When we travel we always bring a supply of our own soap and shampoo bars.
I was amazed how my shampoo experience differed from place to place.
My hair felt and behaved differently, and never the way it felt at home.
The only variable was the water. If your hair does not seem to be adjusting to the shampoo bars, it may be due to your water. The characteristics of your water can determine how well (or poorly) your shampoo and conditioning routine works. Also, if your house water is chlorinated, mineralized or fluoridated, it can also have an effect on your hair.
For years people used soap to wash their hair, dishes, clothes, etc. Around the beginning of the twentieth century, household detergents became available. It is believed that the first synthetic detergents were developed by the Germans in the First World War period, due to a shortage of fat needed in the soapmaking process.
But why did people switch from natural soap to synthetic detergent? Soaps and detergents behave differently in hard water. Soaps can form a scum in hard water that will not rinse away easily. Detergents react less to the minerals in hard water. Plus synthetic detergents were much cheaper than soap.
WHAT IS HARD WATER?
Many incorrectly believe that only “well water” is hard water. However, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, it is estimated that more than 85% of the water used by consumers in the US can be classified at some level of “hard” water.
Rainwater is soft and mineral free. But, when it falls to the ground
it seeps through the soil and rocks and dissolves minerals which
give it its character. If the rainwater water passes through hard
rock, it remains soft. However, if the ground water seeps through
softer rocks, like the limestone very common in the Great Lakes
Basin, it dissolves lots of minerals, principally calcium and
magnesium, along the way.
The term "hard water" is used to describe water that has a high mineral content, usually calcium and magnesium but may
also include bicarbonates and sulfates. The degree of hardness becomes greater
as the mineral content increases. The term “hard
water” was originally coined to refer to water that was difficult or
hard to work with. Hard water requires much more soap, shampoo, or
detergent than soft water; and the minerals in hard water can
decrease soap’s lathering capabilities.
Studies have also shown that hard water can be an eczema trigger.
The calcium and magnesium in hard water seem to cause skin to become
more dry which may lead to irritation. Also since hard water
requires much more soap, shampoo or detergent than soft water,
people living in hard water areas tend to use more which can aggravate
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH HAIR?
You need water to shampoo your hair and hard water makes it harder to wash your hair. Each hair shaft is made up of little scales, like shingles on a roof. Hard water tends to make the scales stand up, which makes your hair feel rough and tangly. Since your hair is tangled and rough, it is more difficult to rinse out all of the soap. Soap is less effective in very hard water because its reacts with the excess minerals to form calcium or magnesium salts. These are not easily soluble in water and can result in soap film. Washing hair in soft water will have a different result because it leaves fewer insoluble deposits on the hair.
In commercial shampoos, natural soap has been replaced by synthetic surfactants.
What's the difference between a synthetic surfactant and natural soap?
Soaps are biodegradable products produced from natural, renewable resources like olive, palm, or coconut oils.
Synthetic surfactants, like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS), and others, are made from petrochemicals and created in a chemical factory. Although these synthetic surfactants do not react with hard water minerals as much, they do not produce the lather that consumers like. The lather comes from the addition of synthetic lather or foam boosters--like cocamide monoethanolamine. So, these detergent shampoos lather well in all types of water and rinse off easily and completely.
That's their only good point. Sadly detergent is very harsh, and damages your hair. It cleans out dirt and strips out the oil, including the natural oil that makes your hair shiny and strong. Conditioner was introduced as people noticed that detergent shampoo took all of the oils out of their hair and left it feeling dry and brittle. The oils your hair needs to be healthy come naturally from your scalp. Conditioner simply puts artificial oils in your hair so that you do not notice the damage done by your detergent shampoo. Natural soap is better for washing hair, because it does not strip the oils that are naturally in hair. Commercial shampoo is detergent. Detergents are really excellent cleaners (for dishes, laundry, and garage floors)!
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
love to spread misinformation claiming that soap is "harsh." But,
the problem with using a natural soap shampoo is often in the water,
not the soap.
The first step is determining the hardness of your water. The map
below provides some general information for those living in the US.
If you are served by a municipal water company, call the city
offices or the Superintendent of Water and ask for the test results.
Another way is to call for a free hard water test kit from the
makers of Diamond Crystal water softening products. Consumers can
call (800) 428-4244 for the free kit, which includes an easy-to-use
test strip, a coupon for a free bag of water softening salt, and
other helpful information.
I love your shampoo bars Ida and co. I live in London UK and have really hard water. I lather and wash my hair twice with a bar, then rinse with plain water. I then rinse with citric acid crystals dissolved in water as my hair hates vinegar. I don't even have to use conditioner any more. Hair shedding is massively reduced as is breakage. Shine is fabulous! And I love that the ingredients are natural. I do a baking soda wash once a month in case of build up. My favourites are Coconut Milk, Cafe Moreno and Mud & Clay.
-- Juliette, United Kingdom
If your water is not too hard, just use your all natural shampoo and a bit of conditioner. The conditioner will help the
scales on your hair lie flat, and allow the last of the soap to
rinse out. You might have to experiment with different soaps and
If you have hard water,
try using rainwater or distilled water to rinse your hair! Or you can use a weak acid rinse, like vinegar or lemon juice. The acid makes the scales lie down flat, and again allows the soap to be rinsed more easily. Please read our information on Natural Vinegar Rinses
||Extremely Hard Water
Over 10.5 grains per gallon
(Over 180 ppm)
7 to 10 grains per gallon
||Moderately Hard Water
3.5 to 7 grains per gallon
||Slightly Hard Water
0.5 to 3.5 grains per gallon
0 to .05 grains per gallon
Map from Morton Salt
Hawaii has slightly hard water and Alaska has moderately hard water.
If you live outside the US just google
"Hard water map (your country)"
There is often a water softener company that will have a map available. I have included hard water maps for Canada, The UK and Ireland
and Spain below.
We use an inexpensive meter that measures "TDS" (total dissolved solids) to determine if our water softening system is working
properly. TDS meters are really just conductivity meters. They have two little prongs or electrodes, one
is positively charged and the other negatively charged. The dissolved elements that make water hard exist as ions, meaning they are negatively or positively charged. Positively charged ions like sodium (Na+), calcium (Ca++ )
magnesium (Mg++) and hydrogen ( H+) will move toward the negatively charged electrode, and negatively charged ions like chloride (Cl-), sulfate
(SO4--) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) will move toward the positively charged electrode. The measurements are given in ppm (parts per million). Parts per million (ppm) measures the unit(s) of a substance for every one million units of water.
We live in the Great Lakes Basin and without a water softening system our TDS meter reads 182 ppm.
We have really hard water!
My hair is used to the softer water we have due to our water
softening system. When our system runs out of salt or is not working
properly, the feel of my hair after shampooing lets us know
immediately! I was amazed at the effect water hardness had on my
1 Grain = 1/7000 of 1 lb.
An average household of 4, with water hardness of 7 grains per gallon, would have the equivalent of 146 lbs. of rock in their water supply in a given year.
Water Map for Canada (image from esspressotec.com)
Water Map for UK and Ireland (image from dynapipe.co.uk)
Water Map for Spain (image from dynapipe.co.uk)