Emergency Services

What’s the Difference between Hard and Soft Water?

hard and soft water header

You have most likely heard the terms “hard water” and “soft water” but you may not know which is better, or what the differences are. Both hard and soft water have advantages and disadvantages. There is a lot of personal preference involved in the debate about which variation of water is better.

The chemical difference between the two types of water basically comes down to mineral content. Soft water relies on a sodium exchange to remove most dissolved minerals. Hard water contains a large amount of these dissolved minerals, such as magnesium, calcium and iron. The extra mineral content isn’t necessarily bad, but it can create build up on your appliances, stain clothing, and make your skin more dry.

hard water residue on a faucet

Identification and Causes of Hard Water

Identifying hard water is usually pretty easy. Though you can’t usually tell by just looking at your water, there are other signs that indicate that you have hard water, rather than soft. These include:

  • Residue On Shower Walls and Fixtures
  • Spots on Drinking Glasses and Silverware
  • Low Water Pressure
  • Mineral Spots on Clothing

The high mineral content of hard water often leaves deposits called limes scales. These calcified deposits are a result of the calcium and magnesium content in the water. This is what causes residue to be left on your appliances that use hard water.

But what causes hard water? The precise causes of hard water comes down to a high quantity of metal cations. Calcium and magnesium are the most prevalent minerals in hard water. These minerals are collected as the water flows through the ground. For example, rainwater, as rainwater is falling it is naturally soft, due to evaporation, condensation, and precipitation of the water cycle. But as it falls on the ground it begins to pick minerals, making it hard water. If you’re curious about Utah’s hard water, check out our blog “Utah’s Hard Water Problem” here.

Though there are no serious health risks associated with hard water, it can cause dry skin and an itchy scalp. If you are noticing these symptoms, and currently don’t have a water softener, you may want to consider calling a professional and having a water softener installed.

Softening Water

The only way to experience soft water in your home is through a water softener. Water is softened by simply reducing the quantity of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. Hard water can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the source of the water. The softening process basically comes down to replacing calcium ions with sodium ions. Ion exchange, or reverse osmosis, is one of the most common methods of softening water, and this is the typical method domestic water softening units use to soften water.

Which Water is Better Soft or Hard Water?

Soft water typically feels, as the name implies, softer–especially after regularly using hard water. And some of its benefits include:

  • Softer Skin and Hair
  • No More Hard Water Stains on Fixtures, Appliances, or Clothing
  • Cleaner Dishes
  • Slight Taste Difference

It is because of these reasons, that many people prefer soft water. While there is nothing inherently wrong with hard water–it is fine to drink and the mineral content may even be good for health–the high mineral content can cause limescale buildup over time, which can adversely affect plumbing and lead to pipe corrosion. This is especially true with high iron deposits in water.Soft water eliminates most of these hard minerals through the ion exchange process–leaving a smoother, residue free water–though slightly higher in sodium depending on the hardness of the water being softened. This process alters the taste and feel of the water, leading many people to strongly prefer softer water. In terms of health benefits, there is no real difference; in terms of effect on pipes and fixtures, soft water is better.

Want to Know How Hard Your Water Is?

Well, we’ve created a great tool for you! Go to our hard water tool and put in your zip code. It’s that simple! You’ll then be able to access your area’s hard water information. For more information about water softeners or if you’re ready to make the switch, call Shamrock Plumbing at 801-505-9505 or visit us online.

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