Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the difference between hard
water and soft water. Before I became a water expert I always wondered how
water could be hard or soft.
I’ve learned about water since thinking (a long time ago).
Today, I’m going to share everything that I know about hard water and soft
water with you. We’ll cover the differences between the two, how to know the
difference, why hard water is bad, and how to “make” soft water.
Hard Water Explained
Simply put, hard water is any water that contains a high
amount of minerals (over 60 PPM to be exact). This mineral buildup usually refers
to a large amount of calcium and magnesium. Those two minerals enter the water
supply when water percolates (passes through) limestone or chalk, which both
contain large amounts of the minerals.
Some of those minerals attach themselves to water. The water
treatment center doesn’t filter out calcium or magnesium either. In the end,
this means you have calcium and magnesium in your water supply straight from
the water treatment facility.
You can put the pitchforks down. Calcium and magnesium are
actually very important minerals for the human body to function properly and
aren’t dangerous. You actually get a decent amount of your calcium and
magnesium from tap water.
Hard water can wreak havoc on your water appliances though.
We’ll get to that in a later section.
Soft Water Explained
Soft water is the opposite of hard water. Another name for
soft water is just water that contains no minerals. The precise amount of “no
minerals” is under 60 PPM.
Anyway, some areas just have naturally soft water such as
the Pacific Northwest. Those areas with hard water will have to use a process
called ion-exchange to produce soft water. This process involves using a water
softener to swap out calcium and magnesium for sodium.
This has one negative effect of making the water taste
salty. It isn’t like drinking ocean water, but it is a noticeable saltiness.
Some people don’t like the taste, or don’t want high blood pressure, and add a
filter to remove the salt.
The choice is up to you. Just know that drinking soft water
in areas with hard water will lead to an increase in sodium consumption.
Which One Is Better?
This depends on what you’re looking for in a water softener. Most homeowners do not want a large amount of limescale building upon their appliances, so they will opt for soft water.
However, it does increase your salt consumption, so we don’t
recommend to those with high blood pressure. You can always use a carbon filter
to filter out the salt before you drink it.
Alternatively, you can use a water conditioner if you want to avoid salt in your water. However, a
conditioner is not nearly as effective as a softener. It doesn’t actually
remove the minerals. Instead, this neutralizes the calcium and magnesium, which
makes them not “stick” to your appliances or pipes. Pretty cool stuff.
Do I Have Hard Water Or Soft Water?
Homeowners usually want to know if they have hard water after
reading about the negative effects it has on appliances. Fortunately, it’s easy
to figure out the hardness of your water.
You don’t even need a fancy test. Just follow the guidelines
listed below to find out if you have hard water.
Hard Water Tells
Soap does not lather. Instead, it forms a film.
This is the biggest sign that you have hard water. Some
people that have hard water don’t even realize that their soap is supposed to
It’s like living in The Matrix or something. I certainly
fell into the camp. Soap is just so much easier to use with soft water than
You notice deposits on your sink or bathtub.
Another big sign that you have hard water. If after using
soap and water you notice a film of white sediment on your sink, then you have
soap scum. Soap scum is caused by hard water mixing with soap.
Again, this is another situation where you are living in The
Matrix if you think this is normal. It’s not normal. You have hard water.
Why Hard Water Is a Problem
Hard water is bad mostly because it will clog your
appliances and piping. Seriously, this stuff is nasty and can really damage
your plumbing. We’ll detail all the reasons that hard water is bad though.
Damages Plumbing and Appliances
As mentioned earlier, the calcium and magnesium will build
up in pipes and appliances. This has a dramatic effect on the lifespan of
appliances that have contact with water. It can reduce the lifespan, and
efficiency, of these appliances by up to 25%.
This decreased efficiency and decreased lifespan is most
noticeable with a water heater because of the amount of heat in a water heater
(duh). Some of the water escapes due to evaporation, which increases the
concentration of the minerals in the water.
It’s bad for your skin.
Yes. Hard water is bad for your skin. Those minerals don’t
just to stick to the side of your sink. They also stick to your skin and hair,
which can make your skin itchy and your hair flat. Now, this effect isn’t quite
the same as the chlorine found in water.
However, the effect is still noticeable. It is much more
readily apparent when you use soap and hard water on your skin.
It’s bad for your health.
This isn’t some mumbo-jumbo fake doctor type stuff. No, this claim is backed up by the National Center Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which is part of the US National Health Institute (NIH)… a US federal agency.
Anyway, research conducted by Dr. Pallav Sengupta involved
examining five decades of studies. Sengupta determined that there is a
relationship between hard water and cardiovascular disease, stunted growth,
reproductive issues, and other health concerns including cancer (source:
Potential Health Impacts of Hard Water).
Another study, conducted in Italy, determined that hard water can increase the risk of calcium kidney stones. It is recommended that those suffering from chronic calcium stones reduce their intake of hard water (Source: Effects of water hardness on urinary risk factors for kidney stones in patients with idiopathic nephrolithiasis)
Making Hard Water Soft Again
It’s alluded to a few times in this post, but we’ll cut right to the chase. Making your hard water soft is not that difficult.
You really have one option to make your water soft. That is
by purchasing an ion exchange water softener. Don’t worry, these systems are
not as expensive as you might think. Just remember, these systems will make
your water salty.