By Kerry Hale

Hard Water vs. Soft Water

  • Thursday 22 December 2022
  • 4 minute read

Have you ever noticed that water tastes different depending on where you are in the country? Perhaps your hair or clothes feel different after washing?

This is due to the varying hardness of water. Our guide to hard and soft water will explore the differences between both types, including their advantages and disadvantages.

What is hard water?

Rainwater is naturally soft, but when it falls and runs through the ground, minerals filter into the water. These include calcium, iron and magnesium. The concentration of these minerals is what determines the hardness of water. Areas with more limestone and chalk tend to have hard water, as the concentration of minerals is higher.

The advantages and disadvantages of hard water

  • Hard water contains high concentrations of essential minerals that are recommended as part of our diet. 
  • However, its high mineral composition can lead to problems with plumbing and household appliances due to limescale deposits left in pipes.
  • Hard water may leave behind a milky residue on shower screens and cause soap scum, making it an ineffective cleaning agent.
  • Hard water can dry out your skin and hair, even aggravating eczema in some cases. The minerals in hard water can also change the pH balance of your skin, weakening it as a barrier against harmful bacteria. 

 

What is soft water?

Soft water is lower in minerals than hard water but has a higher sodium content, which can make it taste salty.

The advantages and disadvantages of soft water

  • While sodium is necessary as part of a balanced diet, too much can lead to cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure.
  • The lower mineral content of soft water means it picks up other minerals, so contaminants like lead can get pulled in from older water pipes. Therefore, it is generally advised not to drink soft water.
  • Soft water is much better for your hair and skin, and soap will lather better with soft water than with hard water.

Do I have hard water or soft water?

It’s often easier to notice hard water than soft water. Look for tell-tale signs like soap scum, spots on dishes and glasses after washing them, or dry skin and hair.

Soft water won’t necessarily leave visual clues, but it can make your skin feel slippery after showering. You may notice a slightly salty taste when you drink it, although this is often undetectable.

 

Questions about water hardness

Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about water hardness, like how to treat hard water and whether it is safe to drink.

 

How to find water hardness in my area

There are various websites that allow you to check the water hardness in your area by postcode. Visit your water supplier’s website for up-to-date information on water quality.

Can you treat hard water?

Hard water can be treated by installing a filter to your mains water supply, removing excess minerals. This helps prevent limescale build-up in your pipes and appliances. In addition, Mira Clearscale technology features across our full electric shower range. This innovative technology keeps the heating tank at a consistent temperature, helping to reduce limescale build-up in your shower.

Is hard water bad for you?

Due to the high mineral content and low sodium, it is better to drink hard water than soft water. However, hard water may cause skin irritation or dryness for some people.

What is the water hardness scale?

In the UK, water hardness is measured by the concentration of minerals like calcium carbonate. The measurement is given in parts per million (ppm) or Clark’s degrees (˚Clark). Depending on the concentrations of minerals in the water, it is classified on the hardness scale as:

  • Soft
  • Moderately soft
  • Slightly hard
  • Moderately hard
  • Hard
  • Very hard

 

If you live in an area with hard water, discover how to descale your showerhead to prevent blockages, prolong your shower’s life and maintain its performance.

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