difference between soft water and hard water

Understanding the Difference between Soft Water and Hard Water

When it comes to water, terms such as hard and soft water are quite common. But what do these terms really mean, and what is the difference between hard water and soft water?

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is the presence of high concentrations of mineral ions such as calcium and magnesium in water. These minerals dissolve in water as it passes through rock or soil, leaving behind deposits of minerals that make water hard. Hard water does not lather easily with soap, leaves stains on clothes, glassware, and metallic surfaces.

What is Soft Water?

Soft water contains lower levels of mineral ions, making it easier to lather with soap, rinse clean surfaces, and reduce the occurrence of stains on clothing and fixtures. Soft water can be naturally occurring or treated to eliminate harsh minerals.

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How is Water Hardness measured?

Water hardness is usually measured in two ways: temporary hardness and permanent hardness. Temporary hardness refers to the presence of bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium, which can be removed by boiling water. Permanent hardness is caused by the presence of sulfates, chlorides, and nitrates of calcium and magnesium and cannot be removed by boiling alone. The total hardness of water is the sum of its temporary and permanent hardness.

Pros and Cons of Hard and Soft Water

While both hard water and soft water have their pros and cons, the choice largely depends on individual preferences and needs. For instance, hard water may be beneficial to individuals with kidney stones who need magnesium and calcium intake. On the flip side, hard water may cause scale buildup in pipes, leading to clogs that may necessitate costly repairs. Soft water, on the other hand, is excellent for household cleaning, as it reduces surface staining and soap scum. However, soft water may not be ideal for drinking, as it may contain high levels of sodium.


In a nutshell, there are clear differences between hard and soft water, and understanding these differences can help individuals decide which type of water is ideal for their needs. If you are unsure, it is best to seek the advice of water experts and test water hardness levels to make an informed decision.

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Table difference between soft water and hard water

Soft Water Vs. Hard Water

Soft Water Vs. Hard Water

Characteristic Soft Water Hard Water
Mineral content Low – less than 75 parts per million (ppm) High – more than 75 ppm
Taste No taste Can have a metallic or bitter taste
Effect on skin/hair Leaves skin and hair feeling soft and smooth Can leave skin and hair feeling dry and itchy
Dissolves soap Dissolves soap easily Does not dissolve soap easily, can leave a film on surfaces
Effect on appliances/pipes Does not cause buildup or damage to appliances/pipes Can cause buildup and damage to appliances/pipes over time
Examples Rainwater, distilled water Well water, municipal water