Hacks for bathing with a broken water softener
October 4, 2013 3:46 PM   Subscribe

While I am waiting for the return of the plumber, what can I put in my very hard water bath to make it not feel like a hard water bath?

We are a few days into the breakdown of the water softener and my well water is horrible. If you understand the chemistry of "hard" and "soft" water better than I do, tell me what to dump into my bathtub.

The untreated water means instant hangnails, all-over scratching, wiry hair. I am leaving my child unshampooed, but I am highly bath-reliant for stress relief.

Things I have tried: vinegar. Baking soda. Bath salts. Apple cider vinegar. Bath oils.

If I need to try any of the above in enormous quantity, great. If I need to dissolve several pounds of water softener salt pellets in a stock pot to have a pleasant bath, no problem. Assume I am already drenching myself in various lotions the second I step out. Aesthetics are no longer a concern; my coming out smelling weird or with bad hair is fine -- it just has to feel nice to soak in, and not further dry me out.
posted by kmennie to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Add Calgon water softening powder to your bath-- I used to wash and rinse my hair with it when I lived with well water. It's good in the clothes washer, too.
posted by wryly at 3:51 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: (Racing off to hardware store in next town for this promising-sounding product which I had not heard of before, still open to all other suggestions for further bath adulteration)
posted by kmennie at 4:05 PM on October 4, 2013

Just use baking soda.
posted by bearwife at 4:22 PM on October 4, 2013

Eh, most hard, but otherwise potable water is going to have mineral content in the range of several hundred parts per million, maximum. Above that, for calcium, manganese, potassium or other soluble compounds, the water wouldn't be potable, since ingesting a high amount of those metallic salts is harmful to human and animal health, especially from a cardiac standpoint. So, in a bath tub full of hard, but potable, water, you're now getting, at most, a gram or two of mineral content that your water softener previously may have reduced, at the cost of some increase in sodium salts. Dumping in anything more than a tablespoon of "water softening salts/agents" is likely to be hugely counterproductive.

Applying a bit of light oil, to still damp skin, upon emerging from your hard water bath, is likely to be very soothing, and entirely redemptive.
posted by paulsc at 4:56 PM on October 4, 2013

Can you shower for a couple of days, until the plumber returns? Run just enough water to get you and your washcloth wet, soap up, wash and rinse quickly to avoid too much contact with the hard water.

If you don't have a shower, any hardware store will have a shower head that attaches to your bathtub inlet. Again, use as little water as possible.

Is there a YWCA or a Turkish bath nearby?

Once you get your softener working again, take a loooooong bubble-bath. If your child is a girl, bring her in at the other end of the tub and blow bubbles.

If this happens often, set up a rain barrel to dip water out of. You can heat enough of it up on your stove in a big pot to fill your bathtub at least a few inches deep.
posted by KRS at 7:51 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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