4 Ways To Beat Hard Water Hair

When I first moved to Philadelphia, I anticipated a lot of things. I was ready to start a completely new life; to start my first “real” job; to move into an apartment on my own; to make an entirely new group of friends. But there was one thing for which I wasn’t prepared:  hard water.

UPDATE: This post originally ran August 1, 2012, but we wanted to share these helpful tips with you again!

In New York where I come from, the water is brilliantly soft. It’s great for skin, hair, and perhaps most importantly, bagels and pizza. After just one week in Philly, I noticed my hair was behaving strangely. It was dry and straw-like. It felt brittle and lifeless. It was extremely knotty and almost sticky to the touch. I had no idea what was going wrong, and then it finally hit me: it was the change in water.

Hard water, basically, is water that contains a large amount of minerals. Mineral content in water can vary from state to state – even from city to city. While it’s not harmful to your health, hard water can bring serious problems to your skin and hair, creating a buildup of minerals that ultimately dries them out. If you’ve ever moved from a soft water city to a hard water city, I know you feel my pain. But don’t fret — hard water does not have to ruin your life!

After three months of researching and experimenting, I’ve figured out 4 key ways to return your hair to its naturally beautiful state:

Install a shower head water filter.

Yes, these exist! Shower head water filters work just like drinking water filters by encouraging pH balance, and filtering out unwanted chemicals! These filters are normally built into existing shower heads, so be prepared to replace the entire piece. They vary in price depending on their various functions and designs.

Use a chelating shampoo.

Chelating shampoos are specifically designed to prevent and remove existing mineral buildup in your hair. A chelating agent will chemically bind to minerals, removing them before you even have a chance to notice they’re there. Some shampoo companies throw around words like “clarifying,” “chelating,” and “neutralizing,” so to be sure you’re using the right product. Look for one that has the ingredient EDTA. Because a chelating shampoo strips hair, it should only be used once per week, and followed with an intensely moisturizing conditioner.

Make an apple cider vinegar rinse.

A vinegar rinse will not only remove buildup from your hair, but also provide bounce and shine! Mix 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 qt distilled water. First, shampoo your hair and rinse well. Apply the mixture, leave on for a few seconds, and rinse with cold water. There’s no need to condition afterward. Due to the acidic nature of vinegar, use this rinse only once per week – perhaps alternating weeks with your chelating shampoo.

Finish off with argan oil.

If hard water has dried out your hair, argan oil will restore the moisture right away. Simply apply to damp hair post-shower, and style as usual. You can apply either to your ends or all over, depending on how dry your hair is. Be mindful of how much you apply near your roots, as this could cause unwanted greasiness. And be sure to look for pure argan oil vs. a silicone-based product that may only contain a small amount.

+ More beauty tips on the BLDG 25 blog!


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Lush had a shampoo bar specifically designed for hard water. I don’t know if they still have it, but you could always check them out.


Unfortunately, the products you posted got nothing to do with argan oil. argan oil is great, when used pure, its also great for the skin and definately doesnt cause breakouts. these “hair oils” are silicone based, they only contain very little argan oil, what makes your hair shiny and bouncy is the silicone. (which when used over a long period of time will damage your hair)


Mouthwash works well in place of apple cider vinegar, too!

Heidi O.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil is great!

I’ve done the apple cider wash, is works wonders!



Aubrey organics makes a phenomenal chelating “swimmer’s” shampoo/conditioner…great for hard water, chlorine, and sea water. For an ACV rinse, try adding 2 tbsp honey to retain moisture and to add a silkier finish. Pure, organic oils such as marula, coconut, and argan are perfect for skin/hair as they absorb without the dreaded oil slick and help normalize sebum production so every type of skin/hair can benefit!


amazing post!!! ive been living with hard water for 6 months and i can absolutely feel it in my hair! thank you thank you! give an egg white hair mask a try too, its a gem!


my parents installed hard water and when i moved to my condo a year ago I could tell my hair and sensitive was no use to the hard water. thanks for the tips!


hard water can be such a bummer! i went from some of the cleanest water in the US to very, very hard water. my skin was very reactive and my hair just seemed so limp! if you’re used to not washing your hair too often (i did a lot of only-conditioner daily showers when my water was nice and balanced), try to notice WHERE in your hair the minerals seem to be building up. For me, it’s right above my ears and in the back of my hair near my neck. I just wash these places every shower now (even… Read more »

Wow! Interesting post. I agree that hard water is water that contains a large amount of minerals. While it’s not harmful to your health, hard water can bring serious problems to your skin and hair, adding to them a buildup of minerals and drying them out. That is why we should consider purchasing waters oftener.


