Soft water is a common term, but you may not really know what it means for you and your home. Hard water usually contains more minerals like calcium, magnesium or iron, which it picks up after it passes over rocks or soil. If left untreated, heated hard water can cause lime scaling—a buildup of a white substance that can clog your pipes. It also can affect cookware, like kettles, and cause them to function less efficiently.
Soft water contains fewer minerals. It can occur naturally, or you can strip it of those minerals with a softener. Homes that use soft water typically consume less energy, thereby cutting costs. Water heaters that use soft water are more likely to maintain their factory efficiency rating for 15 years, according to the Water Quality Research Foundation. Using hard water in those same units reduced their efficiency rate by as much as 48 percent. The same study also found that running softened water through washing machines reduced the amount of detergent needed by about 50 percent and made the clothes look just as clean with water headed to 60 degrees instead of 100.
Using softened water requires less soap and also can cut down on stains on your plates and other cookware. Your hair, skin and clothes also may feel and look cleaner, and bathroom surfaces might be less filmy.
Hard water contains key nutrients like calcium and magnesium, but it usually has less sodium than its softer counterpart, according to the Salt Institute. If you have soft water and sodium intake is a concern, consider including a reverse osmosis filter to strip excess amounts of sodium. If you have pets or an aquarium, check to see if your tap water is safe for them.
What to Do
Making hard water soft usually involves installing a softening system in your home, or just on a dishwasher or washing machine. Since some people prefer the taste of hard water, consider having a separate tap for drinking if you make the switch.
To check if your water is hard, add dish some soap and see if you get many bubbles. If not, chances are your water is hard. If you think soft water might be better for your home, contact Captain Plumbing to discuss your options.