The issue of hard water vs soft water is a common source of confusion, and there are a lot of misconceptions that go along with it.
Still, it’s important to understand the distinctions, as hard water can have a major impact on your drinking water, your skin, and even your hair.
So what is hard water and soft water? What causes hard water? And what are the pros and cons of hard water vs soft water? We’re here to cut through the confusion and bring some much-needed clarity.
What Is Hard Water and Soft Water?
Before we can break down the pros and cons, we have to answer the basic questions: What is hard water and soft water? The terms “hard water” vs “soft water” are used to distinguish the amount of mineral content contained in the water.
What is Soft Water?
Soft water contains low mineral content (usually limited to salt and sodium and other faint trace minerals), while hard water contains a higher mineral content, with especially high concentrations of magnesium and calcium.
As a result, hard water tends to be much heavier than soft water.
What is Hard Water?
Hard water has a difficult time mixing with other substances (like soaps), and it also doesn’t penetrate into hair and skin as effectively as soft water. That’s why it’s referred to as “hard.”
In many cases, hard water might also contain high concentrations of other, more concerning contaminants like chlorine, dirt, and other forms of buildup.
There have even been traces of rocket fuel chemicals (perchlorate) discovered in the drinking water of over 16 million Americans, so you really have to be careful.
What’s the difference between hard water and soft water?
Hard water and soft water differ in mineral content. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, leading to scale buildup, reduced lathering, and potential damage to hair and skin.
Soft water, obtained through water treatment, has low mineral content, offering benefits like improved lathering and gentler effects on hair and skin.
Understanding this distinction helps in making informed decisions about water treatment and its impact on daily life.
What Causes Hard Water?
Water becomes “hard” as it makes its way through pipes and waterways, which might affect your "hard water shower" experience. As natural rainwater is filtered through irrigation sources, it collects minerals along the way.
The minerals aren’t naturally part of the water. In its natural state, water contains only hydrogen and oxygen.
Because the minerals are picked up along the way like hitchhiking passengers, the good news is that some of those minerals and contaminants can also be tempered.
With the right filtration system, you can reduce the presence of unwanted contaminants, including those that cause water hardness, and enjoy a better-quality water for your shower and other household needs.
Is Hard Water Bad For You?
Hard water itself is not considered harmful to your health, as it contains essential minerals like calcium and magnesium. However, excessive mineral content in hard water can lead to undesirable effects.
What To Do For Hard Water?
Dealing with hard water can be a frustrating experience, but there are effective solutions to tackle this common issue.
If you're tired of dealing with limescale buildup on your fixtures and appliances, consider investing in a water softener system. These systems work by removing the excess minerals that cause water hardness, providing you with softer and more manageable water.
Additionally, using vinegar or lemon juice can help dissolve mineral deposits around your faucets and showerheads. Regularly cleaning your appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, with descaling agents can also help maintain their efficiency.
By taking proactive steps to combat hard water, you can enjoy the benefits of improved water quality and extend the lifespan of your household appliances.
How to Measure Water Hardness
The easiest way to measure hard water vs soft water at home is to order a water hardness test kit and follow the directions provided.
There are some crude do-it-yourself tests involving a water sample and dish soap, but these tests are hard to execute correctly and often unreliable, so it’s best to stick to the professional kits.
A typical water hardness kit enables you to calculate the mineral content in your water using a simple “grains per gallon” GPG equation. Remember, hard water is heavier than soft water due to the excess mineral content.
If your GPG measures higher than 60 milligrams per liter, you have hard water. If your GPG measures below 60 milligrams per liter, hard water likely isn’t an issue for you.
Hard Water vs Soft Water – The Pros & Cons
Hard water gets a bad rap, but could it have some benefits? The answer is a bit complicated.
Some studies have found that there are health benefits to drinking water with calcium and magnesium—as both of these minerals are essential nutrients.
They help regulate blood sugar, support cardiovascular health, promote healthy digestion, and even fend off certain types of cancer cells.
However, that doesn’t mean you should run to your sink and use tap water as a nutritional supplement.
While magnesium and calcium might have some health benefits, there are over 300 contaminants in unfiltered tap water, including trace pesticides. You can’t just pick and choose the minerals in your tap water. You have to accept the bad with the good.
And even if your hard water does contain only calcium and magnesium, there are some major downsides here as well. One of the biggest problems is scale buildup.
Effects of Hard Water on Appliances and Hair
Excess minerals in your water can cause scale buildup in appliances like dishwashers and washing machines. Over time, these machines could even become damaged by the buildup—contributing to hefty repair costs.
And hard water buildup in your hair can cause issues like dryness, split ends, breakage, and even hair loss over time.
Hard water doesn’t hydrate your hair as well as it should because it doesn’t penetrate as effectively, and that can have serious long-term consequences. Hard water can even make your soap less effective due to the accumulation of soap scum.
So while there is some nuance to the hard water vs soft water debate, it’s always in your best interest to filter your water and keep the minerals and contaminants at their lowest concentrations possible.
Your hair, skin, and appliances will thank you—and you can enjoy tap water with much greater confidence.
What Is the Hard Water and Soft Water Solution?
It’s one thing to know what causes hard water, but what can you actually do about it? While water filtration won’t magically remove all of the minerals from your water, it’s an excellent place to start.
For instance, AquaBliss showerhead water filters have been carefully engineered to target and filter common impurities like chlorine and sediment.
In addition, our shower filters infuse your water with healthy vitamins and minerals that other types of shower filters remove. So you get more of the good minerals and fewer of the bad minerals.
So if you’re concerned about the quality of your water:
- Start with a water hardness test kit.
- Clean your appliances regularly to eliminate hard water buildup.
- Avoid drinking or showering in unfiltered water if you can avoid it.
- Use water filtration to help reduce the presence of unwanted minerals and contaminants.
Hard water is a problem for millions of Americans, but there are ways to reduce the effects—even if hard water is unavoidable where you live. Just know that, when it comes to hard water vs soft water, you do have options and AquaBliss is here to help.