Hard Water Vs. Soft Water: What’s the Big Deal?

Water type and quality can range widely from state to state, and even more so from country to country. For instance, there’s a difference between well water and city/public water. You might’ve also heard about hard water vs soft water.

What’s the difference between hard and soft water, and what might that mean for the quality of the H20 coming out of your tap?

Hard Water Vs Soft Water: What’s the Difference?

How do these two types of water differ, and why?

Hard Water

When we talk about “hard” and “soft” water, we’re mostly referring to the mineral content. Specifically, hard water contains more calcium and magnesium, and possibly other minerals (like iron and zinc) and chemicals. 

What makes water hard? Well, if you’re living in an area that has a greater amount of minerals (likely coming from rocks that contain high mineral content, like limestone) in the ground, the groundwater is going to pick that up.

Soft Water

As you probably guessed, soft water contains much lower levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium.

How Do We Measure How Hard or Soft Water Is?

What’s the boundary line? How high of a mineral content does water need to be considered hard? According to the United States Geological Survey, the guidelines are roughly as follows:

  • 0-60 mg/L: soft
  • 61-120 mg/L: moderately hard
  • 121-180 mg/L: hard
  • 180 mg/L: very hard

What is Water Like Around the United States?

You’re going to find hard water in many parts of the United States. Areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, and Wyoming have what the USGS considers very hard water. Parts of Nevada, Idaho, and the Midwest (Michigan, Indiana, Ohio) are dealing with hard water.

It’s interesting to note how concentrated it is. For instance, soft water is most prominent in northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and along the east coast into some of the southern states. Here’s how the USGS has it mapped out:

It all makes sense, though. If you were to Google which states have the highest mineral content in their soil, you’d see states like Arizona and Texas at the top of the list.

Who Cares If You Have Hard Water?

You should, and for a number of reasons — ranging from pesky to potentially dangerous.

First, hard water can damage parts of your home, over the years, starting with the pipes. For instance, if your pipes are made of steel, minerals can build up quickly, which will ultimately decrease the flow of water and increase corrosion. Because the plumbing will have to work harder to keep up with your usage, your water bill could (perhaps ironically) go up.

Mineral deposits can also cause damage to your faucets, showerhead, dishwasher, toilets, and hot water tank. True, you can clean some of the “gunk” off, but it takes time, money, and elbow grease. And if you’re not diligent enough, then eventually, the damage could be permanent.

But that’s not all. Hard water has health implications, too. Most commonly, it can dry out your hair, skin, and nails, which is even more problematic if you’re dealing with eczema or psoriasis. This happens because magnesium is salt-based, and salt sucks up moisture through the process of osmosis. Calcium can also disrupt the skin’s moisture levels.

It might be even more of a threat than this, though. While more research is needed, there have been studies exploring the relationship between drinking hard water and cardiovascular disease, reproductive failure, and other health issues.

So, hard water may seem like no more than an annoyance. And indeed, that might be all it is in your home. However, the long-term wear and tear on your home — combined with the potential health ramifications — make it an issue worth paying attention to.

How Do You Know If You Have Hard Water?

If it’s not already clear by where you fall on the map or any damage you’re noticing at home, one simple trick is to fill a bottle with a little water and a few drops of pure liquid soap. Shake it up for about half a minute, and then let the water settle.

Do you see bubbles, or is the water mostly flat and cloudy? If it’s the latter, your water is probably hard. 


What Can You Do About Hard Water?

Water softeners are available as stand-alone gadgets (like in showerheads), and you can also get a whole-house softener. But is this the best approach?

The problem here is that softeners don’t typically address other harmful contaminants that are lurking in your tap water, and those are just as bad as, if not worse than, the mineral content. Plus, those contaminants could potentially damage the water softener itself.

Instead, you’re better off using a water purifier that can address unwanted minerals, in addition to other contaminants — like heavy metals, antibiotics, arsenic, hormones, and microplastics.

It can be hard to find a water purifier that’s up to the challenge. Even the more popular approaches, like Brita filters and refrigerator water filters, can’t stand up to all the particles setting up shop in your water.

So, it’s clear that any old water purification system won’t do. More specifically, look for a filter that utilizes reverse osmosis (RO) as its method for purifying your water. This is currently the most effective technology available to us when it comes to removing particles big and small from the water coming through your pipes. A reverse osmosis water filter is so powerful that just about the only thing that can get through it is water molecules.

If your filter doesn’t use RO, then your water isn’t clean. You are drinking particles like microplastics and excess minerals, and depending on where you live, even runoff from livestock — like pesticides and animal waste.

A reverse osmosis water filter packs the biggest punch and can tackle both hard and contaminated water.

Learn more about reverse osmosis water filtration.

Sans Water Purifier

Countertop Reverse Osmosis + UV purification

Shop Now