What’s The Difference Between Hard Water and Soft Water?
Unless you are familiar with the differences between hard water and soft water – either because you have been shown before or because you own a water softener – it is probable that you are unaware of the impact that hard water can have on both your house and your body.
The most prevalent consequences of hard water will be seen in areas where water often comes into contact with surfaces and fixtures. The most visible indications are typically seen in kitchens and restrooms.
Shower fixtures with soap scum and scaling are common indicators of hard water in bathrooms. This residue, however, is not the end of hard water’s impact in your shower. It may surprise you to hear that hard water in your shower might have an impact on the health of your hair and skin.
Learn more about all of the potential effects of hard water so you can determine if it is present in your home and what remedies, such as a whole-house water softener, are available.
What is Hard Water vs Soft Water?
You’ve probably heard of hard water vs soft water, but you might not know what makes water “hard” or “soft.” The mineral content of the water is what distinguishes hard and soft water. Hard water has a higher concentration of minerals, whereas soft water has a very low concentration of minerals.
When groundwater percolates through the Earth’s soil, hard water forms. Water picks up mineral ions as it passes through soil rich in minerals. The minerals contained in hard water are largely calcium and magnesium, which are found in chalky soil and limestone, although they can also contain iron and manganese.
The final mineral composition of hard water is determined by the land surrounding the water source for your municipal supply.
Hard water’s mineral concentration varies and is measured in grains per gallon (GPG). The level of hardness is graded on a sliding scale from “soft” to “extremely hard.”
Hard water is classified as follows:
- Soft Water – 0-1 GPG
- Moderately Hard Water – 1-7 GPG
- Hard Water – 7-10 GPG
- Very Hard Water – 10+ GPG
To illustrate, if you collected the complete mineral content of a gallon of water with a hardness of 5 GPG, the resulting minerals would be around the size of an aspirin pill. If a gallon of water had a water hardness value of 10 GPG, the mineral content of that gallon of water would be equivalent to about two aspirin tablets.
The same experiment with a gallon of soft water would yield a negligible amount of minerals. This is significant because the minerals in hard water end up coating the surfaces of your shower, dishes in your dishwasher, clothes in your washer, and even your hair and skin.
How Does Hard Water Affect Your Shower?
When taking hard water vs soft water shower, there are significant distinctions. As previously said, the minerals in hard water will coat the surfaces of anything they come into contact with, including faucets, shower heads, and shower doors, as well as your hair and skin. Let’s look at the differences between taking a shower in hard water vs soft water.
Soap scum is one of the most typical side effects of hard water in the shower. It has a white or chalky appearance, a hard texture, and is formed by a reaction between soap and the calcium and magnesium ions found in hard water. As a result, an insoluble material coats hard surfaces (eg. shower head, handles, tub, and shower door).
One of the most difficult components of soap scum is keeping affected areas clean. Soap scum is tough and difficult to remove, yet it forms quickly when soap comes into touch with hard water. Soft water, on the other hand, lacks the mineral concentration required to make soap scum. Finally, the most efficient approach to completely eliminate soap scum is to use only soft water in your shower area.
Limescale is created naturally over time by the passage of harsh water. It is a whitish, hard substance that accumulates on surfaces that come into touch with hard water, therefore it is common to see it on your shower head, faucet, or shower handles.
For example, if you look closely at the nozzles in your shower head, you may find a whitish substance gradually blocking off the apertures. Limescale is that yellowish substance, and it will gradually impede the flow of water from your shower head.
Limescale removal is a difficult task. The minerals that make limescale are difficult to remove with an abrasive pad alone, and washing it off may lose some of the finish off your shower fittings. Remove the shower head and immerse it in a weak acid such as vinegar or lemon juice for an hour as a temporary cure.
Because soaking for long periods of time is impossible with a permanently placed faucet, dealing with limescale concerns can be a time-consuming process.
A more long-term approach to limescale buildup is to remove the cause of the limescale: hard water. Because soft water has a very low mineral concentration, switching to soft water in your shower will completely eliminate limescale.
Hard Water Stains
Have you ever removed your dishes from the dishwasher and found white streaks on them? These are mineral deposits that hard water has left behind. These white spots can also be found on glass shower doors, in addition to dishes.
Furthermore, mineral deposits on your shower door can combine with limescale and soap scum to create an ugly mess. Cleaning these deposits will necessitate the use of an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Unfortunately, until you switch to soft water, mineral deposits will continue to accumulate in locations that come into touch with water.
The effects of hard water on hair are another key factor. Hard water harms hair by depositing mineral deposits in the hair follicle, which act as a barrier to moisturizers and conditioners. Mineral deposits on the follicle prevent moisturizers from penetrating, leaving your hair brittle and dry over time.
Those same mineral deposits can cause your hair to lose volume and become more difficult to style. It can also have an effect on the appearance of your hair, since hair washed in hard water tends to look duller and flat in color. Color-treated hair will fade faster if washed in hard water on a regular basis.
