioning your hair. Massage it into the scalp, and stay with it for a few minutes. In the end, rinse with (preferably cooler) water for a few seconds.
Extra tip: I was recently visiting my brother in Denmark and was exposed to very hard water. My scalp got super itchy, so I added 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil to my vinegar rinse.
Tea tree has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce dandruff, and can soothe inflammation caused by hard water. But keep in mind that if you try it, perform a patch test to ensure you won’t get any irritation from the tea tree oil since it is quite strong.
How often to use it: I recommend doing the rinse at most once a week.
Pros of ACV rinse:
- Reduces frizz
- Hair softening
- Mineral removal
- Scalp cleaning
- pH balancing
Cons of ACV rinse:
- It can irritate if your scalp is sensitive
- ACV is an acidic substance, so it can cause burns if not diluted
- It can overdry delicate or brittle locks
- Can strip the color of your hair
- If used on processed or chemically damaged hair may lead to increased hair fragility
2. Clarifying shampoo bars
Clarifying shampoo bars are designed to clean your hair deep and remove the film or residue from the hard water on the hair.
Here are some great shampoo bars for hard water:
- Ethique clarifying shampoo bar – ~4.5 pH – A game-changer that gently removes excessive oils (suitable for oily hair), chlorine, and even stubborn styling products.
- Kitsch clarifying shampoo bar – pH balanced – Removes any built-up oils or products from your hair and helps soothe scalp irritation and combat dandruff.
- Superzero shampoo bar – pH balanced – Offers thorough-yet-gentle removal of buildup, excess oil, minerals from hard water, and chlorine.
For more options, and if your hair is curly, you can check my article with 7+ low waste & natural products for hard water.
How often to use it: A clarifying shampoo at least once or twice a month can restore your hair and make it softer, shinier, and healthier.
- Restore the natural shine
- More manageable hair
- Removes buildup, excess oil, and impurities
- It can give volume
- It can cause dryness, frizz, and potential damage to the hair if used too frequently or on already dry or damaged hair. It is best if you use it occasionally (once or twice a month) for deep cleansing to remove persistent buildup
3. Baking soda paste
Baking soda paste can help remove hard water buildup from the hair due to its mild abrasive and cleansing properties.
Since it has a pH of 9 (making it alkaline), it should be used cautiously and in moderation. Its alkaline nature can be harsh on the hair and scalp, mainly if used excessively or without proper dilution.
When diluted in water, you can use it to remove residue and buildup, improving the hair’s overall appearance.
How to make it:
In a small bowl, add about 2 tbsp of baking soda. Add small amounts of water to the baking soda while stirring until you reach a thick, smooth paste consistency.
You can also add a few drops of essential oil (like tea tree against dandruff). Mix everything until you get a thick, smooth paste.
Wet your hair, take a small amount of the baking soda paste, and gently massage it into your scalp. Let it sit for a few minutes.
After that, rinse the hair with warm water. Ensure all the baking soda is removed. After that, follow up with a conditioner or vinegar rinse to restore moisture and balance the pH of your hair.
Tip: Perform a patch test before applying the paste to your hair to check for adverse reactions or sensitivities.
Now often to use it: Using it once every 1-2 weeks should be sufficient for most people. However, if you have dry or damaged hair, it’s best to use it less frequently, such as once every 3-4 weeks, to avoid potential dryness or stripping of natural oils.
- It can help remove mineral deposits
- It can be helpful if you have scalp imbalances or dandruff
- Removes buildup, excess oil, and residue from the hair and scalp
- A natural scalp exfoliant & it can remove dead skin cells, promoting a healthier scalp environment
- With a pH of 9, baking soda causes the cuticle layer of the hair fiber to open, increasing the capacity for water absorption
- Using it too often can strip the natural oil from the hair, lead to breakage, and make the hair fragile
4. Showerhead filter
Installing a water softener or using filtered water for hair washing can minimize the harmful effects of hard water.
