Water in Germany: Dealing with hard water

Do you know why most local people do not drink tap water in Germany? Should you drink tap water or bottled water in Germany? Are you using a water filter? Do you have hair or skin problem from the hard water in Germany? Find out in this post the degree of water hardness in your region, and what you can do to deal with hard water.

Can you drink tap water in Germany?

Definitely! Tap water has very high quality and is strictly controlled in Germany. There are more strict rules for tap water than bottled waters. So, it is completely safe to drink tap water.

Why do many German people not drink tap water?

Some German people drink tap water directly. However, most Germans do not. There are different reasons for this. Taste is one of the reasons. Some people just do not prefer the taste of tap water. It can be because of the chalk in water, or they prefer sparkling water instead. It really depends on the individual’s taste.

Another reason can be the German people’s perception of tap water. Tap water is “Leitungswasser” in German, which literally means piped water. That’s why Germans do not offer their guests with tap water. “Piped water” just doesn’t sound nice to be offered. Besides, this perception may stem from the past, when it was a way to display wealth by drinking bottled water due to its higher cost.

Besides, the financial aspect also plays a role. This is not typical to ask for tap water in a restaurant in Germany. Restaurants in Germany earn significant profits by selling their drinks. That’s why it can be rude if you ask for tap water in the restaurants. You are supposed to order bottled water instead. This was actually a cultural shock for me when I came to Germany, as the restaurants in Hong Kong always offer free water to their customers.

Asking for hot water in a German restaurant

My Chinese friend visited me in Germany and we went to a restaurant together. She wanted to get a cup of hot water. The waiter was shocked and said that they could not offer hot water, because he could not charge it in his machine. There was no hot water on the menu and he did not know how to enter the order! In the end, he suggested my friend to order a tea, so that he could put a tea order in his machine. And my friend could choose to not put the tea bag into the cup so that she could have her hot water!

Alternatives to tap water

As mentioned, many German people do not prefer drinking tap water directly. If they do, they usually turn on the tap water for some seconds before getting the water. They do this especially in the morning because they believe that the water quality is not good if the water has been still in the pipe for a long time. 

Below are some alternatives if you do not prefer drinking tap water directly: 

Bottled water

I used to drink mostly bottled water in Germany, until I learned that tap water has more strict control than bottled water. If you read the labels on the water bottle, you can see the last date when the water was controlled. The control is done not as often as the tap water.

You can buy either sparkling or still bottled water. For sparkling water, you can see from the bottle label the level of carbonation. Usually, you can choose from mild, middle or strong. I used to buy only this bottled water because of the taste. And I only bought glass bottles as I don’t prefer plastic. 

Filtered water

I live in a place where water has a high level of chalk. Personally, I prefer the taste of soft water. That’s why I use a water filter if I drink tap water. I like this BRITA water filter below because of the taste. Especially once I change to a new water filter, the water just tastes so soft. It is a perfect taste for me. There is also a timer that shows when you should change the water filter.

Besides, using filtered water is better for the water boiler and coffee machine. Less chalk will be accumulated and it is better for maintenance.

Self-made sparkling water

How I fell in love with sparkling water

A lot of German people prefer sparkling water than still water. This is one of the reasons that they do not like to drink tap water. In my home town Hong Kong, we usually only have still water. I tried my first sparkling water in Germany and it was yucky at the beginning. I completely couldn’t understand why anyone would drink something like this. Actually many people who are used to still water have this feeling when they first try sparkling water.

After I moved to Germany, I drank only still water in the beginning. Until one hot summer day, I was outside for hours and was extremely thirsty. Finally, I found a small store which sold drinks. I bought immediately a bottle of water there without reading the label carefully. It turned out that I mistakenly bought a bottle of sparkling water. I drank it still as I was dying of thirst. I was surprised by how good it tasted! It was cold and perfectly quenched my thirst. Since then, I fell in love with sparkling water. I think it can taste very good, especially when I drink a cold one on a hot day.

Water carbonator

In the past, I always bought sparkling bottled water. Recently, I decided to try something new. I bought this water carbonator and make my own sparkling water at home. One reason is that I believe the tap water’s quality is better than the bottled one. Besides, it is much more economical to make my own than to buy the bottles all the time.

I am super happy with my water carbonator. It makes perfect sparkling water and I can adjust how much carbonation I like in the water. I can use either filtered or unfiltered tap water. I just need to put the water in the machine, push the carbonation button, then I have my own sparkling water ready.

How hard is the water in your area?

Depending on the area, the level of chalk can vary in the water. There is a scale to measure the hardness of the tap water. This is called the German degree of hardness or “Grad deutscher Härte” (°dH) in German. The scale is from 0° dH to 21° dH, with 0° being the softest and 21° being the hardest. You can check the exact water hardness at your local water supplier. For example, the water in Munich has an average of 15.8 °dH according to Stadtwerke München

Chalk is not harmful to our health. It basically consists of calcium and magnesium. So, they are actually useful minerals for us. If you want to have an idea about the chalk level in your region, this website provides a map with hardness levels for different regions in Germany.

The rumor about hard water

I have heard many foreigners (especially Asian people) claiming that they were losing hair because of drinking the hard water. One even said that the chalk in water resulted in a stone in his organ, which he had to do a surgery to take out. 

As mentioned before, chalk consists of calcium and magnesium. They are minerals for us. There is no scientific evidence that drinking hard water can cause hair loss or stone forming. Some people swore that their hair loss comes from drinking the hard water as the situation got better after they started drinking soft water again. On the other hand, many German people drink hard water for their whole life and never have any hair problems. There are many other reasons that one may lose hair, e.g. stress or other medical problems. As mentioned, there is no scientific evidence showing that hard water causes these problems. If you do not feel comfortable, use a water filter or drink bottled water.

