Hard vs. Soft Water

November 7, 2023

What’s the difference between hard water and soft water, and does it really matter?

The difference between hard and soft water is the level of magnesium and calcium in the water supply. About 85% of US water is hard, but most businesses and homes use water softeners to strip away all the extra minerals.

Water hardness is based on the following scale:

  • Soft Water: less than 17 parts per million of magnesium and calcium
  • Slightly Hard Water: between 17 and 60 parts per million of magnesium and calcium
  • Moderately Hard Water: between 60 and 120 parts per million of magnesium and calcium
  • Hard Water: between 120 and 180 parts per million of magnesium and calcium
  • Very Hard Water: more than 180 parts per million of magnesium and calcium

It’s important to understand that hard water isn’t contaminated, it just contains minerals. Minerals are needed for nutrients, and though too much of a certain mineral can be dangerous, it’s not likely that’ll happen from using hard water in your home. Some people do think that there’s a difference in taste between hard and soft water, with hard water tasting worse (even though minerals are supposed to improve water’s taste).

If you have an older plumbing system built between the 1940s and 1970s, hard water can be potentially damaging to your pipes. During this time period, pipes were made using galvanized steel, which causes magnesium and calcium to stick to the inside of the pipes and create build up. This can be a cause for concern, but a water softener will be beneficial in helping to ease this.

Neither water is necessarily “better” or “cleaner”, they’re just different. Softer water can feel more slippery because there aren’t minerals that are causing it to stick to your skin. Some people think it makes their shampoo or conditioner work better. However, all of this is personal preference.

If you have any questions about your water hardness or want to explore having softer water in your home, contact Eastern Plumbing at 252-758-7579.