How To Care for Hair When You Have Well Water



When we moved last summer, we moved into a house with well water. This was going to be the first time I lived in a place with a well. Prior to that, we were on city water.

My only other experience with well water was at my parents’ lake house in Wisconsin, but that was never a place I permanently lived so I didn’t spend a great deal of time focusing on it.

I did, though, always hate how my hair felt and styled when I would stay at my folks’ place. And in fact, my sister got married there so we actually washed her hair with purified bottled water for her wedding day in order to make sure it wasn’t too weighed down or “soft” from the well water!

When we moved into our house last year, I anticipated having to adjust my hair care routine in order to compensate for the completely different water I was going to be using. We’re going on nearly a year of residing here, so I wanted to share a bit about what I’ve learned in case you are in this situation as well!

Why is well water perceived as bad? 

Well water in itself isn’t bad, but for the sake of this post, I’m focusing on well water in regards to washing your hair. Generally, city water is more filtered than well water, so when it comes to washing, styling, or maintaining hair color, well water can dramatically affect it.

What negatively happens to hair when washed with well water?

For most people, any lighter hair color (anywhere from the lightest blonde to even the lightest brown) can develop a yellowish, brassy tint from well water. This is generally an undesired tone on most, so it’s important to talk to your stylist about how to combat this at home. There are hair color toners that help counteract the brassiness, or even full shampoo and conditioner sets designed to cut yellow tones. One of my favorite products to use are the IGK Mixed Feelings Leave-in Blonde drops.

Well water can also make your hair feel heavy like there is a layer of extra *stuff* on it. A good purifying shampoo will help remove extra chemical build-up, but make sure you choose one that isn’t too harsh on any coloring you do to your hair. Drybar On the Rocks Clarifying shampoo won’t strip hair color and is a gentle clarifying option. Virtue Refresh Purifying shampoo is another great option that always makes my hair feel lighter than air!

Well water can also make your hair overly dry or coarse because it tricks you into over-rinsing.  When you’re rinsing the conditioner out of your hair, it’s ideal to leave a tiny bit behind to “coat” the hair with the product. With well water, it feels like you need to keep rinsing since the water can sometimes feel slimy (this can be tweaked with a water softener) but you will actually rinse out too much.

What have I had success with?

I bought a $35 shower head filter that attaches right on to the pipe coming out from the wall. I noticed a very quick difference in how smooth my hair felt. I also noticed less frizz! My hair still felt a little weighed down but in general, I would say that the shower head makes a noticeable difference!

Using a purifying or clarifying shampoo at least once a week has made a difference in the “lightness” (as in volume, not color) of my hair. I also alternate between using a volumizing shampoo and a purple shampoo. The volumizing shampoo would be my choice if I had city water, but the purple shampoo helps cut brassiness.

When I’m able, I wash my hair at the gym. Even occasionally washing my hair with city water helps prevent the build-up from coming back. Before Coronavirus happened I was washing my hair at the gym twice a week. Since I haven’t been to the gym, I’ve just been washing at home and that’s been fine. I do miss the clean feeling I get from washing with city water though!

If I could choose, I would love to still be using city water, but since that isn’t an option, I’m making do with what I’ve got.

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Comments (47)

  1. Angela says
    Posted May 27, 2020

    I’m on well water too and immediately invested in a water softener. My hair always comes out silky soft now!

  2. Sadie says
    Posted May 27, 2020

    Thanks Kate. This is a great article. I too have well water and know little about it . . . nor do any of my friends have well water. You have some great tips and knowledge on this subject . . . very helpful!

  3. Tara says
    Posted May 27, 2020

    I grew up on well water without a softener, and everything you said is totally true. Since I left for college in 2002, I’ve always been on city water until several months ago when we moved to a house with a well. I’m a realtor and had several clients tell me over the years how fantastic their Kinetico water softener/filter is. They were 100% right. I noticed a difference even between that and the other softener that was there. It’s pretty pricey, but there’s definitely a difference.. If you have the option for that sometime, I highly recommend it to anyone with a well.

    • Kara says
      Posted May 28, 2020

      I’ve always been on city water but we just bought a new house in October and have a well now. I wonder if this has anything to do with my hair never wanting to hold a curl anymore. Interesting!

  4. Tara says
    Posted May 27, 2020

    Forgot to ask— where did that adorable leopard hair clip come from?!?

  5. Michele says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    I’ve always (save for the 2.5 years I had city water) had well water and never thought I could be doing it better. We have a water softener, but since I don’t have colored hair (just my natural brown), is there anything you’d recommend as far as shampoos or conditioners for maintaining volume, or just the clarifying shampoo?

