Hard Water vs. Soft Water: What’s the Difference?

The terms hard and soft water are thrown around and all kinds of messages about which one you should have are all around, but what, actually, is the difference between these two and how do you know which one is better for you?

For starters, here’s a definition of each

Hard Water: this is water has a generous amount of dissolved minerals, like calcium and magnesium, in it.

Soft Water: this water is treated, in a treatment plant of some kind, and only has sodium in it.

So, is that it? Is that all there is to it? Well there is more to each of these kinds of water before a decision can be made.

Rainwater is naturally, before it is hits the ground, soft water. However, as it hits the ground and filters through to our waterways minerals like chalk, lime, calcium and magnesium are picked up and become part of the water. Since it is now considered hard water it contains a lot of essential minerals, and it is sometimes considered to be the preferred drinking water. Since soft water only contains sodium it can taste salty, and therefore hard water not only contains minerals essential to our health but it actually tastes better than soft water does.

With this information it is reasonable to also ask: if hard water is the preferred drinking water why would we ever want to soften out water?

The differences between hard and soft water, minerals aside, can be best seen in the outcome of most household tasks. Hard water will leave clothes looking dingy, dishes with a film or residue on them, and bathtubs or showers filled with soap scum. Even your hair, after you wash it in hard water, might feel sticky or look dull. Further hard water could also cause your appliances to use more energy over time. Finally, the minerals found in hard water – like calcium and magnesium – react in such a way with soap that is makes it less effective, as the lather will not be as bubbly and so it is less effective in terms of cleaning.

Overall, hard water is healthier for us but due to our lifestyles and expected outcomes of cleaning tasks soft water produces a visually more appealing finished product, which is why water is softened for household uses.