Water in Germany: Dealing with hard water

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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.

Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Resources Page for all the help you need!

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.

Make sure your water is fresh

Water that has been staying in the pipes for too long is not good for drinking because of possible contamination. To make sure you only drink fresh water, you should first let the water run (for up to 30 seconds) if you have not turned on your water tap for a long time.

This can happen after you come back from vacation, or when you get up in the morning. You can test the water with your finger. If the water coming out from the tap is warm, it is not fresh. Let it run until cool water comes out of the tap and you know you are getting fresh water.

Tips: If the water is not fresh, you can still use it for cleaning or watering plants. So, don’t waste those water! You should just not use it for cooking or drinking.

Why do many German people not drink tap water?

Some German people drink tap water directly. However, many 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!

YouTube video

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 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 drinking 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.

Read also: Laundry in Germany – How to dry clothes fast without a dryer?

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 is very cheap. 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. 

Use special shampoo for hard water

There is shampoo specialized to deal with hard water. For example, this shampoo 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. 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. For example, she is using this shower filter, 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!


About the author

Originally from Hong Kong, Sindy spent 13 years in Germany before moving to the US. Her blog is your ultimate resource for navigating Germany, offering pro tips on bureaucracy, job hunting, education, culture, family life, and more.

With a "been there, done that" attitude, Sindy, a certified public accountant, draws on her extensive finance and accounting background to provide professional insights with a friendly touch.

Having navigated German life with her German husband and raising two kids there, Sindy brings a personal touch to her advice. Let this blog help fellow expats like you navigate the ins and outs of life in Germany!

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

  1. 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 🙂


  2. Hello:)

    First thanks for the article …I am on the same page 😀

    I live in Frankfurt aM since 2 years and here water is hard too. I never really had big problems with my hair and skin, but after I moved here I started to see bad changes ( acne, dry skin, loosing and dry hair).

    Currently I am washing my face with bottled water ( tap water cannot touch my face, as crazy as it sounds, cuz I will break out )I even tried distilled water but it dries out my skin, …and for my hair I am using a shower filter that helps a lil bit but my hair is def not like it used to be.

    I am quite disturbed by all this and concerned in the same time…I really don’t want a bad hair for the rest of my days in Germany. I am thinking to buy and install a very good water filter ( the ones that you add directly at the pipes).

    Many ppl around me saying that the water is not that bad bla bla bla..but as you said in the article, foreigners totally agree with me ..I really miss living in a place with soft water and Not worry anymore about such a mediocre thing like water…


    1. Actually, my Dermatologist said that the hard water here is harmful to your hair and does cause balding as well. She also said that it causes problems with your skin, too. Additionally, 33% of the water in Germany is not safe to drink or shower with, you can get Legionnaires Disease from breathing in the steam. This article was not researched well at all. The fact that Doctors say that the water causes damage outweighs opinions from the internet/ your friends, and there are water testing centers in Germany that publish their findings online. It is really irresponsible to write something so ill researched and pass it off as if it were factual.

      1. Thanks for your comment! According to the consumer center in Germany, it is safe to drink tap water. You can find legionella bacteria wherever there is water. That’s why it is important to ensure you only drink fresh water. You can make sure your water is fresh by running it regularly (especially after your vacation or in the morning). I have added this instruction in my article now. Besides, your landlord/ the homeowners are responsible for regular checks for legionella infestation in the water. Hope this helps!

  3. Oh my god!!
    I have been getting increasingly stressed out because of some of the problems you’ve listed here, especially not knowing what was causing these issues. And, thanks to your article, now I know why! I’ve also been facing skin and hair issues for a while now and your article explains everything. You’ve been extremely helpful. Thank you!

  4. The water hardness in Mainz is driving me berserk. I wipe down the kitchen and there is a white film on all the stainless steel, so then I ate time polishing. All my dishes have hard water spots after I run the washing machine. My shower door always has a chalk like film on it within a day. My toilets have build-up in the bottom that turns the water brownish unless I descale every day with citric acid. I have to filter all the water I use to make coffee and tea. It makes me really, really miss my whole home filtration system I had in Canada.