Dry, Irritated Skin
In addition to the effects on your hair, the effects of hard water on skin are important to consider while washing in hard water on a regular basis. These effects are brought about in two ways.
The first is by interacting with the soap you’re using, which leaves a film on the skin’s surface. As a result, the soap film leaves the skin feeling dry and irritated. This can be especially irritating on sensitive skin, such as your scalp.
Mineral deposits on your skin are also left by hard water. These mineral deposits can irritate your skin by affecting your natural moisture levels, which is especially problematic for people with sensitive skin or eczema. Minerals can also clog pores, particularly on sensitive skin such as your face. As a result, the skin becomes irritated, reddish, and dry.
How is Soft Water Different?
The detrimental impact of hard water in the shower area impacts everything from bathroom fixtures to washing your hair and skin. The good news is that switching to soft water eliminates all of the harmful effects of hard water on your shower.
Each of the effects of hard water on your shower is caused by the mineral content of the water. Soap scum develops as a result of minerals in hard water reacting with soap. Limescale is formed by mineral deposits left behind by hard water.
Mineral deposits left behind as hard water dries cause spots on your shower doors. Mineral deposits from hard water washing can cause your hair to become dry, damaged, and burdened down. At the same time, a soap film and mineral deposits on the surface of your skin leave your skin dry.
The fundamental difference between a soft water and a hard water shower is that soft water eliminates all of these problems at the source. Keep in mind that soft water contains relatively little mineral content.
By eliminating minerals from your shower water before they enter, you may avoid unsightly limescale and soap scum while also leaving your hair and skin more hydrated and less irritated.
Is it Better To Drink Hard vs Soft water?
Rainwater is naturally gentle as it falls. However, as water moves through the ground and into our rivers, it picks up minerals such as chalk, lime, and, most notably, calcium and magnesium, resulting in hard water.
Because hard water includes important minerals, it is sometimes favored as a drinking water. Not only for the health advantages, but also for the flavor. It is not harmful to one’s health to drink hard water instead of soft water.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health has shown that drinking hard water has health benefits since calcium and magnesium play vital roles in improving heart function, digestion, blood sugar regulation, and even cancer prevention. Hard water might also taste better.
Soft water, on the other hand, is not recommended for people who have heart or circulation difficulties, or who are on a low sodium diet. As minerals are eliminated during the softening process, the sodium level rises.
According to research, the risk of cardiovascular disease is lowest in places with the highest mineral content of water. There are ways to fight the salt in soft water, allowing households to enjoy better-tasting water while also having the best available water for cleaning purposes. Reverse osmosis, distillation, and deionization are the three methods.
Is it OK to Drink Hard Tap Water?
Yes, hard water has additional health benefits. Calcium and magnesium are minerals that the body needs for bone and muscle growth and function. These minerals also help to control blood pressure and enzyme activity. These minerals may be obtained by the consumption of hard water.
However, if you do not want the negative consequences of hard water in your home, there is a workaround. Many experts believe that hard water is considerably superior to soft water in terms of consumption. Nonetheless, the advantages of soft water should not be overlooked. Because of this, many experts recommend installing a water softener with a water bypass valve system.
This will allow hard water to flow to certain regions, allowing it to be used for drinking and cooking. If not, we recommend that you drink from alternative sources of water, such as bottled water.
What is Water Softening?
Water softener systems typically work by passing hard water through resin beads containing positively charged sodium and potassium ions. As the resin beads grab the calcium and magnesium ions, which are likewise positively charged, sodium and potassium are released into the water. This exchange produces softened water with trace levels of sodium and potassium.
Water softeners provide cleaner washing, longer-lasting appliances, and no sticky soap accumulation. Consumers use fewer types of cleansers and detergents, including laundry detergent. Clothing is brighter, and sinks, baths, and showers are easier to clean.
Because soft water does not generate scale accumulation in pipes and plumbing fixtures, water appliances such as boilers, water heaters, and dishwashers often work more efficiently and require less maintenance. Soft water consumers frequently say that their hair and skin are less dry and flaky.
Conclusion: Hard or Soft Water?
Hard water is simply water with a high concentration of mineral ions, which react with soap in your shower to generate soap scum and leave behind ugly and difficult-to-clean limescale deposits. Over time, the same deposits will restrict the flow of water through your shower head and faucets, necessitating regular cleaning if you want them to continue functioning normally.
The minerals in hard water also impact the surfaces of your body. These minerals cover your hair follicles, drying it out and preventing moisturizers from working. Mineral deposits, in a similar way, dry out your skin and clog your pores. Soft water causes your soap and shampoo to lather better while also allowing the soap to be easily and thoroughly removed from your skin.
A water softening system is the simplest and most thorough remedy to the impacts of hard water in your shower. A water softener solves the problem by eliminating the minerals in hard water before they reach your home, ensuring that all of your fixtures only come into touch with soft water.