Dealing with Denmark: Hard water in Copenhagen

Moving to a different country (or city, for that matter) requires a bit of adapting: to local peculiarities, culture, customs, traditions… but also to seemingly small and insignificant things like the omnipresent white residue on all faucets and appliances and the fact that your hair inexplicably turned into a dry, stubborn mess that looks more like a bird’s nest than the soft, shiny waves you used to have. At least that’s what I found myself with (minus the previously shiny waves, my hair has always been a bit of a mess!). And the reason? Simple. The water in Copenhagen is extremely hard, as the map below nicely shows – yellow is very soft, pink is very hard.

Source: GEUS.dk

What is hard water?

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Hard water simply has a high concentration of minerals. Water hardness can vary regionally (see map!) and is dependent on factors like the water source and the geological makeup of the area.

What are the effects of hard water?

As described, hard water can lead to limescale buildup, which is most easily visible as the white hard residue on appliances, faucets and dark tiles. It can also build up in pipes, for example in your washing machine or dishwasher. Some people experience dry skin or dry hair and scalp. This is mainly because the water will leave behind some mineral residue in your hair, which makes it all dry and frizzy. It is generally not considered dangerous or unhealthy to drink hard water.

What can I do against hard water?

For cleaning purposes, there are quite a few special cleaners you can buy against “kalk”, as it is called in Danish. Some of these work better than others, I find this one works alright. I would recommend that you buy special tabs for your dishwasher and washing machines, which will help keep the pipes clear from limescale buildup (like this one). A really great household remedy is – vinegar! I have successfully used vinegar to remove limescale from kitchen appliances, such as an electric water kettle, or the water tank of my Nespresso machine. Use a couple of spoonfuls of vinegar mixed with water for best results. Our showerhead sometimes gets clogged by limescale, so I let it soak overnight in a vinegar-water-mix, and it is as new the next day.

Before and after the vinegar treatment
Before and after the vinegar treatment

Some people also recommend vinegar rinses for your hair and skin. I’ve tried a vinegar rinse for my hair once, and apart from the fact that – of course – I poured it in my eye and my hair smelled like a greek salad, I didn’t actually see a great effect. To be fair, the smell vanishes once the hair is dry, but until then it’s pretty scary! I’ve also read about using lemon juice or just plain bottled water for rinses, but for now I’m sticking with a hair mask that I apply for a couple of minutes after every wash.

Finally, if you are really desperate, you can also buy water softeners that can be attached directly to your shower head.

How are you dealing with the hard water in Copenhagen? Do you have any special tips and tricks?

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21 thoughts on “Dealing with Denmark: Hard water in Copenhagen”

  • Yes! and I live in Amager. I read the other day that Brøndby Kommune is making a trial to de-harding water (is that even a word?) directly from the water work before the distribution and I don’t know why København Kommune is not making the same effort. Hard water cost a lot of money, appliances that go bust and so on.

    For me, it’s a huge problem especially because I live in Amager, the hardest water you can find in Copenhagen is here. I do wash my hair with vinegar once in awhile and I do feel the effect, but I also install shower filter too :)

    • That sounds like such a good idea – agree that Copenhagen should look into that as well! I thought things were bad when I moved to Frankfurt, where they have pretty hard water, but this tops everything I’ve seen. I might actually consider a shower filter, too!

  • Ugh, the hard water! Although you look like you have it worse in Copenhagen than we do in Aarhus. I don’t have a problem with my hair, but it’s just a pain to clean off the faucets etc. I just use a de-kalk cleaner, which I guess works OK. But I’m thinking of switching to vinegar. I’ve heard those little balloon things that you can fill with cleaner and attach to your sick/bathroom faucet are really helpful to soak those tricky-to-clean places.

    • Lucky you, but I have naturally dry hair, so it probably got worse due to that. I’ve seen those balloon thingies, too, smart idea! For our kitchen faucet, we can actually twist off the top part, so that helps with the cleaning!

  • Ooh I’ve never thought of soaking the shower head all night! Great tip. I also find vinegar does a fine job. I’ll have to find the balloon things though, what a great idea!

  • London equally has “very hard” water. I always get a shock when I travel somewhere and end up with ridiculously baby-soft hair, and then have to use more product to roughen it up again!

  • Where I work has its own water system and it is brutal! The hot water tap on the side of the coffee maker has to be changed out every few months, because the scaling builds up so much the water is reduced to a trickle.

  • so, hard water can ruin appliances but “it’s not usually considered dangerous for health”. I’m still drinking tap water in Copenhagen, but everyday I wonder how the minerals build up in my body, and whether my kidneys will stop working at some point… any further comments on consumption?

  • Was interested in the GEUS map you use and wants to share some helpful stuff.

    When using vinegar for hair-rinse, just use 1-2 tablespoons for a small bowl of cold-temperate water and rinse with that. This is enough to have an effect. For some reason cold water works best. I use apple vinegar as I was recommended this myself and it has a more acceptable smell, but also more expensive. Just leave it for a couple of minutes and then rinse with cold-temperate water, and its all gone anyway.

    Apart from removing excess calcium (“kalk”), the vinegar also has the good effect to neutralize and remove excess shampoo soaps. Many people have itchy scalps, and rashes because of soap residues, even dandruff. That was the reason I got into this vinegar-rinse habit in the first place. And it works! Having thought about it, would anyone ever wash their clothes, without adding a softener afterwards? So why would you wash your hair without it? Softeners basically removes soap residues and this is how the vinegar rinse works. And if you wants to save your money, you could equally well put vinegar in your washing machine, instead of the often very expensive (and polluting) softeners on sale. Just a small amount of course.

  • Hej Laura,

    I’ve just moved to Copenhagen from Sydney and this is my first experience with hard water! Your post was very helpful. Do you know of any effective and affordable household water filters for drinking water? I realise that the minerals aren’t bad for us to drink, but there’s something really offputting about scum floating on the top of my tea :(

    • Hej Alyson, welcome to Copenhagen! Back in Germany, I used to have a Brita water filter for drinking water, the carafes are actually quite nice and fit in a fridge door. Now I mostly drink sparkling water, so I don’t have one anymore.

  • Do you have any recommendations with dealing with hard water in showers? Such good filtered shower heads or water softeners?

    • Hi Kayla, I know that you can buy shower heads with built-in water filters, but I haven’t tried this myself, so wouldn’t be able to recommend any – sorry!

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