What Is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Water?

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Water is one of the most essential elements in the world, without which life would be impossible for all living beings. It is one of the best solvents and naturally, it is a substance which doesn’t have any color, taste or smell.

Hard and Soft Water

Water can be categorized into two types: hard water and soft water. Although there are no noticeable differences in the appearance and feel of both types, there are some big differences in their mineral content.

In this article, we will go into the details of both these types of water and see which one is more beneficial and what are some key differences between the two.

Hard Water

Hard water normally comes in our home and is rich in several different minerals. The concentration of minerals is the actual determinant of the water’s ‘hardness.’ Hard water is not harmful to our health thanks to its high mineral content as the minerals don’t allow toxic elements like lead and copper to dissolve in hard water.

Benefits of Hard Water

Hard water is rich in calcium and magnesium, which is good for the health. The calcium helps make our bones strong, while magnesium helps in bone formation and somewhat treat diseases like diabetes and heart diseases. The magnesium and calcium in hard water give it a good taste and make it drinkable for us.

Effects of Hard Water

Although hard water is beneficial for us, it may not be so beneficial for the pipelines. The reason for this is that due to the presence of the minerals in hard water, scale tends to form inside the pipelines and other water-related appliances in the household, which can cause clogging or ineffective functioning.

Other than that, hard water causes problems like dingy, shabby-looking clothes, spots and residue on dishes, and soap spots and scum on bathtubs. Some even say that showering with hard water makes the hair dry and dull as it leaves a film on the scalp and takes away moisture, resulting in dandruff and dry skin problems such as eczema.

Due to some of these problems, many people have installed a water softener in their homes to change hard water to soft water.

Soft Water

Soft water is low in minerals, especially in calcium and magnesium ions which hard water is quite rich in. Although soft water may not have many benefits for us from a health perspective, it does have some benefits when it comes to the life of pipelines and water appliances.

Also read: Best Water Softener – 10 options tested and reviewed

Benefits of Soft Water

People soften hard water so that it will not form scale in pipelines, which means your pipelines will remain sturdy and free from any kind of clogging for long periods of time. Another reason for softening water is cleaner glassware and silverware with more shine.

Similarly, soft water means that your clothes will not get too dingy. Plus, your water-related appliances, like shower heads and faucets, will remain in a good working condition because of the mineral-free soft water.

People who perform chores love soft water as it makes their work easier. Soap produces more lather when mixed with soft water, and glasses will look shinier too.

Using soft water also means that you will have to invest less in detergents. Appliances will have to work less hard, meaning your dishwashers, water heaters, washing machines, etc. will keep working effectively for longer periods of time.

Soft water might also help you cut down your water and electricity bills as it makes cleaning easier and faster. Hence, you will be done with all your tasks much quicker than you would with hard water.

Effects of Soft Water

Soft water tastes rather odd and salty due to its lack of minerals. Since essential elements like calcium and magnesium are not present in soft water, it also means it is not suitable for drinking.

Since salt is used to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium from the water through the process of ion exchange, the sodium content in soft water goes way higher. This high sodium content can prove to be harmful for people who are trying to control their sodium intake due to various health problems.

If soft water is running through an old plumbing system, lead can mix in with it due to water erosion and become harmful.

Key Differences – Overview

We have already discussed the differences between soft and hard water separately. Now, we will go through some major differences side by side so that you know the exact differences between these types of water.

First off, hard water is rich in minerals, like calcium and magnesium, whereas soft water contains very few elements and has a high sodium content. As a result, hard water leaves residue and spots on dishes and bathtubs due to their mineral content, whereas soft water has no such reaction with dishes. Hard water is also preferred for drinking, while soft water isn’t considered that favorable.

Soaps are not very effective in hard water and don’t form much foam, whereas soft water allows soaps to form a bubbly lather.

The source of hard water includes groundwater and deep wells, whereas the biggest source of soft water is rainfall or by using water softeners on hard water.

Hard water tends to make the skin and hair dry and dull, while the absence of minerals in soft water allows it to make the hair soft and smooth.


If you are looking for the best of both worlds, i.e., soft water for appliances with the taste and minerals of hard water for drinking, your best bet is to install a salt-free water softener in your home. This will help decrease scale formation in your pipelines and appliances while retaining the mineral level and pleasant taste of hard water.

You can also use other processes like reverse osmosis, distillation or deionization to get the same results.

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