How To Care for Hair When You Have Well Water
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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.
I’m on well water too and immediately invested in a water softener. My hair always comes out silky soft now!
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!
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.
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!
Forgot to ask— where did that adorable leopard hair clip come from?!?
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?
Don’t y’all have a whole home filtration system as well? How does that play into the hair situation?
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.
Hi Kate! Do you have a water filtration system?
Yes we do!
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.
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.
That’s interesting because my curly hair prefers well water!
If you don’t have one, you might look into a water softener. It helps 🙂
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!
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
Just any shampoo or conditioner!
Thank you, Kate!!!!! Have a wonderful weekend! Also, Placed an order yesterday for the Aquabliss water filter, and cannot wait to get it!!!!!
I hope it helps!
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
Most houses in the country have wells. Also, you don’t sound dumb. 🙂
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
It’s called Function of Beauty!
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 🙁
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!
What shower head filter did you purchase and where from? Thanks!
It’s linked in the post!
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!
Sorry about that! It is the Aqua Bliss!
Thanks a million!
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.
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!!
I LOVE your curls in this picture. What size wand did you use?
Can you share a link for the clip? Love it!
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.
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!!
It’s just whatever you prefer. I usually use them once a week.
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!
What brand shower head filter did you use?
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.
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! 🙂
Brianna, you need a whole home water filtration system with a charcoal filter. You can get a cheap housing system that you hook up directly to your water line in the house, or even at the well.
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. 🙂
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
Thank you so much for this!!! I live in Apex and the well water is ruining my color! Happy to know it’s a real battle and that I’m not the only one!
I think a whole LOT depends on what is in your well water — hard minerals and what type – iron, manganese, (seem to yellow my white hair), sulpher, calcium. I don’t understand the slime effect some of you speak of – so that must be some mineral not in our water source. We just got a shower head attachment to filter there — after pricing out how and where we’d put an entire house. Since the well also feeds the outside water spigots – no point in softening gardening water, right? We have heavy mineral filter at the well source, mini filters on some of the taps, reverse osmosis type, and of course the fridge water has its own. We’re thinking it’s past time to replace the media in the heavy mineral filter. The purple shampoos have a wide spectrum of how they work and what they deposit themselves. A clarifying shampoo certainly would strip buildup – but that also seems too drying to my thick hair – makes it pouffy and hard to smooth. You’re spot on that leaving a trace of conditioner is helpful to soft managable hair.
Hi thank you for your article was very helpful. Since I moved to my uncles my hair and skin have been horrible my skin is so dry as well. I’m interested in the filter you were talking about to attach on the shower head where can I purchase it? And how long did it last before you had to get a new one?
Hello! I’m also new to the well water life… I’m not a natural blonde, more of a dirty blonde and I’m trying to figure out how to maintain my platinum hair color with well water… will clarifying shampoo strip my color??? I do use purple shampoo & yes we have a softener now. Im about to go back full platinum so looking for tips and good product recommendations!!
Nice Blog! I recently moved into a home with well water and instantly seen a change in my hair. My hair feels stripped from all of its oils and coming across this has given me hopes of feeling comfortable at home! Thank you.
I feel you. Well water is the worst. I had it growing up and my natural level 8 blonde turned auburn from the iron. When I got married I had city water for 6 years then we moved to a house with well water. No iron but calcium this time. I have a filter and a softener but it’s not good enough. I feel like the residual salt in the water makes my hair fuzzy, darker and flat. I go to Planet Fitness 4 or 5 days a week to wash in city water. I don’t even work out..just a shower. I have heard great things about Kinetico. It was recommended by my plumber brother but they are about $4,000 so we cheaped out on a different one for $1800 and I haven’t been happy with it. So Planet Fitness it is.
Hi Kate! So glad I found your blog! I am an older redhead and my hair is one big knot since moving to a home with well water 😫. Any advice on detangling? My niece suggested Miracle 10?
Thanks Kate! I can’t even wear my hair down anymore wah waa 🙄😉
I’m looking into getting a filter for my shower head i’ve used well water almost all my life and i did not know until recently it’s not good for your hair. My hair is pretty dry and frizzy and not how i would like my hair to be i do also color my hair occasionally but it does fade pretty quick. what kind of shower head filter did you buy? And do you have any more tips?
I live in Clayton NC and we moved into my hose 3 years ago. I shocked my hairdresser a while back with what she called “old smoker man” yellow hair. So I started using a purple shampoo and conditioner once a week.
Fast forward to this January and my hair is dramatically breaking off. I didn’t realize it because it was in the back and I have thin hair. We decided I’d talk with my dr and have bloodwork drawn. I was very low on B and D so started supplements right away. 6 weeks later she’s noticing the hair breakage is getting worse and had to cut a lot more hair off to try and blend with the damaged hair.
I’be also started letting my gray hair glow out so the coloring has been minimal lately.
Thank you for the tips. I purchased the shower head today and am also going to start the apple cider vinegar treatment today. Fingers crossed it helps.
I am wondering what shower head you purchased? What would I search to fix the right one to remove brass from well water? Thank you so much. Our situations are the same and I’m desperate for my pretty blonde back 🙁 I hate this so far!