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Hard Water vs. Soft Water

Dec 11th 2018

You may remember the late 80’s television commercials with the overly enthusiastic man and woman in the shower, proclaiming how hard it was to get clean in hard water, “…and you’re in a hard water town.” We found ourselves humming along with that catchy jingle and may have even been convinced that we were weren’t fully clean until we were “Zestfully” clean. If you could use your finger to trace an outline of your form on the shower door using soap scum build-up, you have a lot in common with 85% of U.S. households who also have hard water.

hard water vs soft water

Unfortunately, water saturated with minerals isn’t a problem that can be solved simply by purchasing a new bar of soap. If your home has hard water, you’re all too familiar with its downsides. Dry skin, spots on glassware, ugly stains on porcelain, and chalky build-up are inconvenient, and the destruction that hard water can wreak on appliances is alarming. But often the question that plagues homeowners most is whether hard water concerns should extend to their health.

Are Hard Water Minerals Good For You?

Water that has a high concentration of calcium, magnesium, and iron minerals is described as hard water. We know that these minerals are beneficial nutrients the human body needs to maintain good health. In fact, a deficiency of these elements manifests in a myriad of ways. Inadequate calcium, magnesium and iron levels not only lead to bone and muscle loss, but can impair nerve signals, cell and muscle function, and devastate an immune system.

If hard water contains vital minerals, why would we want to eliminate them? After all, our health is a big price to pay—even if it means we must to learn how to deal with hard water woes. Luckily, there’s little to gain by suffering through the nuisance and the risks to our home appliances by leaving hard water untreated. The amount of minerals in water is significantly lower than the recommended daily intake. Moreover, the inorganic minerals in hard water are not easily absorbed by the body, and most simply pass through, providing little to no advantage.

So how do we obtain these nutrients, if not from water? Fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and supplements are the best way to acquire our essential nutrients. Quite simply, we get most, if not all, of our daily requirement through the food we eat, not the water we drink. There’s a good reason we are told from a very young age to eat our fruits and vegetables. Our well-being depends on them for proper nutrition and growth.

Is Hard Water Bad For You?

Sometimes what enters our water is perfectly safe to consume. However, hard water sediments may also carry disease-carrying bacteria that negatively affects a family’s health. Recent studies have found that hard water scaling found in the pipes of homes with hard water is directly responsible for harmful bacterial growth.

Your home plumbing, despite the smooth interior of copper or PVC piping, is subject to the hard water scale formation that provides a perfect home for bacteria. Unless the minerals that cause scale build-up are completely removed from your plumbing system, homeowners are at risk of bacterial infections. Once contaminants enter your home’s plumbing system, it isn’t just your drinking water that can carry toxins. Contaminants can be distributed through shower-heads and inhaled by way of steam from hot water.

Only a  salt-based water softener can eliminate the minerals that cause scale formation. Incoming hard water runs through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium minerals, as well as iron and manganese ions, replacing them with sodium ions. Salt-based water softening systems significantly decrease exposure to hard water pathogens as well as the crusty scale that contributes to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances.

Hard water is one of the most common water problems in the United States. Often, the signs of hard water are obvious, like the reduction of water flow from your faucet, ugly brown stains in toilets, or soap scum on shower doors. Other times, the destructive path of hard water is masked, like corrosion inside the tank of a water heater, until its damage is too late to reverse.

Mineral-saturated water requires appliances to work harder to maintain efficiency, causing extra wear and tear. A rise in home energy costs, as well as a notable increase in repair or replacement costs, leaves homeowners at a loss.

Why Should We Soften Our Water?

What is soft water and why do we need it? Essentially, water that is soft contains few or no extra elements. Water begins as naturally soft, like the rainfall before it collects minerals (like chalk, lime, calcium, and magnesium) as it makes its way through the ground and into waterways. These hard minerals are carried through lakes and streams and into the groundwater that eventually makes it into your household by means of a well or municipal water supply. Water can also become soft, using treatment devices to remove hardness minerals.

The benefits of soft water include longer appliance life, less detergent needed for cleaning, and the absence of mineral build-up in plumbing. Appliances that run on hard water need to be replaced and repaired nearly twice as often as those operating on softened water. Homeowners need not leave hard water untreated. Hard water offers no added health benefit for families and sets off a wide range of problems in your home. Water softening systems alleviate the difficulty of living with hard water, preserving not just your clothing, dishes, and appliances, but also the health of your family.