By Mark Nelson President Nelson Water:

With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley. 

During colder winter months, some people experience drier skin conditions that leave them feeling itchy and uncomfortable. For others, with eczema and other skin conditions, this is a year round experience. Approximately 17% of Canadians suffer from atopic dermatitis otherwise known as eczema that is typically treated with topically applied hormone creams. In extreme cases, this can lead to skin cracking, inflammation, and rashes, that some sufferers have described as 24/7 chickenpox. Let’s take a closer look at this skin condition and explore whether using softer water could help.

Triggered Eczema Flare Ups

Although eczema is an ongoing condition with a recurrence of skin rashes, crusting and even open sores in extreme cases, it’s often flare ups that cause the most misery. There are a number of different triggers that can cause eczema to become more virulent than usual, here are some typical examples: hard water, certain soaps or detergent, hotter conditions, close proximity to animals, dietary changes and stress. There are a variety of reasons why these triggers and the exact circumstances may vary between different eczema sufferers. In this article, we will specifically be looking at the relationship between eczema flare ups and the use of hard water in the home.

A Connection Between Hard Water and Eczema?

It has been suggested in some circles that bathing and washing clothes in hard water could aggravate eczema conditions. This could cause extensive skin flare ups leading to a worsening of the condition. Hard water has a higher than normal mineral content, primarily calcium, iron, and magnesium. One of the most common properties of these minerals is the effect that they can have on skin. When these minerals dry on the skin after showering or bathing, they will harden and leave the skin feeling dry and itchy.

Known Hard Water Properties

When hard water is used for showering and bathing, it can be hard to get the soap to form suds. Up to 70% more soap will be needed and rinsing it from the surface of the skin can be more difficult. These longer than necessary periods of soap and water contact could undoubtedly exacerbate an existing skin condition.

There are also other effects in other aspects of our lives where hard water could present a real problem for those with eczema and other skin conditions. Washing clothes in hard water will leave these same minerals and soap deposits on the surfaces of clothes and bedding. When wearing these clothes, sleeping on bedding and drying with towels, you will effectively be rubbing these irritants on your sensitive skin.

Is Eczema More Common in Hard Water Areas?

A study carried out by in England, found that children living in hard water areas are 50% more likely to have eczema compared to those living in areas with softer water. Some similar research has also been carried out in Japan and Spain where it was found that areas supplied with hard water have a higher incidence of eczema. Although more research is needed, it seems to be the case that hard water can lead to eczema and softened water could provide much needed relief.