Hard and Soft Water: What’s the Difference?


Hard and Soft Water: What’s the Difference?

Drinking. Watering plants. Cooking. Bathing. Although we use water continually for a number of purposes, not everyone is clear on the difference between hard and soft water. Here's an easy way to remember: Rainwater is soft. Hard water, on the other hand, contains more minerals. As soft water picks up calcium and magnesium from rocks and earth, it becomes harder. Hard and soft water have different characteristics. Do you know which type of water is best for your household? And do you know if the water at your house is hard or soft? Let's take a closer look at this sometimes confusing subject.

The Benefits of Hard and Soft Water

Hard water can be tough to handle in your home. If you have hard water, you might notice filmy kitchen and bathroom fixtures, soap scum on your skin and shampoo residue in your hair. Buildup from hard water can also damage water heaters and cause clogged pipes. Hard water is also difficult on your dishes and clothes. Residue and smudges on your dishes and freshly washed clothes that look dingy are sure signs of hard water. The minerals in hard water counteract soap, which greatly increases residue buildup in your appliances and doesn't do the job as well. However, when you're pouring yourself a cool glass of water, hard water isn't necessarily bad news. The minerals in hard water can be beneficial for magnesium and calcium intake in your diet. Meanwhile, very soft water can taste salty due to high levels of sodium.

How Hard Is Your Water?

The difference between hard and soft water is hardly binary. There are gradients of softness for water, depending on how many minerals have been absorbed. A colorimeter uses a laser to measure the relative hardness or softness of your water. You likely don't keep a colorimeter at home, so your plumber can determine whether your water is hard or soft.

According to the Water Quality Association (WQA), this scale can help you determine how hard or soft your water is:

  • Hard Water: Over 10 Grains Per Gallon (g.p.g.) expressed as calcium carbonate equivalent

  • Less Hard: 7 to 10 g.p.g.

  • Neither Hard, Nor Soft: 3.5 to 7 g.p.g.

  • Slightly Soft: 1 to 3.5 g.p.g.

  • Soft Water: less than 1 g.p.g.

How to Deal With Hard Water

Unless you are collecting rainwater, your water is probably hard — particularly if you use a well. How can you soften hard water? Installing a water softner and a filtration system is a good way to soften the water in you home.

Worried about that residue building up in your appliances? Consult your manuals for instructions, such as special rinsing aids, and ask your plumber about hard and soft water in your home. You can have your pipes and fixtures regularly inspected and your water heater regularly flushed to improve your peace of mind.

If you have questions about your water, contact The Pink Plumber. Our team of experts can also help you with a variety of plumbing problems. We offer a dedicated staff and 24/7 emergency service, plus a portion of every job goes to support breast cancer research.