Do you know if you have hard or soft water in your home? If you’re like 85% of the population of Canada, you likely have hard water. But what does that mean?
There are a lot of myths out there about both hard and soft water, so it’s difficult to know what’s the truth and what’s the product of long-held myths. Is hard water bad for you? Is soft water healthier? Are there benefits to either?
We’re going to get into whether either type of water has benefits or drawbacks for you, your health, and your home. Before we do, let’s take a look at what the differences between hard and soft water are.
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is a term everyone is likely familiar with, but they probably couldn’t really tell you what it means, even though there’s a good chance their home has it.
Hard and soft water isn’t a black and white thing. It’s actually a spectrum. Your water’s hardness can range from soft to extremely hard. What this hardness factor depends on is the amount of minerals – primarily magnesium and calcium – found in your water. Hardness is calculated in grains per gallon or parts per million, depending on the testing methods being used. 0 grains per gallon (or 17 parts per million) is considered soft water, while 59+ grains per gallon (>180 parts per million) is extremely hard. Essentially, the more minerals in your water, the harder it is.
How to Tell if You’ve Got Hard Water
There’s a good chance that you do have hard water, but the level of hardness can vary. So how can you tell whether your water is hard or soft?
People with hard water tend to complain about stains on their clothes after they come out of the washing machine, calcium deposits on their dishes after a run through the dishwasher, and feeling a film on their hands or body after showering or bathing. But these are just anecdotes and not actual evidence of hard water.
There is, however, a really simple at-home experiment you can do to determine whether you have hard water or soft water. Take a clear, clean plastic bottle and fill it one-third of the way up with water. Add a few drops of pure liquid soap – soap without dyes, detergents, or perfumes – replace the cap on the bottle, and shake it. If there are a ton of frothy, foamy bubbles at the top of the bottle, and the water at the bottom is clear, you’ve got soft water. If there are minimal bubbles and the water at the bottom of the bottle is cloudy or murky, your water is hard.
Of course, this just determines whether or not you’ve got hard water, not the where on the spectrum of hardness your water falls. To determine that, you can pick up test strips from any home improvement store and even on Amazon. Fill a clean glass with cold water from your bathroom sink (not your kitchen, your bathroom), says HomeWater 101, and place a test strip in the water for a few seconds until it starts to change color. Your kit will have come with a color chart with which to compare the color on your test strip. Once you’ve determined just how hard your water is, you can make the decision to buy a water softener if you wish.
Hard and Soft Water Fact Vs Fiction
Myth: Hard water is contaminated.
Truth: Hard water is filled with minerals, but that doesn’t make it contaminated. Contamination is reserved for bacteria and germs, which can potentially be in your water, but not because it’s hard. The two aren’t mutually exclusive and soft water can get contaminated just as easily.
Myth: Hard water clogs your pipes.
Truth: It depends on your home. According to WebMD, houses built between the 1940s and 1970s whose pipes are made out of galvanized steel may see some clogs as calcium and magnesium can stick to the inside of those pipes. If your home was built after that, or not using galvanized steel, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Myth: Hard water tastes bad.
Truth: Actually, it tends to be soft water that tastes different. This is due to the fact that water softeners take the minerals out of hard water. Minerals make water taste better, as is evidenced by the fact that you can go to the store right now and buy mineral water.
Myth: Soft water contains salt.
Truth: Not exactly. Water softeners extract the minerals like calcium and magnesium from hard water and replace them with sodium. Yes, that part is true. However, despite popular belief that the salt content in soft water is a health hazard to people with high blood pressure, the truth is, there’s really not enough sodium to make a difference. Put it this way. There’s more sodium in a glass of milk than in a glass of softened water. There’s more sodium in an egg than in an 8-ounce glass of softened water.
So should you or shouldn’t you soften your water? Well, in the end, it really depends on what you prefer. Neither is necessarily better than the other, neither is really healthy or unhealthy. Hard water can leave mineral deposits on your clothes or dishes, while soft water, lacking minerals, can make your body feel slippery and like you haven’t rinsed all the soap off. It’s a pretty even trade-off, so again, it’s all about your own personal preferences. If you want to soften your water, it’s easy and inexpensive to do. If you’re on the fence, why not give us a call? We can help you decide what’s best for you, your family, and your home.