What’s the difference between hard water, and soft water? And, is hard water better for health, or is soft water better for health?
In the past recent years, there has been a staggering amount of research on the impact of consuming hard water, and soft water.
The research indicates that hard water can be detrimental to our health, but hard water is not dangerous to consume.
That’s because hard water is an issue for skin and hair, rather than general health, and the issues that it causes are not extreme.
In this article, we will examine the differences between hard water, and softer water, as well as their impact on your health.
We have broken down the discussion of hard water and soft water, to make it easier to comprehend, without having to read dozens of research papers.
After all, not everyone has the luxury of time to research extensively on the type of water they should be consuming.
To take that burden away from you, we have compiled an article on everything you need to know, about the water you are drinking, and the water you should be drinking.
So if you’re ready to take charge of your health, keep reading!
Table of Contents
What Is Hard Water, And What Is Soft Water?
When groundwater flows through the Earth’s soil, hard water begins to form.
In its basic principle, the water moves through the soil and collects mineral ions that are found within the soil.
The minerals found to consist mostly of magnesium and calcium, but there can also be other minerals, such as manganese and iron.
These minerals make the water hard — the more of the minerals that are present within the water, the higher the levels of hardness within the water.
When the hard water passes through plumbing and an array of water processing equipment, it produces what is known as ‘scale’.
This is a buildup of the minerals and is generally due to calcium and magnetism. Not only is this damaging to health, as already stated, but it can cause a shorter lifespan in the pipes.
Data suggests that hard water affects 85% of American homes. That means that the majority of Americans are struggling with hard water, and may not even realize the possible detrimental impact of hard water on their health.
Soft water contains much fewer concentrations of the minerals found in hard water.
That means that there are fewer concentrations of magnesium and calcium found in soft water.
There are several reasons why some people prefer soft water to hard water.
The first reason is the potential negative side effects of consuming hard water, due to the extremely high mineral content of the water.
The second is that soft water tends to be much healthier for the hair and skin. It’s less harsh and can make hair and skin much softer.
While not everyone notices the difference, it may be particularly noticeable for those who struggle with extensive dry skin and dry hair.
As the mineral contents are lower in soft water, soft water will not cause pipes to corrode at a faster rate than hard water. It can be particularly beneficial for the infrastructure of the pipes.
Wait, How Can I Tell If Water Is Soft Or Hard?
You cannot tell whether water is hard, or whether water is soft, by just looking at the water.
However, there are several ways to find out, or judge, whether your water supply is producing hard water or soft water.
Signs Of Hard Water
1. Film on hands: after washing your hands, you may feel what can be compared to ‘film’ on your hands.
This is due to a chemical reaction produced by the soap and the calcium within the water, and is referred to as ‘soap scum’. If this occurs, it means you should wash your hands for longer.
2. Minerals stains: mineral stains are another sign of hard water. After the laundry, you may notice that there are small stains on your clothing, this is known as a mineral stain.
It can lower the life expectancy of clothes, as the harshness of the water can break down the clothing.
3. Spots on glasses and silverware: If there are spots on glasses or silverware, this can be a sign of hard water, and it is likely that the spots are a deposit of calcium carbonate.
4. Water Pressure: in areas where hard water is present, it is common for the water pressure to be reduced. This is because of mineral deposits.
When the mineral deposits form in the pipes, it can reduce the interior diameter. This results in less water pressure, due to the reduction of the interior diameter.
Signs Of Soft Water
1. Easy Laundry: When you wash your clothes, you should notice that the laundry detergent works effectively and that the clothes are fresh and clean. There should be no mineral stains on the clothing.
2. Normal Water Pressure: if there are no issues with water pressure within the community, then it is likely that soft water is present.
Having an issue with water pressure does not always indicate that hard water is present, and it could be due to other problems in the pipes (see also ‘How To Unfreeze Your Pipes’).
3. No Issue Washing Hands: While not everyone’s hands will be soft, washing your hands should not result in feeling like that is a layer of film on the hands. After you wash your hands, your hands should feel clean.
Is Hard Water Bad For You?
The data suggest that hard water is not chronically detrimental. Hard water should not cause any harm, or lead to any illnesses.
