What Is The Difference Between Hard Water And Soft Water?
So what is hard and soft water? Hardness refers to how much mineral content a given volume of drinking water has, while Softness generally indicates whether or not it contains particles like sand that can negatively affect the taste.
When it rains, the water in those raindrops are soft. They contain no minerals. But when the water enters the ground, it begins to absorb the minerals in the ground that it washes over. Communities that have marble, limestone and chalk and other minerals in the ground tend to create hard water.
There are five categories ranging from very HARD through SOFT with correspondingly different levels in each category.
- Soft: 0 - 17 parts per million (ppm)
- Slightly Hard: 17.1 - 60 ppm
- Moderately Hard: 60 - 120 ppm
- Hard: 120 - 180 ppm
- Very Hard: 180+ ppm
Hard water contains a lot of calcium and magnesium because it usually comes from deep in the ground where there are rocks with those elements.
Let's go into the differences of each, the pros and cons and some information on what you can do for the health of your home and your family.
Pros And Cons Of Hard Water
Like most anything else, there are pros and cons to using hard water.
Advantages Of Hard Water Include:
- There should be a lesser chance of corrosion in your pipes with hard water.
- Many individuals report that hard water tastes better.
- There's less sodium in hard water.
- There's more calcium and magnesium in hard water (albeit it's a very small amount).
Disadvantages Of Hard Water Include:
- Items washed in hard water can appear dingy and feel stiff and be left with detergent residue.
- Pipes, faucets and heating systems can be clogged and affected by limescale which increases your energy bills.
- Showering and bathing can leave residue of soap on your body which can clog and irritate your skin.
- Can leave spots and a white cloudy residue on dishes and glasses after being cleaned in the dishwasher.
Pros And Cons Of Soft Water
Soft water, of course, has it's own sets of pros and cons too.
Advantages Of Soft Water Include:
- Generally safer than hard water for your clothing, your skin, your appliances and your plumbing.
- Leaves your skin and hair softer and able to absorb moisture.
- Greatly reduces and buildup of limescale in pipes and plumbing fixtures.
Disadvantages Of Soft Water Include:
- May contain higher amounts of sodium which may be harmful if drunk in large quantities.
- Some people report that the taste of soft water is not pleasant.
How Can You Tell If Your Water Is Hard Or Soft?
Besides calling your local water company to find out which type of water your area has, there are two ways that you can test your water at home to identify which type you have.
One way is to purchase water hardness strips from your local hardware store or a pool supply store or online at Amazon. This is a very easy and fast way to identify the amount of minerals in your water and whether it's hard or soft.
Another method is one most anyone can do.
Fill a clear plastic bottle about half way with water from your faucet. Then pour in about 10 drops of liquid soap into the water and put the cap on the bottle. The best type of liquid soap to use is one that does not have dyes or perfumes. Something like Castile liquid soap.
Then you shake the bottle for at least 10 seconds.
If the suds form at the top of the bottle, above the water then you have soft water.
If you do not see many suds and instead your water looks cloudy, then you most likely have hard water.
Effects Of Water On Appliances
Overall, softer water is better on appliances. In other words, it does not cause as much wear and tear as hard water. Because hard water can create calcium buildup in your water pipes, this can end up causing damage to your appliances.
The calcium buildup can reduce water flow and create clogs which can affect appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, etc.
Eventually, these kinds of problems can cause your home's appliances to malfunction, leak and of course, use up more electricity.
Hard water can also be especially more difficult on the heating elements of water heaters which in turn reduces the lifespan of the water heater.
Using Water Softeners
Here in Georgia, we are fortunate that the majority of the state has the lowest levels of hard water found in the United States. However, we do have a lot of red clay and you may notice those red stains showing up in your shower head, shower floor, around your sink drains, etc. A water softener combined with an aerator will work to greatly reduce that.
But, if you live in an area with high levels of hard water, then a water softener is going to be your best option.
A water softener will get rid of the hard water, but it's not always affordable. The cost can range from $400-$3000 so make sure you know what your budget is before installing one!
The water softener system will keep your pipes clean and safe, as well as helping to save all of the fixtures in your house. You could even say that they're an important part of keeping you healthy!
Read Our Tips On How To Choose A Water Softener System
If you have any questions about hard water or soft water, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-443-8229. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.