Other problems of hard water

Taking a shower

Using hard water to shower can cause dry and frizzy hair. The minerals in the water may affect the appearance of your hair negatively. Besides, some people reported that they have more hair loss when washing their hair with hard water. It is possible that the hard water can cause your hair to break easier due to the minerals built up on your hair.

Similar, hard water can give you dry and itchy skin after taking the shower. This is because the minerals in water reduce the moisture level of your skin. This can be irritating especially if you have sensitive skin.

Dry and broken hands

We live in an area with very hard water. My husband has sensitive skin. His hands can get so dry that the skin often breaks and bleeds. Sometimes, the skin of all his 10 fingers breaks and bleeds. He has to use plaster on each finger. I know it looks funny. But it is very painful.

His dry hands are mainly due to the hard water used in our house. Every time after washing his hands, the skin dries off and he feels very bad on his hands, even after using the hand lotion. The situation gets even worse in winter, when the heating makes the air very dry.

I think it really depends on the individual’s skin. Mine do break and bleed as well, but it is not as severe as my husband’s. When my mom from Hong Kong came to visit me for three weeks, she had also all her fingers broken and they bled. She was cooking several times a day, so she was using our water very often. She never had that happened before and she even thought that she had a skin illness. I told her that it was all about the dry air and hard water. After she went back to Hong Kong, her hands were all normal again.

Keeping your house clean

Besides your hair and skin, hard water can make it difficult to clean. They affect your kitchen appliances like water boiler, coffee machine and so on. It is also very frustrating that after doing a big cleanup on my kitchen and bathroom, they look dirty almost immediately on the next day. The chalk forms everywhere on the sink, the water tap, the shower, etc. It seems that no matter how much I clean them, they still look dirty again very soon.

Another problem is the washing machine. Hard water reduces the efficiency of the washing. You may need to use more soap and those soap residue may leave on your clothes. This can be irritating if you have sensitive skin.

What can you do to deal with the hard water?

Kitchen appliances

I used to buy the descaling agent to clean my water boiler, until I heard that using vinegar will just do the job. Just buy the cheapest vinegar you can find in the supermarket. The best is a vinegar without any flavor. For example, this vinegar costs less than 2 EUR. I like to use vinegar better than the descaling agent as I can be sure that there is no chemical inside. So even if I didn’t clean off all the vinegar thoroughly, it will still be fine as it is only vinegar there.

Washing machine

When you use hard water in the washing machine, this can cause the soap residue leaving on your clothes and the machine itself. When these residues accumulate, it can cause smell and dirt in both your machine and clothes. Luckily, you can buy a water softener and use it in your washing machine. This can help to make the water softer, and prevent smell and dirt in your washing machine. Just put one tablet in your machine and it will do the job. It also helps to protect your washing machine so that it has a longer lifespan. Below is one example of a water softener.

Use special shampoo for hard water

There is shampoo specialized to deal with hard water. For example, this one below helps to neutralize hard water and prevent the damage on your hair in return.

Besides, using hair conditioner and body lotion after your shower will help if you have dry and itchy skin.

Wear gloves

I used to work in the kitchen without any gloves. And my hands always felt very bad due to the hard water. My friend suggested me to wear gloves but I never wanted to try. I thought that it wouldn’t feel good and it would be hard for me to carry out kitchen work. A year ago, I decided to give it a try. I bought a pair of reusable kitchen gloves. Since then, my hands are feeling much better as they keep my hands always dry. I can do basically every kitchen work with the gloves without any issue.  

Put a wet cloth on your heating

You may feel especially bad in the winter after you have touched the hard water. This is because your heating makes the air even drier and this hurts your skin, especially after taking a shower or washing your hands. One simple tip is to put a wet cloth/ towel on your heating. This will increase the moisture in the air and help with your dry skin.

Use an extra-strong chalk remover

You can find an extra-strong chalk remover for your bathroom and toilet. The below one as an example. Be careful when you use it though. It is highly concentrated and you should not touch it directly. Apply some directly on your bathroom (either diluted or undiluted). Wait for a few minutes and wash it with cold water. This can help to remove the accumulated “chalkstones” which stick in your bathroom.

Use a shower filter

A friend of mine had a problem with her hair due to the hard water. Her hair broke and dried out every time after her shower. She tried every different shampoo but nothing helped. Then, she decided to use a filtered shower head which could soften her water. This totally solved the problem for her. You can buy different filtered shower head and some can be very cheap and still do the work (less than 10 EUR). For example, she is using this one below, which does not only soften the water, but also has a high-pressure function which helps to save water (and money).

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Do you drink tap water in Germany? Or do you have problems with the hard water in Germany? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

 

4 Replies to “Water in Germany: Dealing with hard water”

  1. I Drink my tape Walter. Good Idea to buy a Carbonate. Our water near Düsseldorf ist NOT HARD

  2. Hello,

    thanks for a useful article!

    I also have problems with my hair and skin here in Germany 🙁

    Seems like there are some pictures missed, like the shampoo and the filter for shower. I’d love to see those examples, because I think they could be useful for me.
    Do you have any possibility to share the photos?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thanks for writing me! It is strange that you cannot see the pictures, because I checked again and I can see them.
      Anyways, I added a text link in the paragraphs for the shampoo and shower filter now.
      So, if you go back to my article, you can see the pictures and details by clicking the text links in the paragraphs.
      Please let me know if you still see any issues. I am glad that my article can help you 🙂

      Sindy

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