Have you ever noticed that water tastes different depending on where you are in the country? Perhaps you’ve noticed that your hair feels different after showering, or that your clothes feel different when they’ve been washed? This is because you’re experiencing a different ‘hardness’ of water than what you’re used to.
But what does this mean exactly? How can water be ‘hard’? Rainwater is naturally soft, but when it falls and runs through the ground, minerals filter into the water, and it is the concentration of these minerals that creates the ‘hardness’ of water. When there’s a lot of limestone and chalk in the surrounding area, the concentration of minerals will be higher, creating ‘harder’ water. There are a number of differences between hard and soft water, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both types. Read on to find out more.
The differences between hard and soft water
Hard water is abundant in minerals including calcium, iron and magnesium. Soft water is low in these minerals, but has a higher sodium content.
Because hard water contains high concentrations of calcium and magnesium – essential minerals that are recommended as part of our diet – it is safe to drink, and we’re encouraged to do so. Soft water, on the other hand, can be high in sodium, which can make it taste a bit salty. While sodium is necessary as part of a balanced diet, too much sodium can lead to cardiovascular health problems such as high blood pressure.
Because it is low in minerals, soft water also has a tendency to pick up other minerals where it can, which means that contaminants such as lead can also get pulled in from the inside of older water pipes. For these reasons, it is generally advised not to drink soft water.
The high mineral composition of hard water can lead to problems with plumbing and household appliances – from your shower head to your boiler – causing limescale and leaving deposits in pipes, which can lead to blockages. Hard water can also leave behind residue and cause soap scum, making it an ineffective cleaning agent.
Soft water doesn’t damage appliances nearly as much, and it also improves the efficiency of cleaning. It’s less corrosive, reacts better to cleaning products and doesn’t leave unwelcome residue. You may end up saving money on your water bill if you have soft water, as chores can take less time and you won’t have to rewash clothes and dishes.
Read more: How to descale your shower head
Hair and skin
Hard water can contribute to dry skin and hair, and it can even cause or aggravate eczema. The minerals in hard water can also change the pH balance of your skin, weakening it as a barrier against harmful bacteria and infections. Soft water is much better for your hair and skin, and soap will lather better with soft water than with hard water.
Advantages of hard water
- Rich in essential minerals
- Suitable for everyday drinking
- Better taste than soft water
Disadvantages of hard water
- Can leave behind residue
- May use more energy
- Can reduce the efficiency and lifespan of household appliances
- Can cause skin irritation and dryness
Advantages of soft water
- Clean dishes
- Prolonged life of household appliances
- Lower energy bills
- Soft skin
Disadvantages of soft water
- Not suitable for drinking regularly
- May cause cardiovascular health problems
Do I have hard water or soft water?
It’s generally easier to notice hard water than soft water. Look for tell-tale signs such as soap scum, spots on dishes and glasses after washing them, and a feeling of dryness in your hair and skin. Soft water won’t necessarily leave any visual clues, but it can leave your skin feeling very slippery after showering and you may notice a slightly salty taste when you drink it, although this is often undetectable.
Hard water solutions
If you live in an area with hard water, the main issue when it comes to your shower is the build-up of limescale. Mira Clearscale™ technology is featured across our full electric shower range to combat this issue. The innovative technology means that the heating tank runs at a consistent temperature throughout, eliminating the chance for ‘hot spots’ and the build-up of limescale.
Whether your water is hard or soft, check out our guide on how to deep clean your bathroom to leave your bathroom looking spotless, regardless.