The simple answer is that hard water has minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, while soft water does not. A more complete answer is to say that water exists on a continuum from soft to hard, and where it falls on that continuum depends on how much mineral content it has. The more mineral content, the harder the water.
- 0 -17 mg/l. Water with this little mineral content is soft water.
- 17 mg/l – 60 mg/l. This water is considered slightly hard.
- 60 mg/l – 120 mg/l. Water in this range is moderately hard water.
- 120 mg/l – 180 mg/l. This is the range of hard water.
- 180+ mg/l. Anything above the 180 mark is very hard water.
How Does Water Get Hard and Soft?
Pure water is soft, but pure water is rare in nature. As it moves over and underground, water collects and dissolves minerals. Most of the water we get from the ground is hard to some degree.
Which Is Better?
This depends on your perspective. They each have advantages and disadvantages.
Most people prefer the taste of hard water, feeling it tastes cleaner than soft water. The minerals it has are also healthy for the body. Furthermore, soft water that has been artificially softened contains sodium, and some people are therefore prohibited from drinking it for reasons related to heart health.
However, soft water is easier on the outside of the body. Hair feels fresher and lighter when shampooed with soft water. Soft water is easier on skin and does not leave any film on the body.
Soft water is also easier on your clothes and appliances. Clothes clean more easily and maintain their brightness better with soft water, which helps them last longer. Since soap lathers and rinses more easily with soft water, cleaning clothes and dishes becomes easier, and when appliances don’t have to work as hard, they last longer.
Soft water leaves fewer sediments and other deposits behind, which means you can clean your tubs and sinks less often and your pipes will not clog as quickly.
Soft water is easier on the outside of the body and requires less maintenance around the house. However, most water has a certain level of hardness and softening it costs money and adds sodium to the water. Hard water is healthier for the body, but harder on skin, clothes, hair and appliances. The choice between the two is a personal one.