  6. Andrea says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    Don’t y’all have a whole home filtration system as well? How does that play into the hair situation?

    • Kate says
      Posted May 28, 2020

      We do! We needed to have it adjusted since we moved in but I had already gotten the shower head filter before we fixed the efficiency of our softener.

  7. Mallory Horne says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    Hi Kate! Do you have a water filtration system?

    • Kate says
      Posted May 28, 2020

      Yes we do!

  8. Kadie says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    Thanks for this post! This is something I have struggled with lots of times in the past. Currently, I am on a well but it’s an artesian well with beautiful spring water, but when I visit my parents they are on well water and I hate taking a shower there for these exact reasons! My hairs not dyed but still, I hate the slimy water and feeling that there is still shampoo or conditioner especially in my hair. I will keep this stuff in mind next time I’m there.

  9. Natalie says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    My mother in law let her hair go grey naturally, but their well water turns the front part yellow a few inches from the roots and down. (noticeable difference from the rest) I can’t wait to share this with her.

  10. Ashley Brown says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    That’s interesting because my curly hair prefers well water!

  11. Katy Wehmeyer says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    If you don’t have one, you might look into a water softener. It helps 🙂

  12. Cyndi says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    We moved from one city water system to another and found a huge difference. Back when you mentioned installing the shower filter, I bought one also and have been really pleased with the result. Thanks for all of your tips!

  13. Annie Robins says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    Kate, Great article and thank you so much! I am someone who has dealt with this issue most of my life, as I grew up in a lovely small town but everyone has well water here! I have a question for you….what product do you use when you add the IDK blonde drops???? Thank you, kindly

    • Kate says
      Posted May 28, 2020

      Just any shampoo or conditioner!

      • Annie Davis says
        Posted May 29, 2020

        Thank you, Kate!!!!! Have a wonderful weekend! Also, Placed an order yesterday for the Aquabliss water filter, and cannot wait to get it!!!!!

        • Kate says
          Posted May 29, 2020

          I hope it helps!

  14. Posted May 28, 2020

    That’s so interesting – I sound so dumb but I didn’t know there were places with ‘well water’ haha! Your hair looks great! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • Laura says
      Posted June 11, 2020

      Most houses in the country have wells. Also, you don’t sound dumb. 🙂

  15. Sheila says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    A few weeks ago you mentioned a personalized shampoo and conditioner. You could pick and choose concerning your own personal hair issues and then they would give you your own mix. Is this what you use? I don’t have well water but we do have hard water and my stylist always mentions the brassiness in my hair. What do you use for volume

    • Kate says
      Posted May 29, 2020

      It’s called Function of Beauty!

  16. Tiffany says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    Is well water the same as hard water? I am currently struggling with the water at my house. When washing, as soon as the water hits my hair it feels extremely dry/straw like! I bought a shower head filter through amazon and still don’t feel a difference 🙁

    • Kate says
      Posted May 29, 2020

      No, well water comes from a well. City water comes from the city. You may have hard city water! If you have a water bill, you have city water. You could still try a softener!

  17. Kimberly says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    What shower head filter did you purchase and where from? Thanks!

    • Kate says
      Posted May 29, 2020

      It’s linked in the post!

      • Alyssa says
        Posted October 13, 2020

        Hey Kate…the shower head link isn’t working (just me?). Can you repost or give name of then shower head? We have well water and my processed head is brassy, dry, and breakage! SOS!

        • Kate says
          Posted October 14, 2020

          Sorry about that! It is the Aqua Bliss!

          • Alyssa Jones says
            Posted October 14, 2020

            Thanks a million!

  18. Kristine says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    What!! I’m 34 and have lived with well water for a majority of my life and I am JUST now realizing how well water plays a part in the condition of my hair. 😬 although we do have a water softener.

  19. Heather Sam says
    Posted May 28, 2020

    Thank you this is helpful! We bought a house with well water about a year ago as well. My hair was in great shape prior to the move and a cool blonde color. Now it is hard to keep the brass out despite using purple shampoo once a week. I tried the shower heard but I did not see a noticeable difference. After I use conditioner and rinse maybe rinsing too much it’s course and hard to comb through. I’m going to try a purifying shampoo and try not to wash all the conditioner out and see if this makes a difference. I’ve been looking for hair care with well water on the internet for months and found nothing really. Thank you so much!!

  20. Mikelle says
    Posted May 30, 2020

    I LOVE your curls in this picture. What size wand did you use?

  21. Leigh Moore says
    Posted May 30, 2020

    Can you share a link for the clip? Love it!

  22. Katherine says
    Posted May 30, 2020

    Yes! Thank you for this post. I struggle with my highlights on well water. I bought the shower head this winter and at the same time started a purifying shampoo weekly and blonde shampoo weekly. I’ve also started washing every 2-3 days. What gets me is the next day re-style. I feel like I am damaging my hair.

  23. Whitney says
    Posted May 30, 2020

    Do you use the drops with every wash? For me, that’s every other day. I can’t really find that information, just the actual dosing on drops. Can’t wait to try them!!

    • Kate says
      Posted May 31, 2020

      It’s just whatever you prefer. I usually use them once a week.

  24. Shauna O’Reilly says
    Posted May 31, 2020

    I am In the same boat!! I miss city water for this reason. I bought the filter you suggested maybe last year right after you got it and I LOVE it. It has definitely made a huge difference.
    Thanks for the recommendation!

  25. Cherene Donaldson says
    Posted May 31, 2020

    What brand shower head filter did you use?

  26. JenBC says
    Posted May 31, 2020

    Thank you so much for this post. I hadn’t put two and two together yet since we just bought our lake house last fall. Initially, I thought it was because I am transitioning to my gray color from my colored blonde and thought that was the major difference. However, we stayed there throughout most of the Pandemic so I really started seeing a difference in my hair. I will implement the things you suggested.

  27. Brianna says
    Posted June 5, 2020

    Glad to know I’m not the only one with this problem! I’ve lived in a house with well water for 10 years and, as someone with highlighted blonde hair, it has been the bane of my existence. I’ve tried EVERYTHING to get rid of the brassiness – a shower filter, malibus, toners, purple shampoos, clarifying shampoos, and even iron-out softener salt (I do have a softener). Nothing has made a noticeable difference for me, so I finally started washing my hair with bottled water a few months ago. Finally the orange is disappearing! It’s a hassle and I have to choose iron-free water over soft water, but for anyone who’s as desperate as I am, it works! 🙂

  28. K olson says
    Posted November 3, 2020

    Ladies, Sally’s sell a product in a packet to remove iron from your hair. It’s a purple packet. you mix it with 2 oz of water and it’s best with 10 minutes with a shower cap under a dryer or improvise. You blonde with be bright and tresses light and airy.
    I never liked water softeners as they weigh my hair down.
    I have done the gym Idea too. Blonde hair loves a little chlorine. 🙂

  29. Stephanie says
    Posted February 28, 2021

    Thank you for your suggestions. I am in my 60’s and have had city water my whole life. We moved to a condo that has well water and I hate it, and we have a water softener to boot. I have thick coarse Italian hair to start and it’s always been the one thing I loved about myself. I had beautiful hair. Always felt soft and never tangled. Since I’ve lived here this past year my hair feels like straw no matter what I do. I knew it had to do with the well water but I also thought it had a lot to do with my hair just getting old. We just got back from a two week vacation in Hilton Head South Carolina and my hair is back to what it once was, soft and not dried out like straw! Now I know the problem is the water here! I wash my hair every other day if not every two days, so tomorrow is wash hair day and I am dreading getting into the shower! We do have osmosis water so I’m thinking about saving containers of that and heating it and washing my hair in the sink . LOL I am that desperate. That may become a problem when it’s time to color though! Anyways I wanted you to know a few of your ideas helped, thanks much!

  30. Kimberly says
    Posted May 7, 2021

    This is very helpful—thank you so much!! The well water at our new house is driving us crazy with the way it affects our daughter’s long hair!

  31. Wendy says
    Posted May 7, 2021

    I grew up on well water and when I got married, still had well water. IV always had blond hair and always combating brassy color. My hairdresser mentioned about well water snd told me about the filter. Got one on Amazon- game changer! Told my mother in law about it as her gray hair yellowed- and she has a filter now too. Sorry I didn’t know about that 20 years ago. Thank you for making people aware.

  32. Posted May 13, 2021

    Thanks for writing this! I live on a farm with well water. I was at my hair salon last night and was saying how my hair color gets drab so quickly.

  33. Tiffany says
    Posted May 20, 2021

    Does anyone know anything about well water (high iron) and highlights? I highlighted my hair back in January 2021, and somewhere back in October, we had our well tested, it stirred the well and now everything is covered in Iron, (ick). My hair since the highlights has been breaking a lot, it used to be all one length but now it’s not 🙁 I never had this problem as I’ve had city water my whole life, never had breakage. Does anyone know, is that a “thing”? High iron plus highlights = breakage?