Water: Water, especially warm water, is an excellent cleansing agent. Although it loosens dirt, it should always be used sparingly and wiped off at one, it should never be allowed to stand on floors, walls, furniture, or wood trim, or soak into seams and cracks. Certain minerals make water “hard” and react with soap, forming a scum or film of insoluble lime. It is tough to rinse this scum from fabrics, and hard surfaces need to be cleaned and rubbed to get it off. It is not so necessary, however, to soften water for scrubbing and washing hard surfaces as for cleaning fabrics.
As long as substances remain dissolved in water, they are not likely to interfere with successful laundering. Materials not soluble in water may be deposited on the clothes as unsightly specks and spots. These may come from the sediment stirred up from the bottom of the tub or the scum formed by the hardness of the water. Filtration and softening are remedies when such conditions exist.
Often objectionable material can be easily filtered out, either with or without previous setting. Allowing the water to stand overnight is particularly useful in case it contains suspended iron compounds, or fastening a salt sack over the spout of the faucet or pump may solve the immediate problem. If the condition is severe, filters of charcoal, sand, and such materials may be worth installing.
Water softener: Soap will remove calcium and magnesium compounds by forming a scum that can be strained off. However, this is a wasteful and expensive method of softening water, and the scum ‘s hard to remove actually.
Trisodium phosphate, borax, and ammonia solution can also be used for softening water. Ammonia is a gas that is bought dissolved in water. So-called household ammonia is often very week solution, and a high price is paid or the water and the bottle. It is sometimes more economical to buy concentrated ammonia solution at a druggist and dilute it according to need. This should be done carefully and out of doors, however, as concentrated ammonia solutions are unpleasant to handle.
The great difficulty in using these methods is determining the quantity of softening agent required. It can not be done accurately without knowing the degree of hardness of the water. The addition of too little washing soda or another softening agent for the amount of hardness does not remove it all, whereas the addition of too much renders the water more alkaline than may be advisable. Accurate determinations of hardness are made at all water laboratories, and from their result calculations of the correct amount needed can be done. However, the following method will give a general idea of the condition of the water.
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Make a solution of a suitable neutral soap in denatured or wood alcohol. It should be as strong as it is possible to make it without a jelly forming upon standing. Fill a small glass bottle about half full of water. Fit it with a tight cork or stopper and mark off the level of the surface of the water by scratching the glass lightly with a file or by using a label. Add the soap solution drop by drop (counting the drops). When the bottle is shaken violently and placed upon its side, the suds from an entire layer over the top of the peat until the exact number of drops necessary to form the suds has been determined, being careful to use the same quantity of water each time. Compare the number of soap needed with that required for producing similar suds with fresh rain water. Vary the amount of softening agent used each week per tub of water and repeat the above test. When the softened water requires no more soap than the rain water, record the quantity of softening agent placed in each tub of water and after that add the same amount.