While there are a few studies that state otherwise, and link hard water with an increased risk of lower mortality, the overall evidence is not sufficient in agreeing with the findings.
In fact, many studies show that there can be some potential health benefits to drinking hard water.
Dry Skin And Dry Hair
With regard to human health, the majority of the issues with hard water stem from the fact it can be extremely drying to the skin and the hair.
This means anyone who suffers from dry skin, or dry hair may experience more pronounced negative benefits of hard water.
This is because hard water (see also ‘Hard Water Treatment‘) removes the naturally occurring oils within the hair and the skin, and these oils are necessary for hair to remain soft and hydrated.
In fact, the hair can experience mineral buildup, which may result in hair never feeling spotless, or hair that seems overall unhealthy.
Skin conditions can worsen with hard water, as the hard water can remove the essential oils from the skin. This can worsen the dryness of the skin, and worsen skin conditions.
There is a possibility that hard water can increase aging in individuals.
This is because the iron and magnesium found in hard water, at high levels of concentration, can form free radicals on the skin, which damage healthy skin cells.
Free radicals can increase the likelihood of fine lines, as well as wrinkles — plus, they can cause a breakdown of collagen, which is necessary for healthy skin.
However, it’s important to remember that there are many uncontrollable aspects of our life that can lead to quicker aging and fine lines. Plus, it’s also down to genetics.
One way to combat the effects of hard water is to take good care of your skin. If you are unsure on how to look after your skin, then contact your local dermatologist.
The Main Damage: Damaging Appliances And Damaging Pipes
Overall, hard water is likely going to damage appliances and pipes, more than it is going to damage human health.
There is clear data that suggests that communities that have hard water, vs communities that have soft water, experience their appliances and pipes breaking down at a higher rate.
This is due to a mineral buildup, and it can cause scaling on pipes and appliances.
The types of appliances that this can affect our laundry machines, refrigerators, and even kettles.
This means households that have hard water will spend more money on buying new appliances, or fixing pipes, than households that have soft water.
The Good Benefits Of Hard Water For Health
While there are some potential hazards to consuming hard water (see also ‘How To Test Water Hardness’), there are also some very positive things about hard water consumption.
The great aspect of consuming hard water is that it offers essential nutrients.
Humans need to consume magnesium and calcium, and therefore drinking hard water can help people manage their daily intake of essential minerals.
Is Soft Water Good For You?
Soft water is preferred by many people and is generally viewed as better than hard water. However, with regard to human health, soft water may not be that much better than hard water.
Hard water is not dangerous for human health, which means that if health is your concern, it’s really not necessary to get a water softener.
However, it would be untrue to claim that soft water does not have benefits for humans, because it certainly does.
Softer Skin And Softer Hair
It has been argued that softer hair and skin is associated with having soft water.
This is because the mineral content of the water is less concentrated. The natural oils of the skin and hair are not removed, which results in healthy and nourished skin.
Those who have chronically dry skin and hair may find that soft water reacts very differently because the water is not removing essential oils from the skin and hair.
With that said, plenty of people who use soft water still have issues with their skin and hair.
That’s because dry skin and dry hair is very complex, and is usually related to hormones, medications, stress, or the type of foods that the individual consumes.
Effective Use Of Soap
Those who wash in hard water are not dirtier than those who wash in soft water.
However, those who wash with soft water may find that they do not need to use as much soap as those who use hard water.
That’s because there is no reaction between the soap and the magnesium, which means washing is generally much easier.
Those who use hard water to wash may find that they feel squeaky clean after the shower.
This isn’t actually how one should feel after a shower, and the only reason they feel that way is because the essential oils have been removed from their skin.
Those who wash with soft water do not experience this (unless they experience dry skin), because the essential oils are not being removed.
The Main Positive: Less Scale Buildup Within The Home
Most people can combat dry skin with a good skincare routine.
The main positive of using soft water is that it will not cause scale buildup in the pipes and the appliances.
That means that the plumbing system will function properly and last for longer and that appliances will not break down as quickly.
Overall, the main health difference between hard water and soft water is that soft water is much healthier for skin and hair.
However, there are ways to combat hard water, such as a good skincare routine, and installing a water softener. The main positive of soft water is that it produces less scale buildup.
This means that appliances and pipes will last longer and that the plumbing system will work more efficiently.