The Difference Between Hard Water and Soft Water

Hard water sounds bad. Soft water sounds good. The reality is that the difference between hard water and soft water have their own advantages.

Water is water, right?

  • It comes out of the taps.
  • It’s wet.
  • It tastes good.
  • It can be used for bathing, drinking, washing, gardening, and cooking.

While all of the above is true, the water coming into your home falls into two categories:

  • Hard water.
  • Soft water.

It’s something we’re frequently asked about here at Bath Planet of Toronto.

And right off the bat, it has nothing to do with how the water feels.

It’s all about mineral content

The majority of the water supply in Oakville, Toronto, and Kitchener falls into the hard category.

That’s because it’s ground water, which is:

  • Rainwater which has seeped into the ground…
  • …and gone deep enough to reach an aquifer (an underground layer of rock, gravel, or silt)…
  • …and has become part of a water source for things like wells or springs.

As the water makes its way through the ground, it picks up minerals and other particles such as:

  • Calcium.
  • Magnesium.
  • Sulfur.
  • Lime.

The more minerals found in the water, the harder it is.

What is hard water?

As mentioned above in this blog, hard water has a high concentration level (1 particle grain per 3.78 litres) of dissolved materials.

And while hard water sounds terrible, it really isn’t.

In fact, there are some instances where hard water is more beneficial and desirable than soft water:

  • Drinking: Because of the minerals it’s picked up, hard water is better for your body than soft water. It also tastes better too.
  • Plumbing: Hard water contains limescale. When it travels through old pipes, a limescale coating is left behind which keeps elements (like salt) which are stuck on the pipe from dissolving.
  • Health: Calcium (for strong, healthy bones) and magnesium (to lower blood pressure) can be found in hard water.

Of course, the opposite is true. Sometimes, you don’t want to use hard water:

  • Cleaning: Hard water can leave scum and residue on things like your bath wall surrounds and shower liners.
  • Plumbing: Wait, didn’t you just say hard water is good for plumbing? Yes it is. But water that’s too hard can clog up your pipes and reduce appliance (dishwasher, washing machine) efficiency.
  • Odour: Some people are put off by the smell of hard water due to the mineral deposits found within it.

What is soft water?

Soft water doesn’t have many (if at all) extra minerals. This is a big reason why people install purifiers or water softeners into their home; to remove the unwanted elements.

And just like its name implies, soft water is ideal for gentle usage, such as:

  • Laundry: Soft water is much easier on clothing vs. hard water. That’s because there’s no mineral deposits to get caught within fabric fibres.
  • Cleaning: Since soft water is free of particles, there’s no chance of scum or residue being left behind. An added benefit is that, with soft water, you’ll spend less time cleaning the home.
  • Energy-Efficiency: Appliances which run on soft water (such as walk-in tubs or water heaters) run more efficiently. This, in turn, can lower your monthly energy bills.
  • Bathing: It’s incredibly easy to work up a soapy lather with soft water. And if you have sensitive skin, the lack of leftover minerals will feel better when you’re done in the shower or bathtub.

Having said all that, there are drawbacks to soft water too:

  • Drinking: Soft water is saltier than hard water. It doesn’t taste as good and, in some cases, it shouldn’t be drunk at all.
  • Gardening: Since soft water is salty, some plants are very sensitive to it. Soft water can actually stunt plant growth.
  • Fish Tanks: Using soft water to fill an aquarium is a bad idea. Fish need balanced pH levels to stay healthy. Soft water is very unstable in that regard could end up harming or killing fish.

How to tell the difference between hard water and soft water

The Difference Between Hard Water and Soft Water

Look at the lather on your soap. If it’s very strong and bubbly, you’ve got soft water. If it isn’t, you’ve got hard water.

You can also look at anything solid your water comes into contact with, such as:

  • Dishes.
  • Utensils.
  • Sink.
  • Glassware.

Once the water dries up, check for a filmy-type residue. If you spot it, that’s hard water. If it’s not there, then it’s soft water you’re looking at.

Is it possible to get the best of both worlds?

Hard water and soft water both have their advantages.

The best way to enjoy the benefits of both is to use a water softener with bypass control.

That ensures hard water gets to where it’s supposed to be…

  • Taps for drinking and cooking.
  • Garden hose.

…and that soft water ends up where it should:

Contact Bath Planet Toronto today

Whether you have more questions about hard water vs. soft water, or are interested in transforming your bathroom altogether, we want to hear from you.

Contact us with your comments and we’ll get back with the info you need.