Are you drinking the hard stuff?
February 22, 2013 8:30:00 AM EST
A-Train is only in diapers at night now, and when he uses that diaper the sink factor is through the roof. I'm fairly confident he is peeing once toward the end of the night or first thing in the morning before we get him on the toilet, so it must be some sort of almost instantaneous reaction caused by build up within the diaper.
I want to get get to the bottom of this (especially before I pass along these diapers!), and I thought a good place to start woud be understanding the hard water I have been told for the last 4 years that my city has. So I set out to write a post about hard water.
I figured I'd be giving the following relatively straightforward information:
What is hard water and what causes it? Hard water simply refers to water that has a high mineral content. Usually it is high in calcium and magnesum. The minerals get into the water as it moves through rock and sediment, so the water source makes all the difference as to hardness versus softness of your water.
Why is hard water a problem? Hard water is actually both a blessing and a curse. It makes great drinking water, both in taste and in mineral content and benefits. However, the minerals stick around anywhere the water goes. In this way, it can shorten the lifespan of pipes and appliances, build up in/on your cloth diapers, and leave scum or even obvious crusty deposits in your tub and on your shower head. It also takes away from the cleaning power of soaps (detergents, shampoos, bar soap, etc.), making the soap difficult to lather and difficult to wash away.
First things first, I got in touch with an expert. Actually, I had my friend J ask her husband about the basics since he is a hydrogeologist. Living in a university town has some major advantages, and knowing people who are (or are married to) experts in science-y awesomeness is definitely one of them!
Except he apparently looked at her like she had three heads and said, "...Bloomington has soft water." What about the fact that we live in an area well-known for its limestone quarries? Limestone is high in calcium carbonate - and the two minerals generally making water "hard" are calcium and magnesium. But our city water is surface water, from a lake that (according to a hydrogeologist) sits on a shale bed. And, since it's a lake rather than a river or aquifer, it isn't churning up sediment or passing directly through rock.
Ummmm...uh oh? So what's making my diapers stink?!?
So I visited my city's website to check out our water quality and confirmed that our water, with an average mineral content of 50ppm (parts per million) is considered moderately soft according to the American Society of Engineers' scale. Seeking further answers, I called the city's Water Quality Control Coordinator, Rachel Atz. She confirmed we have moderately soft water, and said that it is actually now closer to 44ppm. It's getting softer!
We theorized about what could be causing the stink, and she mentioned that our water is disinfected with a chemical called chloramine. Chloramine is a combination of ammonia and chlorine. We don't know if it would be possible it could react with urine to create more ammonia faster - this is something to look into. Actually, I learned later that chloramine is a somewhat controversial disinfectant, but I have a lot more reading (and possible reviewing of chemistry!) before I could say anything about that.
For now, I am preparing to take three water samples over to Rachel for testing in the city's water quality lab. The first sample is a sort of baseline - it's simply cold tap water. The second will be hot water from my washing machine. Minerals precipitate more out of hot water, and hot water is sitting in the hot water heater all the time so it's possible (I'm not saying probable, since our water is apparently pretty darn soft) that calcium has built up in there. The third sample will be hot water from the washer that has a water softener (I will use washing soda) added.
Have any of you ever had your water tested? I also learned through all of this that you can buy test strips to check water hardness. And that people frequently and without warning drop off water samples to the city's lab. Now I wonder what kind of water gossip there might be about town!
Stay tuned as I get to the bottom of this!