Hard vs Soft Water

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Hard vs Soft Water

Article by Michael Robison

What is Hard Water?

What is Hard water? “Hard” water contains a significant level of dissolved calcium and/or magnesium. On the other hand; the word “Soft” is used to describe water containing little or no calcium and/or magnesium. One of the primary disadvantages to “Hard” water and the reason it is described as “hard“ is due to the fact that more soap, detergent, shampoo, and/or cleanser, is required to get whatever we are washing clean. It is literally; harder, to get anything clean with hard water.

In addition, hard water builds up scale on the inside of water pipes eventually reducing the flow. Over time, hard water also coats your water heater element; greatly increasing the cost of heating water.  From a health perspective; in some people, hard water minerals contribute to the creation of kidney “stones”.

Hardness is measured in parts per million (p.p.m.) or grains per gallon (g.p.g.). 60 parts per million or 3 1/2 grains per gallon (and higher) is considered “hard” water. With each additional grain; hard water challenges are increased ten (10) fold.

I have hard water. Why should I care?

For watering lawns, street cleaning, irrigating crops, and many other uses, hard water rarely a challenge. However, for bathing, washing dishes and clothes, shaving, washing your car and many other uses “soft” water is far more efficient, effective, and convenient than “hard” water. It makes the skin softer and prevents scale build up causing people to itch.

Soft water:

Soft water saves us money in several ways:

  • By improving cleaning efficiency up to 250%.
  • It saves $$ on shampoo, cleansers, soaps, and detergents by reducing the amount needed per use.
  • Our clothes last much longer and colors stay brighter, longer.
  • Soft water and your favorite soap create gentle suds that help give your skin and complexion the smooth, fresh look of health and beauty. When we shower in soft water that temporary “slippery” feeling is caused by our natural body oils. This is how our “wet” body feels when truly clean. The “squeaky clean” feeling we get from showering in hard water is caused by a layer of calcium and magnesium deposited on our skin. That layer remains on our skin even after rinsing. When showering in “hard” water… in reality, we are “squeaky dirty”… Not, “squeaky clean.”
  • Hard water minerals clog our pores and coat every hair on our bodies. This “crud” can serve as a home for bacteria, can cause diaper rash (common infant complaint), minor skin irritation and itchy skin. Does “Your” scalp itch?
  • **”Slimy” Soft Water; Soft water which feels more than slightly “slippery” is the result of an inefficient water softener. Many hotel, motel, and large institutional softeners and those in a large number of private homes are quite inefficient and the resulting water may feel “slimy”.
  • Soft water leaves our skin (our largest organ) free to breathe and our hair bright, soft and easier to manage. Razor blades cut closer and stay sharper without the hardness to dull them.
  • When hard water is heated, the minerals create a scale on water heater elements; greatly increasing energy use, and may lead to premature failure, necessitating costly replacement. With softened water our heaters use 21 to 29% less energy to heat the water.
  • For many commercial and industrial uses; hard water minerals interfere with various processes, causing inferior product production.

You may want to Test Your Water for Hardness:

  • If you are connected to a municipal or community water system; call the Water Department or Private System Operator and ask them if your water is hard. If it is hard, ask how “hard” is it?
  • If you have a private well, you can find a professional testing laboratory in the Yellow Pages.
  • You may also purchase a test kit at your local hardware store.
  • Your local water treatment company representative will test your water at no charge… of course, that person is doing so in hope of you becoming his/her customer.

Private Wells:

If you are on a private well, YOU, AND YOU ALONE are responsible for the safety of the water your family uses. You are encouraged to test your water supply, at least, once every two – five years and more often under certain conditions.

You have “Hard” Water:

If your water is “hard”; you should consider installation of a water conditioner or softener. With conditioned, “soft” water, you will save enough, over time, to pay for the cost and maintenance of a quality water conditioner. The most effective, most economical method of softening water is with an ion exchange water conditioner. *I use the term “water conditioner” to indicate the most efficient water softening units. Water “softeners” tend to be Not nearly as efficient as water conditioners. Caution; some companies use these terms interchangeably.

What should you look for in a Water Conditioner?

To choose the correct size water conditioner, you may want to roughly estimate the amount of water your family uses on a daily basis. The average amount of water used inside the house is 75 to 85 gallons; per person (including infants and children). Simply multiply the number of people in your home times the estimated number of gallons each person uses. Multiply that number by the number of grains per gallon “hardness” contained in your water. The resulting number is the approximate total number of grains of hardness. Now, double that total and choose a water conditioner sized to remove, at least, that number of grains per day.

For example: A family of four x 75 gallons x 8 grains per gallon hardness = 2,400 grains to be removed per day. Double this and you are looking for a water conditioner that will remove 4,800 grains or more per day.

For comparison: Many of the smaller sized (efficient) water conditioners manufactured today can remove 5,000 grains (or more) of hardness per day.

Tip #1:

The Least efficient water softeners and conditioners recharge themselves… on a preset, timed schedule. The Most efficient water conditioners initiate recharge by sensing how much water has been used. These very efficient units can determine when the resin needs to be recharged automatically. This is a great help when your water hardness changes or when you have extra company or when you are gone for a few days. These ‘sensor’ units can reduce salt use and the volume of recharge water by 42% as well as keep you in soft water when you most need it most.

Tip #2:

The most efficient, most effective water conditioners utilize a “counter current” rebrining (recharge) system. Both of my favorite… because I believe they are the highest quality water conditioner manufacturers; EcoWater Systems and Kinetico Water Systems products utilize this system.