Friday, November 03, 2006

Why doesn't my hair feel clean when I rinse it with soft water?

Who's asking: Again, Anna Bragdon

Hard water is water with dissolved minerals in it; soft water is cleaner and purer, without these minerals. Soft water rinses cleaner and doesn't leave mineral deposits behind, which is why people with hard water and dishwashers often add something to the rinse water so their glasses aren't spotted. Soap lathers better in soft water, and soft water doesn't leave any residue behind on your skin or hair.

So it's counterintuitive that many people used to hard water, like Anna, say they don't feel as clean after a shower with soft water. It happens for a couple of reasons.

The first may be that people used to hard water habitually use more shampoo and soap, because it doesn't lather as well. It takes longer to rinse clean because you're using more soap than you really need.

The second is simply that human skin and hair are naturally oily. Hard water washes these oils away, requiring us to replace them with conditioner and moisturizer, but if we used soft water we might not need so much of those, either.

The reading list is short this week because I'm swamped with clients' manuscripts. Since I missed it Wednesday, here's an abbreviated random iPod list to make up for it:

"It's Going to Take Some Time," Dishwalla. This is from If I Were a Carpenter, a brilliant album of Carpenters covers.

"Marrakesh Express," Crosby, Stills & Nash. I'll get to Morocco someday.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana. I should make a CD now of the songs I will still want to listen to when I'm 80. This would be on it, and that does not embarrass me at all.

"I May Be Wrong," Hoagy Carmichael. This song was on the CD Brian & Scott gave out at their wedding reception last weekend. "I may be wrong, but I think you're wonderful..."

"Maybe it's Imaginary," Kirsty MacColl. This CD (Electric Landlady) did not leave my CD player for more than a year; it disappeared mysteriously, and I've only recently replaced it. Now it's in heavy rotation on my iTunes.

What I Read This Week

Sean Doolittle, The Cleanup. Last year's Rain Dogs was one of those books that made me excited to read the author's next work, because he was obviously sharpening his skills for something great. The Cleanup more than delivers on that promise; it is a realistic, compassionate, absolutely gripping thriller in the very best noir tradition. Disgraced, recently-divorced cop Matt Worth has been busted down to night patrol at an Omaha supermarket. The only bright spot in his world is Gwen, a quiet, pretty checkout girl who often has bruises she won't explain. One night Gwen tells Matt she needs to show him something. First she shows him the evidence of a near-fatal beating -- and then she shows him the dead body of the man who did it. Matt decides that Gwen won't pay for this crime, and takes it on himself to dispose of the body and the corpse's car. What Matt doesn't know is that the car contains something a lot of people want very badly. Doolittle lays out a complex plot so clearly he could be an architect, and every character rings true. Bravo.

Stephen King, Lisey's Story. This book is getting the most mixed and vehement reviews of King's long career, and I understand why; it's not his usual fare, and yet it's so unmistakably King's work that shallow people don't know what to make of it. Lisey Landon is the widow of bestselling, award-winning author Scott Landon, and left with the responsibility of sorting out and giving away the overwhelming contents of his office. The people who want Scott's papers are getting more and more aggressive, and one of them is outright deranged. As Lisey fights him off and deals with her own sister's mental collapse, she draws on her memories of life with Scott for strength and guidance -- even though some of those memories are frightening, and some seem downright insane. Lisey's Story is a powerfully intimate book about marriage and imagination, a brave gift from a writer who's never gotten the respect he deserves.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Anna just doesn't feel clean in her bathroom and this is her round-about way of pointing out I didn't clean it this time. Sorry to have let you down--no more personal hygiene questions for the answergirl, ok?

Anna said...

It wasn't so much that I didn't feel clean, Sue, it was that I felt like the shampoo took forever to wash out of my hair. However, you are right that you didn't clean my bathroom last time you were here. But if you buy me that nice car seat on my registry, I'll forgive you :-)

Anonymous said...

After scouring the internet for the answer to this question (and coming across your blog in the process!) I believe I have found a much more concrete explanation. Despite water softener manufacturer's claims, the slippery feeling is NOT skin oils, it is the soap that is not rinsing off. The chemistry behind this is explained by a chemistry professor here:

I am now doing whatever I can to dispel the myth of "better cleaning" soft water wherever I find it. Cheers!