Wet your hair….mix a cup of water and 3 tablespoons of Baking Soda in a container……swirl around until dilluted…… pour the mix onto wet hair….rinse your hair again. THE BEST buildup remover for pennies. GREAT for any hair type!

Great Tips! I also have hard water and find that if I use a sulfate free shampoo and conditioner, it helps in beating hard water damage.


I live in a place with very hard water. I follow the no-poo hair system: shampoo with bar soap or Dr. Bronners (or baking soda paste if you prefer), and condition with vinegar water or a coffee rinse. My hair has never been shinnier, softer, curlier, or more voluminous in my life :)


Brilliant…. you have no idea how we have been searching for a solution to this problem. We will be buying a shower filter immediately and follow your suggestions. Thank you, thank you thank you!!!!!

interesting post!!

DIY and more:


Thank you do much :) I just moved into a new place and the water is much harder! Grrrr. Not only has the gold began drying me out, so has the water! Not only my hair but especially my skin! It’s been making my naturally curly/kinda frizzy hair frizzier, my scalp itchy, and my body ashy. Oh, and on top of that it’s been making me break out! So uh yah, definitely HAVE to try these tips! I’m almost positive the filter shower head is gonna work! Thnx bridgette <3 REQUEST: could you do a post on taking care of… Read more »


It’s a relief to see I’m not the only one talking about this! Several years ago I noticed a drastic change in my hair and couldn’t understand why. I can’t remember how I came to it, but I realized hard water was the culprit. The showerhead filter became a nuisance to have to change every 3 months, it became challenging to find in the store and the filter mainly only removes chlorine, and not the minerals that are causing the problem. So I took it to the next level, water softening. After much research, I finally found a system that… Read more »


I have lived in a house with hard water for about 5 and a half years, and my mom had told me not to wash my hair with that water but to wash it with the spring water that she gets and of course only being around 10 at the time i did not believe her. However, my questions are: 1. How long would it take for me to get all that hard water out of hair? 2. How do i know which argan oil to get? 3. How do i know which apple cider vinegar to get? For years… Read more »


Angie, get the shower filter! I just got mine yesterday and it works fantastic! I also used 1 part cider vinegar to 2 parts water and put it in a spray bottle. Use only once every week or every other week. Spray it all over your head after you shampoo and let it soak in for a minute then rinse. That’s all it takes to get the scale out of your hair. I’m waiting for my chelating shampoo and the argan oil spray to ship, but right now I don’t even think I need that stuff. The shower filter works… Read more »


I have moved in with my boyfriend about 2 years ago who has hard water. I have never before had to wash my hair with hard water so I have thought that I was damaging my hair from too much heat with the blow drying and the flat irons until recently when I had my hair done I was ask if I had hard water. My hair has never ever been so brittle, dry, frizzy with this kind of breakage. I have cut off 6 inches of my hair thinking that would help but NO nothing has seemed to work.… Read more »


I just moved into my great grandmothers house because we sold our house and are saving up to buy in the future. The house is over 100 years old and while the interior has been updated the pipes haven’t. The water is terribly hard but we have put a water softener on. I have strawberry blonde hair and fair skin. I’ve always just done highlights and loved my hair. We’ve been here 3 months and the minerals have darkened my hair and given it an orange tint. My stylist says there’s no way to remove it and the only option… Read more »


DON’T SPEND MONEY on an overpriced showerhead filter! These will NOT work well as point-of-use water softeners! They only filter out particulate matter (like sand), not the ions or microns of minerals which are in solution in the water supply. The process of softener water rich with minerals requires a multi-gallon reservoir where the exchange can happen — it’s not possible in that little showerhead attachment.


So glad there’s a few solutions! I’m a recent American expat from Dallas to London and my skin is the main problem! I was recently introduced to Argan oil and Rhassoul clay and it seems to help, but can’t keep hydrated enough. Even have a humidifier! Any suggestions for my face would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much for the hair tips!


Glad I found this! So many good tips and so many of us with similar issues. Thanks for the great details!


Also I forgot to ask, do you know of any chelating shampoos on the market? I’ve searched brands that are sold at Sally’s and at a few hair salon level. I like the organic method better but I also want to purchase brands as well for other purposes.