You turn on the faucet and you have water. Water is water, right? It’s all essentially made the same isn’t it? Well, not exactly. You may have heard the terms hard water and soft water. While you have little to do with whether it’s hard water vs soft water in your home, if you’re unsatisfied with your water quality there are things you can do to change it. Which do you prefer? Keep reading to learn the difference between hard and soft water!

Keep in mind, as we go, that there are benefits to both hard and soft water. Hard vs soft water usually just comes down to personal preference for many people. The following sections will give you a better idea of what is soft vs hard water. You’ll learn the pros and cons to both types of water. We’ll also touch on how you can treat your water, if you feel it needs it.


What is Hard Water?


Hard water is water that has not been treated in a chemical sense. While hard water has been treated to remove contaminants, it is the closest thing to natural, untouched water that you can consume. As water travels through the ground it comes in contact with rocks, limestone, and it goes through soil. As it comes in contact with rocks or minerals, it becomes hard water. So, what is hard water? It’s water that has a higher amount of calcium, magnesium, and other dissolved minerals.


Fast Facts on Hard Water:


  • Hard water may be a nuisance but it’s completely safe to consume
  • The National Research Council has stated that hard water contributes to a person’s total calcium and magnesium intake
  • Hardness is determined by how many milligrams of minerals per liter
    • More than 17 mg and less than 60 mg is slightly hard
    • More than 60 mg and up to 120 mg is moderately hard
    • Between 120mg and 180 mg is hard water
    • Anything over 180 mg is very hard water
  • Hard water is a nuisance because it leaves mineral deposits on pipes which can affect the water flow. It also leaves a film in sinks, faucets, and the bathtub. Dishes end up spotty and laundry might look dull or feel scratchy. Your hair may feel dull or like it’s not clean after washing it. You may also notice a filmy feeling on your skin after showering.
  • Hard water is able to reduce the solubility of metals like lead and copper.
  • Your water may be harder based on the part of the country you live in


What is Soft Water?


The main difference between hard and soft water is that soft water lacks the high amounts of dissolved minerals that hard water has. Where hard water may be considered mineral-rich, soft water lacks those minerals and many of the problems that come with them. Soft water occurs naturally in many parts of the United States. For example, areas of the Pacific Northwest or the East Coast have softer water that occurs naturally.


Fast Facts on Soft Water:


  • The U.S. Geological Survey states that 85% or more of the U.S. has hard water.
  • In order to ease the nuisance, many homeowners use a water softener to soften their water and remove the calcium and magnesium that make it hard
  • Like consuming hard water, it is also safe to drink and use soft water
  • Hard water can become soft water through the process of ionization
  • Although not as common, you can also soften your water by boiling it


Hard vs Soft Water – Turning your Hard Water Soft


Ionization will remove the minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium, that make your water hard. This is done using a water softener. The general idea is that the minerals are swapped with sodium during the ion exchange process. The water softener has a mineral tank that is filled with resin beads. As the water passes through the tank, the calcium and magnesium attach to the beads. As this happens, the minerals replace the sodium ions, which go into the water and soften it. It’s a simple exchange process. While soft water is safe to consume, if you are on a salt-restricted diet you may be warned about consuming soft water in high amounts.


Soft Water vs Hard Water – Which is Best?


Both hard and soft water offer benefits. The main problem with hard water is the film and mineral deposits that wreak havoc on appliances, sinks, and bathtubs. If you’re worried about the sodium in the water that arrives through the process of water softening, you still have options. One way to get the benefits of soft water, without having to consume it, is to have a water softener with a water bypass valve. Using a bypass valve allows you to pick and choose when hard water will be released from your tap.  This allows you to use the hard water for consumption and the soft water for use in appliances and for laundry, bathing, and other cleaning. It gives you the best of both hard and soft water.

Does that answer your question about hard water vs soft water? If not feel free to let us know in the comments. You can also check out our guide for the best water softeners if you’re looking for a way to soften your hard water.

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