The 7 Best Shampoos For Hard Water

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When the water out of your tap is saturated with minerals, finding the best shampoo for hard water can be difficult. Those deposits of mostly magnesium and calcium can lead to dry, dull hair and discoloration for those with lighter tones.

While the limescale buildup and soap that doesn't foam up much aren't fun, hard water isn't dangerous. However, those minerals can pile up in your hair, often leaving it flat and brittle. "The most effective way to combat hard water buildup is to use a clarifying shampoo as often as recommended by your stylist," says Tammy Cox, a color ambassador for Z.one Concept North America, but she wants to emphasize that what's recommended "is always on a person-to-person basis and depends how much mineral buildup is in the strand."

Key ingredients to look for in a clarifying shampoo (aka a "chelating" shampoo)? Various forms of EDTA are tried-and-true chelating agents, while apple cider vinegar is a great natural alternative that can be gentler on color.

No matter what you choose, since clarifying shampoos strip hair by design, they can also be drying, so don't forget to follow up with a heavy-duty conditioner or a nourishing hair mask. Cox suggests applying the treatments, gently combing through, and waiting five minutes before rinsing.

While some choose steps like installing a filtering shower head or a water softener to deal with their hard water, you certainly don't need to for great hair. Read on for our seven picks for the best shampoos that will keep your strands shiny and full of volume even in the face of hard water — whether you have dry, oily, or color-treated hair.

1. The Best Overall Shampoo For Hard Water

Kenra Clarifying Shampoo, 10.1 Fl. Oz.

$12

Amazon

This shampoo has earned raves on Amazon for its ability to remove mineral and product buildup without drying out hair and works for a variety of types including oily, dry, and curly. Reasonably priced and effective, this is our pick for best all-around performer when it comes to undoing the damage caused by hard water.

The formula is sodium lauryl sulfate–free and includes moisturizing aloe and wheat protein. Grapefruit and witch hazel extracts clarify naturally and leave a light, pleasant citrus scent. Word of caution: Since this has strong EDTA agents, it's not recommended more than once a week for color-treated hair.

2. The Best Choice For Sensitive Scalps

Milk_shake Deep Cleansing Shampoo, 10.1 Fl. Oz.

$19

Amazon

Another great choice, and what Cox reps and uses on clients, is Milk_shake’s Deep Cleansing Shampoo. "The pH of this shampoo is high enough to remove impurities and buildup from the strand," she says, who chooses it whether she's tackling minerals, product residue, chlorine, or all of the above. The milk proteins, honey, and strawberry and papaya fruit extracts added keep hair from drying out during the clarifying process. The SLES- and SLS-free formula is also gentle on scalps, making it a great choice for those with extra delicate skin.

3. The Best Hard Water Shampoo For Dry Hair

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo, 8.5 Fl. Oz.

$26

Amazon

Packed with hair-loving ingredients like keratin, jojoba extracts, vitamin B5, and argan and avocado oils, this is a shampoo that proves you don't have to sacrifice moisture in the quest for squeaky-clean hair. Said to pull out residue left by hair products, hard water, and chlorine, it's powerful and gentle at the same time thanks to a formula that’s free of sulfates, phosphates, and parabens.

In order to get the most clarifying effect out of this bottle, massage a small amount of product into the hair and scalp, targeting the roots until it begins to lather a bit. It's even color-safe, according to Moroccanoil, making it a great choice for those willing to splurge a little for quality ingredients.

4. The Best Hard Water Shampoo For Oily Hair

Acure Curiously Clarifying Lemongrass & Argan, 12 Fl. Oz.

$8

Amazon

A cleanser filled with fruit and other botanical-derived extracts, this shampoo is gentle enough to be used a few times a week but strong enough to clear out mineral and other gunk in your hair. Amazon users with oily hair especially sung its praises, with one even writing: “I have noticed that my hair is not as oily as it used to be, but without an [itch] had from being dried out.”

The argan oil and aloe vera keep scalps happy, while this vegan and cruelty-free formula will let animal-lovers feel at ease, too. Bonus for those who are ingredient-conscious: It's free of parabens, sulfates, silicones, and phthalates.

5. The Best Hard Water Shampoo For Color-Treated Hair

R+Co Acid Wash ACV Cleansing Rinse, 6 Fl. Oz.

$32

Amazon

Soaking lime-hardened fixtures in vinegar has long been a trick of plumbers, and the same logic also applies to hair, albeit in a much gentler version.

The stylists behind R+Co have figured out how to replace the vinegar smell with Sicilian lemons, tangerine, green tea, and tree moss, all while effectively keeping hair shiny and clean without sulfates, parabens, gluten, and petrolatum products — and keeping things vegan-friendly to boot.

This can be used as a booster before or after your existing shampoo or as a standalone. Since it's formulated without EDTAs or other harsh stripping agents, it's a great choice for color-treated hair.

6. The Best Hard Water Shampoo For Dandruff-Prone Hair

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula, 16 Fl. Oz.

$10

Amazon

Turns out, Neutrogena’s dandruff-fighting shampoo is also great for removing minerals from hair and scalp thanks to the tetrasodium EDTA included. While the two percent coal tar and the slightly medicinal smell make it not the perfect choice for everyone, this multitasking bottle — which also helps tackle tricky conditions like dry scalp, flaking, and scalp psoriasis — has plenty of fans on Amazon with a 4.2 rating after more than a thousand reviews. The key to getting the best out of the product is leaving it on the scalp for a few minutes while in the shower so the actives can soak in and do their work.

7. The Best Natural, EDTA-Free Hard Water Shampoo

Shea Moisture Sacha Inchi Oil Clarifying Shampoo, 13 Fl. Oz.

$12

Amazon

While EDTAs are safe enough in moderation to be used in prescription medicine and food, some people choose to avoid them. If you’re one of those people, there are still clarifying shampoos that work well to choose from. This bottle from Shea Moisture removes minerals and product residue without sulfates or EDTA, while natural ingredients like omega 3, 6, and 9–packed sacha inchi oil, organic shea butter, and quinoa extract nourish, moisturize, and fortify deeply. The fair price and color-safe formula make it a great option for a wide range of people and hair types.

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