When it comes to plumbing problems, most people conjure up images of leaks, clogs, and backups. A dripping faucet or running toilet may come to mind. But did you know that the essential minerals in drinking water, including calcium and magnesium, can become problematic in your plumbing system? Hard water comes with its advantages and disadvantages, while soft water is often but not always more desirable. Here’s a look at the main differences between the two.
Hard water is that which has reached your home via the ground and lengthy water lines. Along the way, it has been filtered. This process causes it to pick up calcium, magnesium, and even chalk and lime.
Drinking hard water can deliver essential minerals to your body. It is safe for everyday drinking and can even fight and prevent some types of heart disease. Many people feel it tastes better than soft water.
But the downsides to hard water include:
- Spots and residue on dishes, glasses, and silverware
- Film and soap scum in bathtubs
- Dingy looking clothes
- Household appliances that are less efficient
- Your hair is sticky after washing it
- Dry skin and/or increase in eczema
Containing low concentrations of magnesium, calcium, and other ions, soft water occurs naturally and through water softening processes. You can even install a water softener in your home. Softened water helps your dishes look cleaner and enables soap to lather better and get things cleaner. It is also good for your skin. And, appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters may last longer.
Soft water can also lower your energy bills, but some of the disadvantages include:
- Increased sodium levels, so regular drinking of soft water can be harmful, especially in people with cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure. It may even taste salty.
- Chemicals added to make water soft can add volatility and pick up lead from the pipes the water flows through, which can damage blood cells and affect oxygen levels.
Which Is Better for Your Home?
Hard water is safer to consume, while soft water is better for your clothes, dishes, and appliances. You can have the benefits of both with a water bypass valve system. This allows hard water to reach certain areas of your home, especially where you use it to drink and cook. Soft water can also get to areas where it is more beneficial, such as bathroom fixtures and washing machines.
Water hardness can be tested in a few ways. Using the bottle test, take a clean, empty plastic bottle, remove the cap, and fill the bottle halfway with water. Add about five drops of dishwashing liquid and shake it. The harder the water, the more quickly the foam will dissipate.
You can also check your tub or shower for signs of hard water. If you see a white mineral scale on surfaces, this is a sign that minerals in hard water are present. These same minerals can build up in pipes and cause blockages. But another means to test for hard water is a water test kit. Fill up the vial, add a drop of the provided solution, and shake the mixture. After 10 seconds, you can assess the hardness level by observing the depth of suds sustained in the liquid.