05-03-2012, 08:11 AM
#1
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Here is a post I did awhile back on a couple other forums but would also like to share here in the Nook...

Quote:I just had a bit of a revelation with a simple phone call to my local water plant. Quite often I hear that we blame water hardness for the inability of a soap to lather. I am guilty of this as well and even skipped on getting a certain soap because of my hard water before. However, lately I've been achieving some great lathers even in my hard water. I won't say that creating my lather is easy as I'm pretty certain from reading how long people typically spend creating their lather that I have to work my soaps longer and harder to get the lather I like. However, I was still getting great results with soaps that notoriously are hard to lather with hard water. Soaps such as MWF, Cade, and modern Williams. These results started to befuddle me to the point where I was questioning if I really did have hard water. So this morning I made a quick call to the water department who kindly gave me the number to the local water plant. I asked the gentleman at the plant if he could share some water hardness information with me and he was very happy to. He gave me 2 different measurements of the average hardness of our local water and here are the results:

1. 180 parts/million also listed as mg/L
2. 11-12 grains

With the following chart we can see what category my water falls into:

Water Hardness Scale

Soft: < 1.0 grains; < 17.1 ppm or mg/L
Slightly Hard: 1.0 - 3.5 grains; 17.1 - 60 ppm
Moderately Hard: 3.5 - 7.0 grains; 60 - 120 ppm
Hard: 7.0 - 10.5 grains; 120 - 180 ppm
Very Hard: < 10.5 grains; < 180 ppm

So it appears that even in the best case scenario that my water is considered hard, and more likely stays in the very hard range.

This was a revelation and validation to me that these soaps which are definitely high quality can be lathered even in hard water. Yes, they may take some extra loading time (I typically load for 60 seconds and have plenty of leftover lather). Yes they may take some extra elbow grease whipping up the lather to the right consistency. Is it worth it? Well that is entirely up to you to decide and I'm sure plenty will say that it isn't when so many other great products lather just by showing them a shaving brush. To me, however, it was kind of a challenge to get anything that I owned to lather. With some practice and patience I'm happy to say that I've succeeded. For me this journey and effort without a doubt has been worth it. MWF is my favorite soap all around. Cade is my favorite scent right now and I can actually shave with it; it doesn't need to be relegated to a bath/shower bar. The jury is out right now on modern Williams as I haven't shaved with it yet, but I've done quite a few test lathers and to be honest it just explodes into lather for me (I'm very thrilled about this since I just invested a little over $6 for 11 pucks of the stuff!).

I hope this encourages you to buy whatever soap interests you and not to get too frustrated if things aren't working for you right away. Everyone's setup is unique so it really comes down to trial and error for each shaver. I certainly hope though that my experience from this journey may be able to assist some others in their lathering education as well.

This post would not be complete without a thank you to all who have helped me along the way with my lathering abilities (unfortunately lathering was not a God-given birth talent to me). I've gleaned so much from so many with their posts so I can't even begin to list people, but thanks to all!

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 05-03-2012, 09:12 AM
#2
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Brian, I remember this post from another forum and it was very informative. Due to this post I contacted our water department and asked about our readings. Our water falls in the second catagory listed above except our water department calls it Medium Soft.

Medium Soft: 1.0 - 3.5 grains; 17.1 - 60 ppm

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 05-03-2012, 09:49 AM
#3
  • Teiste
  • Moderator Emeritus
  • Salt Lake City,UT
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I have extra hard water here where I live in Utah.Thanks to Mynorx I was able to try a simple water softener and yes,with soft water,its easy to build up lather than with hard water and also there is no soapy residues.However,I am capable to deal with hard water and make lather from "difficult" soaps like Mitchells Wool Fat.
I hope to get a water softener in my new house.Biggrin

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 05-03-2012, 11:24 AM
#4
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I have lived in places where the water is near the boundary between slightly hard and moderately hard, and also in places where the water was near the boundary between hard and very hard. Soaps and creams lathered fine in all those places.

I do know that ordinary bath soap has lathering problems past a certain water hardness. Just try to lather it in seawater to see this effect. It makes a gummy mess. There are soaps available that work quite well in seawater, so soapmakers must have some means to deal with hard water.

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 05-03-2012, 11:28 AM
#5
  • Songwind
  • Soap Slinger & Scuttle Pusher
  • Burnsville, MN
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The post above answers the question:
Quote:Yes, they may take some extra loading time (I typically load for 60 seconds and have plenty of leftover lather). Yes they may take some extra elbow grease whipping up the lather to the right consistency.

Obviously, it does make a difference. But in my experience that difference is not crippling. It can be annoying, or slightly more costly in terms of time and money.

I have hard water, and a water softener. Not long after I started wet shaving, the salt ran out in our softener. We didn't notice because the Mrs. was pregnant and all sorts of things were happening. I finally remembered to check the softener because my soaps had gotten harder to get a voluminous lather out of. I was still getting decent shaves, but life at the lather bowl got much easier once I fixed that little salt problem.

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 05-03-2012, 12:56 PM
#6
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In my opinion hard water does make a difference, the only issue I have with hard water is that it forces me to use more product.

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 05-03-2012, 01:24 PM
#7
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Yes, use more product in hard water, and it takes more rinsing to get rid of it in soft water.

