Water and Your Plating Process

When it comes to cleaning and plating, there is one element which affects every single bath. This substance often makes up well over half of each tank, and we largely ignore it. That’s right, I’m talking about water. We put it in every bath, but pay no attention to what kind of water we have and what impact it will make. So let’s start at the beginning to understand how water effects the plating process.

 Types of Water

That’s right; there are multiple types of water. These can be summarized into Hard, Soft, and Purified.

Hard water is characterized by a high mineral content. Oftentimes, the minerals are calcium or magnesium. Hard water is not harmful or much of a problem in the home, but cause major issues in our plating shops. First, hard water can cause deposits that clog plumbing and wreak havoc in boilers and pumps. Second, hard water affects the saponification of our cleaners.

In short, this means that our cleaners will not work as well or last as long as they should. It is important to note that there are cleaners designed to work well in hard water, but they still suffer from the shortened lifespan of the bath, as only so much “stuff” can be in solution at one time. This water often leaves water spots and run-off trails on a part after it has gone through your line. These spots and trails are white, flaky deposits of the calcium or magnesium, and can cause issue later on in the finishing process.

Soft water is hard water that has had much of its ‘hardness’ removed. There are several different methods for this, the most common of which replaces the Calcium and Magnesium ions with Sodium or Potassium ions. This water does not leave nearly as many deposits as hard water, nor does it interfere with saponification. Due to this, cleaner baths made up with soft water often have longer lives than identical hard water baths. However, they still suffer from the fact that only so much “stuff” can be in solution at one time. Rarely, soft water will cause water spots, but these can often be removed by increasing the softening efforts.

Often, purified water is called RO or DI water, depending on the method by which it was purified. This water contains very few ions, making it ideal in a chemical solution. Because it contains very few things aside from H2O, we know the bath will have only what we add to it and want it to have. This also means that cleaner baths made up with purified water should last longer than identical baths made with hard or soft water. Truly purified and clean water will never cause water spots. The appearance of water spots following a purified water rinse indicates that either the water is not as clean as previously thought, or that contaminants have found their way into the rinse.

Water Sources

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the three main types of water, let’s take a look at the 2 main sources of water.

Well water is pumped straight from the ground and is often very hard. It may also contain other contaminates, depending on what is in the local aquafer. This water can be used to make up baths but it is often recommended that you at least soften it to help extend bath life. In order to further purify this water into RO or DI water, it will most likely be necessary to first soften it.

City water comes from the POTW and can be either hard or soft, depending on how the POTW runs their water. Despite this, city water is often much softer than well water, and almost certainly free of many of the contaminates that well water has. This water is suitable for making up baths without any extra treatment. It is also suitable for purification to make RO or DI water without further softening.

No matter what type of water you have or where it comes from, there are chemicals designed for use in it. But not all systems work the same in all types of water. To make sure your chemistry and your water are a good match please contact your local Asterion representative for a quick water audit.


  1. […] an integral role in the plating process. Whether it’s the rinse tanks, or the process tanks, water is in every bath. It may come as no surprise to you that the different types of water will interact with the plating […]

  2. […] water, much like hard water, contains cations. However, these cations are different from hard water cations. Soft water typically contains Na+ […]