Water is water right? Comes out of a tap and you use it for everything from a refreshing drink to cooking to taking a hot shower. However, there is more going on with water that what you might think…
So What's The Difference Between Hard Water And Soft Water?
Even with its crystal-clear nature, water contains essential minerals such as calcium, sodium, and magnesium. The concentration of these minerals in water is what actually determines whether it's soft or hard.
Simply explained, hard water is water that is rich in dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. The higher the concentration of these and other minerals, the harder the water. Due to the flavor and health benefits of calcium and magnesium, hard water is preferred for drinking.
On the other hand, soft or softened water is treated water that only contains sodium, which is the reason behind the salty taste. Water is softened by eliminating calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water.
Hard Water vs Soft Water: Benefits And Disadvantages
Like any other thing out there, both hard water and soft water come with benefits and disadvantages. Luckily, both types are typically safe to drink and won't pose any adverse effects on your health.
Let's see what to expect from each type of water.
Benefits Of Hard Water
Good For Your Health
Since calcium and magnesium are essential minerals in the body, drinking hard water can boost the growth and strength of your bones and muscles. Additionally, these minerals regulate enzyme actions and blood pressure, thus protecting the body against avoidable health conditions.
However, if you have a mineral-related health condition and you're considering drinking hard water, I'd recommend consulting your healthcare provider for advice.
Good Source Of Essential Minerals
Given that most people don't meet their recommended daily intake of essential minerals through diet, drinking hard water can be a safe yet affordable source of these minerals.
Thanks to the availability of essential minerals in hard water, it gives it a nice flavour, making it ideal for drinking.
Disadvantages Of Hard Water
Bad For Your Skin
While hard water may not present any adverse health problems, it may not be that friendly to your skin. Various minerals found in hard water can alter your skin's PH balance, exposing it to harmful infections and bacteria.
Similarly, hard water steals moisture from your skin, making it dry and exposing it to certain skin conditions such as eczema. Moreover, hard water doesn't mix well with soap – this can leave a sticky film on your skin, which can attract and encourage bacteria's growth.
If hard water causes you notable skin problems, you can install a water-softening system or invest in other water softening products.
Bad For Your Hair
Similarly, hard water may be to blame for a dry scalp and hair. Since soap doesn't blend well with hard water, it makes it difficult to rinse off the shampoo from your hair. This, in return, may strip away natural oils from your hair and scalp.
Washing your hair regularly with hard water will encourage a dry scalp and hair breakage. The good news is that there numerous hair products in the market that you can use to reduce or prevent the effects of hard water on your hair.
Bad For Your Home Appliances And Clothes
If you've noticed some scaling in your kettle and other home appliances, hard water may be to blame for it. When boiled, hard water leaves deposits of insoluble calcium carbonate inside your kettle. These deposits are commonly known as limescale.
If your kettle has limescale and other deposits from unfiltered water the taste of your tea or filtered coffee may also be less than ideal. And, I don't know about you, but I can tell if my tea has been brewed with unfiltered water!!
You'll also notice these deposits on the inside of hot water boilers and old water pipes. Spots and rings on your glasses, silverware utensils, sinks, and clothing are additional yet common effects of hard water.
Please note that hard water does more than just leave spots or limescale on your home appliances. With time, limescale causes wear and tear on metallic appliances and may end up causing your appliances to fail.
Cleaning your appliances regularly will prevent the build-up of limestone on your home appliances, thereby extending their lifetime and saving on energy.
Not Energy Efficient
It's also worth noting that hard water has notable effects on your power consumption. Due to the build-up of mineral deposits in your kettle or water heater, you'll notice that it takes more time and power to heat the water.
Similarly, the mineral build-up inside heaters and water pipes reduces the water flow capacity, causing your dishwasher or washing machine to work harder, thereby consuming more energy.
Benefits Of Soft Water
While soft water may not be great for drinking, it does have its advantages. These include;
Saves On Soap
Unlike hard water, soft water forms foam easily, thus saving on bathing and laundry soaps and detergents. Soft water is also easy to rinse off and won't leave a sticky film on your skin after washing.
Since soft water doesn't cause limescale build-up on your kettles and other water appliances, it consumes less energy. Besides, it saves on maintenance costs related to limescale build-up in your home water system.
Suitable For Cleaning
Besides consuming less soap, soft water won't encourage damage or leave mineral spots and stains on your clothes or home appliances. It's also gentle on your hair and skin.
Disadvantages Of Soft Water
Like hard water, soft water has its faults. Some of the disadvantages of using soft water include;
Lacks Dietary Properties
Softened water lacks essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium. By drinking soft water, you may be missing out on these important minerals. The high salt concentration in the water might also be a concern to people looking to cut their sodium intake.
Since soft water has a high sodium concentration, it develops a salty taste in drinking water, which may not be appealing to some people.
The high concentration of sodium in soft water may have negative effects on the environment. Besides, it’s not ideal for watering gardens or plants.
Signs Of Hard Water And Soft Water To Watch Out For
|Soft Water||Hard Water|
|Contain sodium ion||Contain minerals such as calcium and magnesium|
|Has a salty taste – not preferred for drinking||Most preferred for drinking|
|Doesn't leave spots or stains on clothes and home appliances||Leaves spots on clothes and home appliances after washing|
|Safe for your hair and skin||Causes dry scalp and hair breakage|
|Good to your water system||Forms limescale build-up inside pipes, reducing water flow|
|Forms foam easily when mixed with soap||Doesn't form foam easily|
Which Type Of Water Is Better?
Well, it depends on how you're planning on using it. For day-to-day activities such as cleaning and cooking, soft water rules the day. Unlike hard water, softened water lacks minerals that reduce the efficiency or damage your home appliances and body (skin and hair).
As for consumption, hard water is preferred due to the availability of essential minerals and good taste. Soft water has a high concentration of salt, making it unsuitable for consumption.
Hard Water vs Soft Water: Summing Up
With all that information in mind, I'm certain that you can now tell the difference between soft water and hard water. Even better, you know the type of water running in your home and can confidently make changes where necessary. If you're still unsure, please contact your water supplier or schedule a home water test with a local water expert.