Water is at the very centre of our lives, and one of our most valuable resources. We all use and depend on it daily for cleaning and for safe drinking water.
But did you know that roughly half of all Canadians have soft water while the other half has hard water? So what’s the difference between hard water and soft water?
The main difference lies in the level of minerals they contain. Hard water contains a large amount of minerals, while soft water contains very little. This distinction is mainly due to the geological nature of the soil or the geographical area where the water comes from.
Soft water contains minute amounts of salt. This water comes mainly from rivers, lakes, streams and marshes that have not been exposed for long periods to mineralized rock formations. You can also make water soft by treating it to remove ions or by using a water softener. The softest type of water is distilled water, which contains no minerals at all. Consequently, it is not deemed fit for human consumption.
A few advantages of soft water:
Soft water poses little or no problems to equipment and provides a blank slate to chemical reactions. Among other things, it enables soap to foam and work better.
Hard water is defined by its high mineral content. The term “hard water” does not refer to the water’s potability, but rather to the presence of calcium and magnesium ions that are responsible for the formation of mineral buildup. Generally speaking, hard water comes from underground sources that have been exposed for long periods to mineral bearing rock (such as well water).
A few disadvantages / adverse effects of hard water:
- Hard water poses a problem to cleaning and to equipment. It also increases the chemical activity of water, especially with respect to pH.
- It leaves more residue (such as mineral buildup) on pipes and creates oxidation. Products that prevent building should therefore be used in areas with hard water.
- It has an altered taste.
- It can also trigger/exacerbate skin problems such as eczema.
A water’s hardness depends on the amount of salts dissolved in it. Water softeners are commonly used to prevent mineral buildup and to protect installations and electrical appliances.