Are you wondering what the difference is between hard water and soft water? Here’s where you’ll find all the facts regarding hard water vs soft water. What is hard and soft water? How can you tell if water is hard or soft? What should you do about hard water?
If you’re seeing white residue around your faucets, or experiencing low water pressure, there’s a good chance that your water is hard. There are actually a lot of effects associated with hard water. This will all be revealed in the article. I’m going to be looking at the science behind hard and soft water, in an effort to gain a better understanding of the implications involved and how to deal with the situation. To fully understand hard water vs soft water, we need to first understand how and why water is classified as being either hard or soft.
The quick definition of hard water is the presence of hard minerals in a sample of water. The most common of these are calcium and magnesium. Though any compound with a negative ionic charge will have the effect of hardening water. Hard water is alkaline, meaning that the water has a high PH. I’ll discuss the alkaline and acidity of hard water vs soft water in more detail later.
What is Soft Water?
Essentially, soft water is the direct opposite of hard water. This means water that contains little or no hard minerals and has a neutral or acidic PH.
The most accurate assessment of hardness or softness in water through scientific analysis. A laboratory will test what minerals are present in parts per million (PPM). The most common test will be for the presence of calcium carbonate. If the water has less than 20 PPM calcium, it is soft. A water sample containing 50 – 100 PPM calcium is considered moderately hard. Anything exceeding 100 PPM calcium is hard water.
Apart from scientific testing, there are many common signs of hard water, that can be observed around the home.
Signs of hard water:
Any of these effects may indicate that the water in your home is hard. Though there may be other causes, especially when considering water pressure and the performance of water heaters. If you are experiencing a combination of these factors, your water is probably hard.
If you notice a scale buildup and need more certainty as to whether your water is hard or soft, a simple PH test may help. You can use a common swimming pool test kit. Hard water can be identified by a high PH, alkaline water. While there can be other factors affecting water PH, the combination of limescale on your faucets and in your appliances, in conjunction with a high PH, is an almost definite sign the water in your home is hard.
The Effects of Hard Water vs Soft Water
Hard minerals in water will cling to the walls of your pipes. This restricts waterflow, reducing water pressure. Over time, deposits of these minerals can block pipes. Unsightly residue on plumbing fixtures, like faucets and bathtubs are common. The alkaline nature of hard water can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. You may also notice that skin is dry and flaky. Certain skin conditions, like eczema, can be aggravated by hard water. Small particles of calcium and magnesium will collect in the fibers of your clothes during washing. This will affect the color of the fabric and make it feel hard or stiff. Deposits of these minerals in water heaters may also cause them to be less efficient.
By removing these elements from the water, it becomes soft. So the benefits of soft water can be listed as follows.
Soft Water Benefits
Acid and Alkaline: Hard Water vs Soft Water
The difference between an acid and alkaline is determined by the concentration of hydrogen ions. Water, in it’s natural state is essentially neutral. It contains 2 hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom. Hydrogen is ionic 1- and oxygen 2+, cancelling the ionic charge.
When negative ions bond with water it becomes more acidic, therefore softer. Positive ions will increase alkalinity, making the water hard. Hydrogen ions are measured using the PH formula. A high PH indicates alkaline (hard water) and low PH would be soft water which is either neutral or acidic.
The best PH for water is 7. This is the normal PH for the skin and eyes. Ideally, you want your water to have a PH of around 7. If it is much lower, as with hard water, your skin will become dry and you may experience itching. Your eyes will also experience irritation. High acidity can cause a burning sensation, though it is not easy to achieve this in water, unless a strong acid is added.
Essentially, hard (alkaline) water is a naturally occurring problem, whereas acidic water requires intervention. A swimming pool, for example, may become excessively acidic when you add too much acid to the water.
How Does Water Become Hard?
Rainwater is generally neutral. It is almost pure H₂0 which will have a PH close to 7. When rain falls onto the ground, it makes contact with other minerals contained in the soil. Calcium, magnesium, and iron are common metals that will bond with the water. As the water seeps through the earth into the ground water supply, it will become hard as it comes into contact with calcium, magnesium, and other hard elements.
While hard water is commonly associated with well water, many municipalities may use water sources with an abundance of hard metals.
Which Areas are Affected by Hard Water?
Hard water will be most prevalent in low-rainfall areas. This is because there is less water in relation to hard minerals, thereby increasing the amount of hardeners compared to the volume of water.
Though there can also be geological reasons. Here’s an interesting fact: Most of the USA was once an ancient seabed. This means that most of continent has high concentrations of limestone, leading to vast areas being affected by hard to extremely hard water. It is estimated that around 85% of Americans have hard water in their homes. There are only a few eastern states and parts of the Northwest that experience soft to moderately hard water.
Top Cities in the USA for Hard Water: