Hard Water vs Soft Water
The definition of water hardness is “the level of certain minerals (particularly calcium and magnesium) found in your water supply”.
“Hard Water” contains large amounts of these mineral deposits and can cause both aesthetic as well as usage problems for consumers. Spots on your dishes after washing and rinsing them? Lime scale build-up on your shower? Soap not making and lather? Yup – that’s hard water right there.
Hard water may also cause pipes to clog, much the same way a kettle would build up layers of lime scale if not properly cleaned. It can also – surprisingly – increase your electricity usage! Hard water contains minerals that cause the heating process to take longer than usual; in short – hard water is no good!
The method for measuring water hardness levels is “Grains Per Gallon”. These grains are dissolved particles of any substance.
The table below, provided by the Water Quality Association – is a great guideline for ascertaining if your water falls into the hard or soft water category.
|Grains Per Gallon||Hard or Soft|
|Less than 1.0||Soft Water|
|1.0 – 3.5||Slightly Hard Water|
|3.5 – 7.0||Moderately Hard Water|
|7.0 – 10.5||Hard Water|
|10.5 +||Very Hard Water|
Softening your water can be done in numerous ways. (thanks WikiHow for the below facts!)
Softening Water for The Home
Boil your water.
Boiling water only removes some types of hardness (“temporary hardness”), so it will not work for all homes. Try this once to see if it works for you.
Bring the water to a boil for a few minutes.
Let it cool for a couple of hours. White minerals should settle to the bottom of the pot.
Siphon or scoop up the top of the water, leaving the minerals behind.
Buy a small ion exchange filter.
Some models attach to a kitchen tap, while others come in pitchers for you to store drinking water. The softened water often has a better taste, but the effect depends on the exact minerals in your water.
This “filter” does not actually remove most contaminants, unless the device has a secondary filter (such as carbon filter or reverse osmosis).
Install a Home-System Ion Exchange Softener
Ion exchange softeners are by far the most effective home softener. Ion exchange softeners come in two types:
1) Sodium chloride: the most common and most effective type. This adds a tiny amount of salt (sodium) to your water.
2) Potassium chloride: less effective, but useful if you can’t have sodium. The potassium can harm people with damaged kidneys or on certain medications that prevent potassium absorption.
If you don’t want sodium or potassium, pick either type and install a reverse osmosis (RO) filter as well to remove them after softening.
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Cover Image Credit: APEC Water Systems