You may think that all water is the same; however, it is not. Have you ever heard a plumber use the terms hard water or soft water and then wondered what they mean, or perhaps have been curious about which type of water you have in your home? Depending on the type of water you have, you may very well have to address the different issues that come with each type.
What is Hard Water and Soft Water?
If you have well water, chances are you have hard water. Because of this type of water’s contact with soil or rocks, dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium are often in it.
Soft water is water that has been treated to remove the minerals that would otherwise be naturally found in it. The only mineral that would remain in this type of water would be sodium, which usually is a result of it having been treated. Rainwater is also naturally soft but once it is exposed to the ground or other surfaces, it absorbs minerals such as calcium and then turns into hard water.
Which Type of Water is the Best?
Because of the nature of each type of water, hard water is better for some things, while soft water is better for others. For example despite its mineral content, hard water tastes much better than soft water. The reason for this is that soft water tastes salty and is sometimes unsuitable for drinking because of how it is treated to remove the minerals.
What are the Pros and Cons of Each?
You might be asking yourself, “Well why would I prefer soft water over hard water then if I cannot even drink it?” There are pros and cons to each type of water, depending on how you use it other than drinking, such as for cleaning purposes.
Consider hard water; the minerals that are normally found in it are actually healthy and beneficial to those who drink it. The taste is preferable over soft water and is less likely to contain harmful concentrations of toxic metals such as lead or copper. However, the deposits left from the healthy minerals found in hard water can:
- Wreak havoc with your household appliances from deposits that damage and reduce their efficiency
- Damage your pipes and plumbing fixtures from clogs and corrosion
- Cause a cleaning nightmare by leaving film in bathtubs and on dishes
- Dry out hair and skin and exacerbate eczema symptoms in children
- Make hair look dull and feel sticky
Soft water is preferable for cleaning purposes. Most cleaning products work better with soft water and the amount of the product needed is often less than the amount you would need with hard water. With soft water:
- Soap lathers more effectively, making it easier to use for washing your hair and body
- Better results with laundry detergent can be achieved with lower water temperatures and clothes look cleaner
- Mineral deposits are not left on pots and pans, thus making them easier to clean
- Less soap scum and lime scale buildup in your bathtub and plumbing fixtures
- Increased energy efficiency with your gas hot water heater and appliances that require water
How Can You Change Your Water?
If you have hard water, it can be changed into soft water with a water softener appliance that exchanges the hard mineral ions with sodium ions. The minerals can also be removed through filtration devices or reverse osmosis. It is best to consult with a professional to determine the best method for your home’s needs.