The hardness or softness of water refers to the amount of dissolved minerals in the water, minerals like magnesium and calcium. While water in its pure form is soft, as it seeps through the ground it can dissolve and accumulate solids. Soft water is easier on materials from clothing to plumbing pipes, but each has its advantages and disadvantages.
When Does Water Get Hard?
Water does not fit into one of two categories but rather exists on a scale from soft to hard. The decision to draw a line and call one water hard while another soft is arbitrary, but there are some commonly accepted boundaries.
- Soft water. Water with less than 17 mg/l of mineral content we call soft water.
- Slightly hard water. From 17 mg/l to 60 mg/l the water is only slightly hard.
- Moderately hard. More than 60 mg/l but less than 120 mg/l makes the water moderately hard.
- Hard water. The range from 120 mg/l to 180 mg/l delineates the hard water range. Anything over 180 mg/l is very hard water.
Is Hard Water Better?
It all depends on what you mean by better. Hard water has some health benefits that soft water lacks, because the minerals found in hard water are good for the body. Meanwhile, water that has been artificially softened from a hard state has more sodium and may be inappropriate for those on a heart-healthy diet. Most people also agree that hard water tastes cleaner than soft water.
Hard water allows sediment and scale buildup in your bathtubs and sinks, requiring more frequent scrubbing. That same sediment can clog your drains and plumbing and force you to make repairs more often.
There are some advantages to having soft water, and many people invest in water softeners because of it. Soft water preserves the life of your laundry, as they come out brighter and cleaner looking. Dishes in the dishwater don't tend to have as many spots, which the dissolved minerals of hard water leave behind.
Soap lathers more easily and rinses away quicker in soft water. This means your dishwasher and clothes washer do not have to work as hard, which lengthens their life span too.
Hard water is healthy and tastes good, but it causes more complications in daily use. Softening the water is an individual choice and may be worth the expense.