What is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Water?

by | Jan 3, 2018 | Plumbing

Are you a homeowner in California? If so, you probably know about hard water and deal with it on a day-to-day basis. According to U.S. Geological Survey, 89.3% of homes in the United States are considered to have hard water, with some of the highest levels in California. Although hard water can be found across the country, areas of the Southwest have some of the hardest water due to hot weather, the mineral content of its groundwater, and the lack of regular rainfall.

Water can either be hard, or soft. Hard water does not describe the actual feeling of the water. Instead, it is called hard water because it has mineral deposits like calcium and magnesium within the water molecules. Soft water doesn’t have any type of mineral deposits within it, and just has H2O molecules.

Water doesn’t start out containing minerals, though. When it rains, that water is considered soft water. Water becomes hard when it seeps into the ground and absorbs calcium and magnesium. It then takes these minerals into water treatment plants, which get pumped into homes.

There are different types of water throughout the United States because there are different types of rocks and sediment water has to pass through that will leave mineral deposits, or won’t. While hard water is safe to drink, it can be frustrating for homeowners.

Problems Homeowners Face with Hard Water

Homeowners with hard water tend to use more soap in the laundry or in the shower. Hard water simply doesn’t lather as well as soft water, so homeowners with hard water spend more money on cleaning agents. Tests from the Scientific Service of New York found that homes with soft water get better stain remover with 50% less laundry detergent.

Hard water also reacts with soap and creates what is known as scum. Scum can be removed with most household cleaners, as well as vinegar or baking soda.

Another problem that homeowners with hard water face is scale. When hard water is heated, the minerals come out of the water and create scale: hard mineral deposits. This causes spots to form on dishes, kettles, showerheads and faucets. While that can be frustrating to clean off over and over, hard water can also deposit scale within water heaters and pipes. Scale can keep building up within pipes to the point where water pressure has diminished, and eventually the pipes will have to be replaced.

Scale within water heaters can build up and make it so the burner that heats the water must heat through a thick layer of scale, which makes it harder to heat your water, making your water heater less efficient and burn out before it’s intended lifespan.

Call Jerry's Plumbing, Heating, & Air Conditioning (800) 697-8875 for all your plumbing needs!

Perhaps you haven’t noticed any issues but you want to be sure you are running at peak efficiency and are avoiding any potential hazards. Did you know that Air Conditioning or HVAC Systems that are improperly installed, or even sized incorrectly can:

  • Be more costly
  • Promote mold growth
  • Leak harmful toxins (including carbon monoxide)
  • Start fires