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8 Best Shampoos for Hard Water Buildup

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Depending on where you live and what the public water system is like, hard water can be a real issue when it comes to daily wear and tear on your hair (say that three times fast!). If you live in an area that has hard water on tap, you’re probably already aware of it—whether you keep hearing people talk about it or can actually feel the difference on your hair and skin after taking a shower.

But the good news is, you can remedy this situation without having to move cities. For starters, you can get a new shower head filter that helps soften your water. You can also make changes to your shampoo and conditioner to make sure you’re truly getting rid of the hard water mineral buildup in your hair. The key is picking up a clarifying shampoo and looking out for ingredients like apple cider vinegar and EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), which helps manage and treat heavy metal toxicity (which is basically what hard water is!). Read below for our fave clarifying shampoo formulas to fight the effects of hard water.

1. Best Hard-Water Shampoo for Thin Hair:

JVN Embody Volumizing Shampoo

JVN Embody Volumizing Shampoo
Courtesy of JVN

Hard water buildup can affect your hair’s color, texture, and can even make it more prone to split ends and breakage. This can cause even more damage if your hair is already thin to begin with. Pick up this thickening shampoo from JVN that helps volumize and clarify at the same time. It even helps to add moisture back into the hair without weighing it down, thanks to ingredients like hemisqualane to improve hair’s health and strength and caffeine, which helps stimulate the scalp.

2. Best Hard-Water Shampoo for Blondes:

PAUL MITCHELL Shampoo Three

PAUL MITCHELL Shampoo Three
Courtesy of PAUL MITCHELL

When you have lighter toned hair, you’re prone to discoloration, and things like hard water and chlorine can add to that. Keep your hair free of mineral buildup and chlorine from your summer activities, thanks to the inclusion of EDTA and Trisodium HEDTA, which helps to remove heavy metals and toxins from the hair, root to tip.

3. Best Drugstore Shampoo for Hard Water:

SUNBUM Detox Shampoo

SUNBUM Detox Shampoo
Courtesy of SUNBUM

This shampoo pulls double duty by cleansing hair from hard water, mineral, and salt buildup and also adding moisture back into the hair at the same time. Thanks to apple cider vinegar and cacao, hair will be gently cleansed while reducing frizz and helping to improve split ends. The inclusion of blue agave helps to replenish any lost moisture.

4. Best Hard-Water Shampoo for All Hair Types:

MALIBU C Hard Water Wellness® Shampoo

MALIBU C Hard Water Wellness® Shampoo
Courtesy of MALIBU C

This shampoo has hard water in the name, so it’s a great place to start and it’s suitable for all hair types and colors. This vegan, eco-friendly shampoo helps cleanse hair without damaging it and helps to remove any discoloration in the hair that was caused by iron and copper. This gentle formula also contains antioxidants, which, just like for your skin, helps to protect hair from future UV or environmental damage it encounters by being outside.

5. Best Hard-Water Shampoo for Curls:

OUIDAD Water Works Clarifying Shampoo

OUIDAD Water Works Clarifying Shampoo
Courtesy of OUIDAD

You might come across the term “chelating” while searching for a hard water removal shampoo. Chelating agents are chemical compounds that bind to metal ions and help break them down (aka removes hard water buildup in your hair). This chelating formula uses fruit extracts like lemon, grapefruit, and orange to gently remove buildup. Camellia extract helps replenish moisture in curly hair so your style never suffers.

6. Best Hard-Water Shampoo for Color Treated Hair:

ION Hard Water Shampoo

ION Hard Water Shampoo
Courtesy of SALLY BEAUTY

Some signs you might need a hair refresh from hard water buildup? Besides brittle hair and breakage, look out for extremely greasy hair, dull color, and extra frizz. This shampoo from ION is color-safe, so whether you just want to keep the luster of your natural hair or want to preserve your dye job, this is a great option. It contains ascorbic acid, which is an antioxidant that protects hair from future damage.

7. Best Overall:

HELLO KLEAN Hard Water Shampoo

HELLO KLEAN Hard Water Shampoo
Courtesy of HELLO KLEAN

The combo of bamboo charcoal and vitamin C helps to gently break down and draw out toxic metals from your hair at the root. Lactic acid helps to repair the hair while also strengthening it and finally, oat proteins help to restore shine in previously lackluster hair. You may know hyaluronic acid as a moisture-boosting agent in your skincare, and the inclusion of it in this shampoo helps to do the same with dried out strands.

8. Best Hard-Water Shampoo for Thick Hair:

OUAI Detox Shampoo

OUAI Detox Shampoo
Courtesy of OUAI

Thick hair tends to dry out easily, so opting for a sulfate-free shampoo can help. This will help your hair retain its natural oils. OUAI’s Detox Shampoo is sulfate-, cruelty-, and paraben-free. It also contains apple cider vinegar to gently cleanse buildup and keratin to repair the strength of the hair follicles. Use it one to two times a week to keep hair looking its best against hard water.

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About the author
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Brittany Leitner
Brittany is an award winning beauty, health, and lifestyle writer and author of the poetry book "23 Emotions." She has eight years of experience writing for brands like Elite Daily, The. Dr. Oz Show, Shape, Stylecaster, Bustle, and more.
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Article Last Updated August 7, 2023 12:00 AM