Many people have heard the terms “hard water” and “soft water”, but most still don’t understand the effects of hard water and what causes them. Hard water is water that contains a moderate amount of calcium and magnesium minerals and is known for its pure taste. Soft water is initially hard water treated with sodium, which replaces the calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water. Soft water is not as desirable for drinking, as it often has a salty taste. Both types have downsides, so it is a difficult decision whether or not to soften your water.
You may wonder why hard water is “treated” to become soft water if you are ruining its taste and adding salt. Unfortunately, hard water can wreak havoc on households, causing problems to appliances, piping, reducing the effectiveness of shampoos and cleaning supplies, and making your skin and hair feel rough and itchy. This appliance and piping problems occur because chemicals form when hard water is heated up, which creates a scale. This scale can reduce the flow of pipes and eventually clog them entirely. The problems with silverware and skin occur because of its negative interaction with specific cleaning agents. When it’s combined with certain soaps, the calcium and magnesium prevent the soap from lathering and creates a soap scum on surfaces instead.
Besides the bad taste of drinking it, what are other downsides of soft water?
The magnesium and calcium minerals in hard water are very healthy, but the excess sodium in soft water is not. Soft water is not desirable for people with high blood pressure or those with a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or kidney issues. When hard water has an excess amount of calcium and magnesium in the water, more sodium is needed to replace it. To begin with, the exchange of minerals is not exact, so there is generally more sodium added to the water than required. Also, some users complain that it creates a good lather when bathing or showering in soft water.
So how does hard water become soft water?
There are several methods to treat hard water, but the most popular method is by using a salt-based water softener. These softeners replace with calcium and magnesium, as mentioned before. These water softeners require constant replacement of salts and may use a significant amount of energy. After a while, the costs of a traditional water softener may add up.
What are the alternatives to traditional water softening?
Instead of using sodium-based water softening, you could buy potassium salts instead of sodium. For people with high blood pressure or kidney disease, this is a wise decision. This does not solve the problems of costs, however. Potassium salts are very expensive, and the constant purchase of these salts is not feasible for most.
Another alternative is to try a magnetic-based treatment option. These water treatment products alter the molecular structure of water atoms and use a magnetic current, causing a disruption in the molecular bonds of hydrogen and surface tension is immediately reduced.
Therefore, the calcium and magnesium content is the same, but the effects of hard water are significantly reduced. They don’t require electricity or require salt to be added to the water. The only downside to the new water treatment is the lack of concrete evidence that consumers seek. Since there is no alteration to the calcium and magnesium content of the water, scientists have a difficult time measuring the effects of these salt-free treatment products. However, most customers of these products feel they have made a significantly positive difference in their households.
In summary, it is entirely up to individual households what type of water they decide to use. If great-tasting drinking water is of the utmost importance to you, then hard water is the best option. If you are particularly worried about the duration of your appliances or plumbing, then softening your water should be a priority.