There is one effect in soft water... The tendency, since soft water allows lathering so easily, is to use less product. If one does this the lather can fall flat with just a slight additional amount of water. I do this all the time when breaking in a new boar. That is, use a small amount of soap and bring the lather to the break down point. It's actually pretty neat to see. At one point great lather, drops more water and then nothing.

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 05-03-2012, 01:28 PM
#8
  • TexBilly
  • Moderator Emeritus
  • Austin, TX
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(05-03-2012, 01:24 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: Yes, use more product in hard water, and it takes more rinsing to get rid of it in soft water.

There is one effect in soft water... The tendency, since soft water allows lathering so easily, is to use less product. If one does this the lather can fall flat with just a slight additional amount of water. I do this all the time when breaking in a new boar. That is, use a small amount of soap and bring the lather to the break down point. It's actually pretty neat to see. At one point great lather, drops more water and then nothing.

I agree. My water is softened in-house (quite common in Central Texas) and most soaps will produce suds if the brush even hovers over the puck.

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 05-03-2012, 01:56 PM
#9
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I will agree with the general sentiment here. I have pretty hard water but also travel a bit for work so I use all sorts of water. I haven't found that I can't make equally good lather with hard water. My motto is "more is more". More product, more water, and more work gets me to the same place. Not a lot more, just more. I also agree that soft water can be tricky as well and the tendency is to use too little product.

The biggest difference for me is that my brushes and razors need more frequent cleaning as the soap scum builds faster. One upside is the water where I live tastes so good, I never buy bottled water as the water from the tap generally tasted better anyway.

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 05-05-2012, 01:33 PM
#10
  • Sargon
  • Member
  • St. Louis, Missouri
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It matters, but you can work through it, especially once you get used to it. I have well water in a region where the tap water is 150-180ppg *AFTER* they put it through a softening plant. I've also used distilled a few times out of curiosity.

My experiences are as follows: In soft water, you use less product to get more lather. Additionally *HOW* that lather works is different. Soft water has more natural slip with the water, whereas hard water uses more product, and provides more of it's slip through the oils in the product, a bit like a shaving oil...

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 05-05-2012, 03:51 PM
#11
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(05-03-2012, 01:24 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: Yes, use more product in hard water, and it takes more rinsing to get rid of it in soft water.

There is one effect in soft water... The tendency, since soft water allows lathering so easily, is to use less product. If one does this the lather can fall flat with just a slight additional amount of water. I do this all the time when breaking in a new boar. That is, use a small amount of soap and bring the lather to the break down point. It's actually pretty neat to see. At one point great lather, drops more water and then nothing.

You should be TSN's Mr. Science. Kinda like having our own Myth Buster. We already have our own Youtube channel. You'd be bigger than Mantic. Tongue

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 05-05-2012, 04:03 PM
#12
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Boy, do we have it good here in Vancouver! We have the softest water you could imagine! Easily builds lather instantly with any soap! i look forward to the challenge of using hard water this June when i go to Ontario to visit the folks. Good luck to you gentlemen!

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 05-13-2012, 12:39 PM
#13
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One day I may consider adding a water softener in for the whole house, but at this point in time with all of the soaps I've acquired as I've been learning what I like and what works, hard water may be a blessing. I have a reason to load heavily, use product faster, and reorder sooner. I can think of a few ShaveNook vendors that may like this philosophy as much as I do! Biggrin

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 05-30-2012, 12:25 PM
#14
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My thoughts lately on loading a drier brush and making a denser lather are now crossing over into my thoughts on hard water. The minerals in water that make it hard will bind with the soap thus requiring more soap to make your lather. If you use a very wet brush then you have really created the need for even more soap to counteract all those extra hard water minerals that are now in your lather. By utilizing the drier brush approach you will counteract these minerals much easier and be rewarded with an amazing lather even in such "terrible" water conditions.

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 05-30-2012, 01:40 PM
#15
  • slantman
  • Expert Shaver
  • Leesburg, Florida
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Soft water is the ultimate. I have hard water but have been using a mechanical water softener for a year. Soaps and creams last longer because you use much less.

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 05-30-2012, 06:57 PM
#16
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Jerry, the trap to avoid with soft water IS using less product IMO. But I agree, one can use an amazingly small amount of soap if the goal is to stretch the resources.

I think the biggest benefit to sift water is just having the ability to easily lather most anything.

The lather is a tool that must have enough solids to lubricate, protect, and get rid of the cutoffs. Using less reduces the quality of the lather IMO, and if using extremely less can make the lather fall flat. All it takes is just one more dip of the tip of the brush into the water then a return to lathering. Try it with your soft water to understand what I mean. Deliberately just use a very light brush loading.

In the end, soap is really cheap, so I don't try to save $ there. But that's me. I'm a frugal Yankee, but the goal of the job is a great shave, and whatever it takes to get that done (great shave) is the most frugal use of the resources IMO. I don't want to even come close to "spending" my skin to remove whiskers, I'm very frugal with that.

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 06-15-2012, 04:46 PM
#17
  • MWS
  • Ex-Lurker
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Quote:"Boy, do we have it good here in Vancouver! We have the softest water you could imagine! Easily builds lather instantly with any soap! i look forward to the challenge of using hard water this June when i go to Ontario to visit the folks. Good luck to you gentlemen!"

I do enjoy those Vancouver shaves...here in Toronto I use a bottle of distilled water and it makes all the difference. Make sure to pick up a small bottle while you're here.

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