Hard Water vs Soft Water Explained

Last Updated
Hard Water vs Soft Water

Water may appear clear but it has chemicals and mineral elements. The level of these components in water is what determines whether water is hard or soft. Being able to tell hard water vs soft water is essential in determining whether it is safe to drink or even use around the house.

We have gathered everything you need to know about soft vs hard water to help you stay in the know.

In this article, we are going to cover what differentiates hard vs soft water, how each type is formed, and their pros and cons. Keep reading to find out more about hard vs soft water.

Difference Between Hard and Soft Water

It is impossible to tell the difference between hard and soft water just by looking at it but the details are in the chemical components themselves.

Hard Water vs Soft Water Explained

The difference between hard water and soft water is determined by the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water. Hard water has higher levels of calcium and magnesium whereas soft water is treated to lower the amount minerals found in your water.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water consists of high mineral contents of Magnesium and Calcium as well as smaller traces of other minerals. These elements make water very difficult to handle when cleaning and can also corrode metallic surfaces. 

It is because of this harshness that water is classified as “Hard”.

What are the Advantages of Hard Water?

Most people only know of the downsides of hard water but it has its advantages nonetheless. They include:

  • Improve Heart Function: Significant Calcium and Magnesium levels in hard water have been proven to stimulate heart functions, leading to a healthier heart rate and sufficient blood pumped throughout the body.[1]
  • Prevent Cancer: Recent medical research has shown a strong interrelation between cancer and Magnesium. According to researchers, high Magnesium levels stimulate the human immune system to prevent several types of cancer from forming in the body. Such Cancers include Gastric, Colon, Rectal, and Pancreatic Cancer. [2]
  • Eases Diabetes: The human body depends on Magnesium to produce insulin that relieves diabetes. As such, taking hard water that is rich in this mineral may actually help to control diabetes.
  • Improves Digestive Health: The Calcium and Magnesium components in hard water help in alleviating constipation. Calcium gets rid of excess fats and bile to prevent constipation and provide better digestion. Magnesium is also useful in calming stomach cramps and easing diarrhea.
  • Beneficial in Plant Growing: Soft water may be easy to use around the house but it can be very detrimental to your plants’ health. It is free from minerals which plants need to absorb to survive. Hard water, on the other hand, contains multiple minerals for plants, causing them to thrive.
  • Tastes better than soft water

What are the Disadvantages of Hard Water?

  • It leaves an unsightly film on bathroom surfaces.
  • Damages Hair: It leaves a mineral residue on the hair that makes it dull and harder to style.
  • Skin Irritation: Hard water may render your skin unable to absorb moisture if left to dry on it. This may lead to skin conditions such as dermatitis.
  • Dry Skin: Leaves soap scum on the skin that clogs pores and causes skin irritation. This, in turn, leads to your skin looking dry, flaky, and possibly itchy.
  • Leaves Residue: It does not lather easily and as such, leaves soap residue on your skin.
  • Stains Utensils and Cutlery: Leaves a whitish residue on silverware and glasses.
  • Damage Appliances: The mineral components may accumulate in your dishwasher to cause rusting and damage functioning parts.
  • Limescale: Hard water leaves limescale deposits in your water heating system.
  • Damages Pipes: Clogs old pipes to reduce water flow and lead to repair or replacement.
  • Increases energy bills.
hard water vs soft water

What is Soft Water?

Soft water is the complete opposite of hard water. While hard water has high contents of Calcium and Magnesium, soft water has no dissolved minerals. Instead, it is treated water that has negligible levels of ions. As such, it is easier to use around the house and is also very gentle on skin, surfaces, and fabric.

What are the Advantages of Soft Water?

  • You require less soap and detergents in your dishwasher or washing machine.
  • It is gentle on hair and skin.
  • No mineral stains or deposits on dishware.
  • Longer-lasting water fixtures.

What are the Disadvantages of Soft Water?

  • Need to supplement: Since soft water is not rich in calcium and magnesium minerals, you have to supplement these in your diet for healthier eating.
  • High Salt: It is high in sodium concentration that poses a huge risk to people with high blood pressure.
  • Lead Concentration: Its low mineral concentration makes it susceptible to collecting lead in untreated pipes.
  • Corrodes water lines.

