What’s the difference between soft water and hard water? This is a question that most homeowners don’t know how to answer. The water that comes out of your faucet will be either hard or soft, but telling the distinction between the two is difficult for most homeowners.
Thankfully, there are easy ways to differentiate soft from hard water and fully understand what water type you have.
The Soap Test
An age-old test for soft water vs hard water is done with soap. What you’ll want to do is get a soap that is supposed to turn into a nice foamy, lather condition when you try lathering it. You can do your test by:
- Placing soap in the middle of your hand.
- Pouring water into your hand.
- Rubbing your hands together to get the soap to lather.
What do you see?
If you have hard water, you’ll notice the following:
- The soap forms a white film rather than a true lather.
- The soap remains on the skin when rinsing.
When using shampoo, you’ll notice that hard water doesn’t allow the soap to be rinsed off of the hair easily.
Hard water is also filled with minerals, so it has a tendency to leave these mineral deposits on everything from your tub to your dishes after they’ve been washed. This is a mineral scale buildup of calcium and magnesium.
In older buildings, pipes can even become clogged due to the mineral build up over the years.
Water sometimes becomes hard due to minerals passing through the system. Even city water can become hard even though it’s already processed and treated. If you notice that you’re water is hard when it normally isn’t, waiting a few days for the bicarbonate minerals to leave the system is recommended.
If the hardening is causing your food to taste a little off, boiling the water will soften the water.
Temporary hardness should resolve in a few days. When hardness persists, you’ll want to treat the water properly to return it to the preferred soft water.
Treating Hard Water
Hard water isn’t harmful to humans, and you can drink it without worry. Your skin and hair may become drier due to the minerals in the water, but this, too, is not a major concern in terms of overall consequences.
Buildup in your pipes and plumbing system are a concern, and if not treated, may result in clogging. Clothing fabric can be damaged due to hard water caused by detergents not being properly rinsed out of the fabric fibers.
Hard water can be corrected with a treatment system. These systems will filter all of the water in the home in an attempt to remove the hardness in the water. Some systems will use salt to produce these results, and regeneration of soft water may be required.
The first step is to test your water to determine the hardness level. Testing can be done with test strips that can be purchased online or in your local hardware store.
Afterwards, you’ll want to determine what the best water softening system is for your home. Professional installation is normally not required, but advanced systems will require plumbing knowledge and experience to be installed properly.
Since a lot of hard water issues occur in the shower, you can install a water filter/softener showerhead. These showerheads will require a filter to be changed periodically, but they’ll also catch all of the minerals that cause your water to be hard, remedying the problem. This is a great option for anyone on a budget that doesn’t want to buy a complete system, or renters that don’t want to buy a water softening system for their apartment.