Hard vs Soft Water Explained
Hard water… is water that contains an appreciable quantity of dissolved minerals (like calcium and magnesium).
Soft water… is treated water in which the only ion is sodium.
As rainwater falls, it is naturally soft. However, as water makes its way through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals like chalk, lime and mostly calcium and magnesium. Since hard water contains essential minerals, it is sometimes the preferred drinking water. Not only because of the health benefits, but also the flavor. On the other hand, soft water tastes salty and is sometimes not suitable for drinking. So why, then, do we soften our water?
When it boils down, the major difference between hard and soft water can best be seen while doing household chores. Hard water is to blame for dingy looking clothes, dishes with spots and residue, and bathtubs with lots of film and soap scum. Even hair washed in hard water may feel sticky and look dull. Hard water can take a toll on household appliances as well and use up more energy. The elements of hard water are to blame for all of these negative factors, as soap is less effective due to its reaction to the magnesium and calcium. The lather is not as rich and bubbly.
Chore-doers will love using soft water, as tasks can actually be performed more efficiently with it. Soap will lather better and items will be left cleaner. Glasses will sparkle and hair will look healthy. The shower curtain will be scum-free. Clothes and skin are left softer. In addition to time, this can also save money, as less soap and detergents will be used. Since appliances have to work less hard, soft water can also prolong the life of washing machines, dishwaters and water heaters. Energy bills are noticeably lower when in households with water softeners. In a time of rising energy costs, this is something to think about.
Soft water is not, however, suggested for those with heart or circulatory problems, or others who may be on a low sodium diet. In the softening process, as minerals are removed, sodium content increases. Research shows that cardiovascular disease has the lowest risk in areas where water has the most mineral content.
The Best of Both Worlds: A Solution
There are ways to combat the sodium in soft water, which will allow households to enjoy better tasting water, as well as have the best available water for cleaning needs. They are reverse osmosis, distillation and deionization.
What type is your water? The Water Quality Association of the United States defines hard water as having dissolved mineral hardness of 1 GPG (grain per gallon) or more. Here is a helpful table to show the hardness of water:
- Soft Water- less than 1 gpg
- Slightly Hard- 1-3.5 gpg
- Moderately Hard- 3.5-7 gpg
- Very Hard- 7-10 gpg
- Extremely Hard- over 10 gpg