How Can You Tell if Water is Hard or Soft?

You can determine the difference between hard water vs soft water in a number of different ways. If you don’t have a hard water testing kit, you can look for the following signs.

Signs of Hard Water

hard water vs soft water

If you are checking to see if you have hard water in your home, these are the signs to look out for:

  • Mineral Discoloration: The minerals in hard water are bound to leave unpleasant yellow-like stains and discolorations on your clothes if it is passing through your washing machine. This may cause your clothes to wear thin faster because of the harshness of the hard water.
  • Greasy Film: If you feel a greasy film on your hands when washing them with soap, you may be dealing with hard water. The minerals in hard water react with the soap to form a scum that requires more rinsing to get rid of.
  • Discolored Dishware: You can detect hard water by checking your utensils when they come out of the dishwasher. They usually have mineral deposits that appear as unpleasant stains.
  • Low Water Pressure: Hard water causes mineral deposits in your pipes that build up to form slime and can clog in older galvanized pipes. This reduces the diameter of your pipes and reduces the pressure in which water comes out.
  • Leaking Pipes: The mineral deposits left by hard water in your pipes are corrosive and can eventually eat away at the iron in water lines, causing leakages.

Signs of Soft Water

Hard Water vs Soft Water
  • Normal water pressure in all your plumbing fixtures.
  • Clothes and dishes lather faster.
  • Cleaner dishes and clothes without mineral deposits or discoloration.
  • A somewhat salty flavor in drinking water.

How Does Water Hardness Occur?

Hard water occurs when water drains through gypsum, chalk, or limestone deposits. These deposits are filled with sulfates, bicarbonates, and magnesium and calcium carbonates.

Water with magnesium and calcium bicarbonates is considered temporarily hard water. You can soften it by adding lime or boiling to remove the bicarbonate elements.

Permanent water hardness is caused by a high percentage of calcium and magnesium chlorides or sulfates. These components cannot precipitate out of the water upon heating. They are removed through an ion exchange system or a water softener.

Which is Better for Home Appliances and Energy Use?

The comparison between hard water vs soft water tilts in favor of soft water when it comes to home appliances. As we have discussed above, hard water contains minerals that are harmful to your metal pipes so naturally they will affect your metal appliances too.

Hard water leaves mineral deposits in your appliances, which may build up and lead to expensive repairs and replacements. 

Since hard water takes longer to lather, it can use up more energy. As such, you may notice a rise in the amount you have to pay towards your utility bills every month.

Use a Water Softener

If you have hard water in your home, you can reduce energy expenses by having a water softener installed in your plumbing. This will make chores like laundry and dishwashing easier and improve the durability of your home appliances. 

However, it would be best to limit water softening so you have a healthy soft vs hard water balance.

Water Myths About Hard or Soft Water

Hard Water is Contaminated

Hard water is filled with minerals but it is not necessarily contaminated. These minerals are actually essential in our bodies and for plants as well.

Hard Water Clogs Pipes

This is only true if you have old galvanized pipes. The modern copper water lines won’t be affected by hard water.

Hard Water Tastes Bad

On the contrary, hard water has a pleasant taste and is easier to drink than soft water which tends to have a salty taste..

Rain Water is Hard Water

Rainwater is in fact soft water. The difference between soft vs hard water comes about when the water flows in the ground and into underground rocks.

To Conclude

Hard water vs soft water doesn’t have to be about what type is better than the other. Each type of water is useful depending on what you need it for. 

It is essential to remember that while hard water is good for your health, it may not be the best option for use around the house. You can find an option that keeps your drinking water hard and softens the water that goes into your washing machine, dishwasher, and bathroom.

The H2Home Lab team is dedicated to helping you find the best solutions to your specific water needs, as well as provide troubleshooting tips and guides for water filtration, heating, softening and plumbing. We hope you will find the info you need on our site from any one of our buying guides or subject matter articles.

Leave a Comment