    1. I am sorry to hear that. It sounds horrible. In Germany, it is also possible to install a softening equipment (ENTHÄRTUNGSANLAGE) at your water tap to make things better. For your shower, a simple shower filter will work. Hope it helps!

  5. I moved to Germany and can not stand this water issue either. The hard water is destroying my skin! I can not wash my cars at home because they turn white before you can dry them off! Dishes are white, everything is chalk white. My wife is from here but man, I wanna go home!! Lol. God Bless America🇺🇸

  6. I never understand why the country don’t fix the chalk issue once and for all, it seems everyone within the country is actively buying filters and bottled waters which would cause more harm to the environment in terms of plastic usage, maybe there’s the business side of it, but it is definitely not well thought of.

  7. Hey, thank you so much for the tips! I thought I was the only one. I come from a tropical country and have no issue with my hair back there, in fact when I go home my hair is soft and when i come back to munich it’s always very dry. I saw that you suggested one shampoo which deals with hard water, I would also love to know if you have any other shampoo suggestions. Many thanks for the post.
    Another thing I wanted to ask is that, you mentioned filter water for taking showers, I used one and still would not say it made any drastic different. Would you suggest anything else, like using bottle water?

    1. Thanks for your comment! The filter actually works pretty well for me. Maybe you just need to invest in a better filter.
      Otherwise, I heard that it helps if you do a vinegar rinse after using your shampoo. I haven’t tried that myself though.
      So, if you decide to give it a try, let me know if that works 🙂

      Hope it helps!

      1. Hey Sindy, thank you for the reply. If I may I ask, what filter you are using? I used the Alb filter, I think it wasn’t bad but maybe I am missing out on a better one. 🙂
        Thank you about the vinegar rinse tips, I do that as well! However the hard water really doesn’t suit me I guess cause when I go home my hair isn’t so hard to manage lol.
        Thank youu, if I find any other solutions for sure I would let you know. :))

    2. Hello leaves12,
      I have dealt with the hard water here by mixing up the easy DIY vinegar hair rinse below.

      Get a spray bottle (I use a travel-sized spray bottle) and fill it with about 15% to 20% of vinegar such as plain table or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (the type of vinegar that has an acidity level of 5%, which is the basic average vinegar in Germany).
      Fill the rest of the bottle with plain tap water.
      Spritz the mixture throughout the hair and onto the scalp after washing (and conditioning if needed) and just before exiting the shower – this mixture is a final rinse so it does not need to be rinsed out.
      If you can’t get a spray bottle, you can just pour the rinse over your hair.
      Any lingering vinegar smell dissipates as the hair dries and you can proceed to style as usual.

      I find that this really counteracts the negative effects of the hard water and I’ve been doing it for years now.
      My hair comes out smoother/silkier, calmer, with no residue and I haven’t had dandruff since doing this.
      Good luck and all the best🤞

  8. Hello leaves12,
    I have dealt with the hard water here by mixing up the easy DIY vinegar hair rinse below.

    Get a spray bottle (I use a travel-sized spray bottle) and fill it with about 15% to 20% of vinegar such as plain table or white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (the type of vinegar that has an acidity level of 5%, which is the basic average vinegar in Germany).
    Fill the rest of the bottle with plain tap water.
    Spritz the mixture throughout the hair and onto the scalp after washing (and conditioning if needed) and just before exiting the shower – this mixture is a final rinse so it does not need to be rinsed out.
    If you can’t get a spray bottle, you can just pour the rinse over your hair.
    Any lingering vinegar smell dissipates as the hair dries and you can proceed to style as usual.

    I find that this really counteracts the negative effects of the hard water and I’ve been doing it for years now.
    My hair comes out smoother/silkier, calmer, with no residue and I haven’t had dandruff since doing this.
    Good luck and all the best🤞

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