You’ve probably heard the terms “soft water” and “hard water” referenced when talking about plumbing and water systems. However, you’re probably unfamiliar with the exact definition of the two and how both can affect your plumbing and appliances. Now is a good time to learn about hard water and soft water, as well as why it should matter so much to homeowners.
Soft vs. Hard Water
Hard water is water that contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium and mineral deposits, including chalk and limestone. Approximately 85 percent of potable water in the U.S. contains a significant amount of calcium and minerals. Soft water contains only sodium ions, making it slightly salty in taste and somewhat more slippery than hard water. Much of the naturally occurring soft water comes in the form of rainfall, which turns into hard water as it readily dissolves and absorbs minerals found in soil and rock. The overall level of hardness depends on the geological makeup of the surrounding area – some places will have higher mineral deposits than others.
Why Soft Water is Preferred to Hard Water
Hard water isn’t exactly a health risk, but it does have plenty of undesirable effects on your plumbing system as well as your overall comfort level. For example, the minerals and impurities found in hard water can clog up plumbing in dishwashers, refrigerators and other appliances. It also leaves behind mineral buildup on your sink and bathtub. Water heaters are most at risk for deposits and scale left over from hard water. Such deposits can accumulate over time, reducing both the capacity and effectiveness of the water heater. Overall, lime scale and other mineral deposits left behind by hard water can significantly shorten the lifespan of your appliances by as much as 30 percent and increase energy bills by up to 25 percent. Hard water also makes it hard to wash your clothes, since the minerals often combined with certain soils to form insoluble salts that take multiple cleanings to remove. Your clothes will also look dingy and feel scratchy when washed in hard water. You may not be able to work up a good lather when you wash your hands in hard water. It also leaves behind residue on dried dishes and glasses, not to mention soap scum in your shower, bathtub and sinks.
Softening Hard Water
In most cases, soft water is preferred since it does far less accumulative damage to your plumbing system than untreated hard water. Using soft water not only improves the taste of your coffee, tea and other drinks, it also leaves your skin cleaner and feeling more refreshed. Softening hard water basically involves removing the minerals through the use of a water softener. Most water softeners rely on an ion exchange resin to pull and dissolve sodium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals onto the resin surface. The sodium goes back into the water while the remaining mineral ions are stuck on the resin. Those who find the resulting water too soft can use additional treatments to make it more palatable or employ a less-aggressive water softening process. C&W Plumbing can help you choose a solution for your home. Soft water isn’t as soft as a pillow, but it is soft enough to keep your plumbing, appliances, clothes and skin in great condition for years to come.
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