What’s the difference between hard water and soft?

You’ve probably heard the terms “hard water” and “soft water.” You may wonder what determines the hardness or softness of water and whether one type of water is healthier or safer to drink than the other.

Although water is typically crystal clear, it contains minerals and chemicals. The concentration of certain minerals is what creates the “hardness” of water.

This article will look at the differences between the two types of water, as well as the pros and cons of each and what to know about water softening.

What’s the difference between hard water and soft water?

The hardness of water is determined primarily by the amount of calcium and magnesium it contains. Higher levels of these and other minerals make water hard.

Water softening systems work by reducing the concentrations of minerals from the water.

Instead of having higher levels of calcium and magnesium, soft water tends to have higher concentrations of sodium, or salt.

How can you tell if water is hard or soft?

You can’t usually tell by looking at water whether it’s hard or soft. Sometimes the feel of water and what it does to items in your dishwasher or washing machine can be a tip-off.

Signs of hard water include:

Feeling a film on your hands after washing them. This is caused by the soap reacting with calcium to form soap scum. You may need to rinse your hands longer if the water is hard.
Spots. These can appear on glasses and silverware coming out of the dishwasher. These are usually deposits of calcium carbonate.
Mineral stains. These show up on clothes when they come out of the washing machine. Clothes can wear out faster because of the harshness of hard water.
Less water pressure in your home. Mineral deposits can form in the pipes, essentially shrinking the interior diameter of the pipes and reducing water flow.
Signs of soft water include:

A healthy lather when washing clothes, dishes, and even your hands and body.
Clothes that are cleaner, with no mineral stains and less wear-and-tear damage.
Healthy water pressure in your home.
A slight sodium taste in drinking water, though in many cases a difference in taste is imperceptible.


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