Hard water is one of the biggest causes of plumbing problems due to buildup on pipes which reduces water pressure and wearing down fixtures. But what exactly is hard water, and what’s the difference between hard and soft water?
When water falls from the sky as rain or snow, it is free of minerals – or “soft”. The water gets absorbed into the ground and flows towards aquifers which eventually take it into our homes. As the water travels through the ground, it picks up trace minerals. The presence of these minerals is what make water “hard.” The most common minerals in hard water are calcium and magnesium, but other minerals can also be present. Hard water is a problem which affects about 85% of the United States.
By contrast, soft water is water which does not contain a high amount of minerals in it. The hardness of softness of water is measured by how many grains of mineral are per gallon (GPG). The following calculations are used for determining how hard water is:
• Soft Water- less than 1 gpg
• Slightly Hard- 1-3.5 gpg
• Moderately Hard- 3.5-7 gpg
• Very Hard- 7-10 gpg
• Extremely Hard- over 10 gpg
Hard water can have some very bad effects in your home. For starters, it makes cleaning difficult because the minerals react with soap. Instead of lathering into foam, the soap will turn into a film. If you have hard water, you will notice spots on your dishes, soap scum in your bathtub, your clothes may never seem to get clean, and your hair might even be dull after washing. Hard water can cause even more serious effects though. The minerals buildup in your pipes and on appliance parts (such as your hot water heater). The buildup reduces water flow and efficiency, and it can also cause breakdowns. You should have your water heater regularly cleaned from hard water buildup to keep it functioning efficiently.
However, soft water also has its drawbacks. For starters, soft water doesn’t contain calcium, magnesium, and other trace minerals which are actually good for your health. When water is softened, the process (during which metal cations are exchanged for sodium ions) causes sodium levels to increase. Most Americans are already consuming way too much sodium and getting more sodium through drinking water just adds to the problem. People with circulatory problems or heart problems should not drink soft water.