For example, the showerhead filter offered by AquaBliss, is designed to provide immediate rejuvenation for your hair.
It uses a multi-stage filtration system to balance pH levels and reduces chlorine while also restoring damage caused by hard water.
The replacement cartridges are long-lasting and cost-effective, making them an affordable option.
Moreover, the installation is easy and tool-free, suitable for nearly all shower heads.
- Reduces mineral buildup
- Softer and smoother hair
- It helps the natural oils to penetrate and moisturize more effectively
- Reduces scalp irritation
- It requires an upfront investment and periodic replacement of the filter
- It may not eliminate all traces of hard water minerals, depending on the quality and design of the filter
- Some require specific installation methods, and not all types of shower heads are compatible
5. DIY clarifying hair masks
Create a homemade hair mask using ingredients like bentonite clay, aloe vera, tea tree oil, and apple cider vinegar.
Apply the mask to your hair and let it sit for 20-30 min before rinsing. These masks can help to remove buildup and restore hair health. Here are 3 easy recipes you can try out:
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Tea Tree Oil Hair Mask: Mix 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with 10 drops of tea tree oil in a bowl. Apply the mixture to clean, damp hair, focusing on the roots and scalp. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and condition as usual. This mask helps remove buildup, balance the scalp’s pH, and promote a healthier scalp.
- Lemon and Coconut Oil Hair Mask: Mix the juice of one lemon with 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil in a bowl. Apply the mixture to damp hair, ensuring it is evenly distributed. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and follow with a conditioner. This mask helps clarify the hair, remove excess oil, and add shine.
- Bentonite Clay and Aloe Vera Hair Mask: Mix 2 tablespoons of bentonite clay with 2 tablespoons of fresh aloe vera gel in a bowl. Add a few drops of water to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Apply the mask to damp hair, starting from the roots and working your way down. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and condition as usual. This mask helps absorb impurities, remove buildup, and soothe the scalp.
- Cost-effective, natural & easy to make
- It promotes a healthier scalp
- It can improve hair texture
- It allows customization and offers flexibility to tailor the ingredients to your specific needs
- Involve some level of experimentation to find the right combination
- Shorter shelf life
6. DIY flaxseed gel
Flaxseed gel has natural conditioning properties that can help combat the effects of hard water on the hair. It provides moisture, reduces frizz, and if you have wavy hair, it will help to define your curls.
You can use flaxseed gel as a leave-in conditioner. Its natural moisturizing effects make it an excellent option for providing hydration and nourishment to your hair.
How to make it:
Boil 2 cups of water and add 1/4 cup flaxseeds to the saucepan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until you get a gel-like substance. Strain the gel with a cheesecloth or mesh strainer.
Wait for the gel to cool down, then use it on damp hair. Soon I will create a complete guide on how to DIY flaxseed gel so that I will share more info about it.
- Natural & homemade
- Moisturizing and nourishing
- Defines curls
- Reduces frizz
- Lightweight and non-sticky
- Short shelf life
- The effectiveness can vary from person to person and may not work the same for everyone
- While flaxseed gel is generally non-sticky, if not prepared or applied correctly, it can leave a sticky residue on the hair
7. Wear a hat if you swim in pools
If you swim in a pool treated with hard water or chemicals, protecting your hair is essential by wearing a swim cap to minimize exposure to rough water. For example, chlorine is commonly used in pools to kill bacteria and maintain water cleanliness.
Prolonged exposure to chlorine can strip your hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness, brittleness, and color fading. Wearing a pool hat can be an effective and convenient option to protect your hair.
- Protects the hair
- Minimizes tangles
- It makes styling easier
- May be uncomfortable
- Compresses the hair causing loss of volume
So there you go – 7 natural ways to remove hard water from hair and prevent damage. Those natural remedies are practical and easy ways to avoid damage to your hair from hard water.
I’m curious to hear which natural remedy for removing hard water from hair seems most appealing to you and why?
Let me know in the comment section below 🙂