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

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

November 23, 2021

You may be surprised to find that water isn’t just water. There are two different types of water a home can have: hard and soft. Although there isn’t really a taste difference between hard water and soft water, it’s important to know which type is flowing through your home’s plumbing system.

Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the two water types.

What makes water hard?

Hard water is defined as water with excessive amounts of calcium and magnesium. Rainwater itself doesn’t contain any minerals—they’re picked up when water enters the ground and begins its journey through a city water system or into a well.

These minerals are essential for our health, but they can be detrimental to our plumbing system and appliances. Calcium and magnesium deposits can shorten appliance lifespan, restrict water flow through pipes and even affect our personal hygiene.

What is soft water?

The key difference between soft water and hard water is that soft water doesn’t have calcium, magnesium or any harsh minerals. To truly be considered soft, the water has to contain less than 1 grain per gallon (gpg) of hard minerals.

How to soften water

The good news is that achieving soft water is easy with a little bit of help from a water softener. A water softener essentially works by trapping outside minerals and replacing them with sodium ions. Unlike calcium and magnesium, sodium doesn’t have any negative side effects on plumbing or appliances.

What kind of water do you have?

You can’t tell if your water is hard or soft by looking at it or drinking it, but there are some clear indicators that your water contains more than 1 gpg of hardness. Here are a few of the ways to tell:

  • Scale buildup: If your home has hard water, the first thing you’ll notice is scale accumulation on faucets and fixtures. These deposits often have a greenish color, but you might also see rust-colored stains in toilet bowls and porcelain sinks.
  • Poor water flow: As we noted above, the difference between soft water and hard water is that hard water contains calcium and magnesium. These minerals will reduce water flow after years of accumulation.
  • Unclean clothes and dishes: Hard water isn’t as good at removing laundry and dish detergents. As a result, dishes may come out still looking dirty, and your clothes might feel grimy after coming out of the washer. The only way to combat that is with a water softener.
  • Filmy skin: Hard water also leaves a slight film on our skin and hair when we’re in the shower. If you come out of the shower still feeling unclean, there’s a good chance your water is hard.

Is it time for a water softener?

You should consider installing a water softener if you’ve noticed any of the signs above, but your first step should be getting your water tested. A water analysis will tell you more about all the contaminants in your water. Contact our pros at Royal Water Works, Inc. to get your hard water and soft water tested.

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