Hard Water Vs Soft Water: Which is the Best?

Water is an essential element required to survive on the planet. Without water, no one can withstand the heat of the sun, nor one can stay full of energy.

Lately, water is divided into two sections according to the characteristics it possesses. The terms used to distinguish the water are hard water and soft water. Then started the debate of hard water vs soft water, which is better?

In the discussion of hard water vs soft water, there are many myths that are considered. One of those myths includes that soft water is the cleanest of all. But is it true or not? Let’s discuss this idea of hard water vs soft water.

Analysis of Hard Water Vs Soft Water

Everyone agrees that water is one of the natural resources on planet Earth. It always refreshes or recycles itself through the water cycle process1.

Because of the water cycle process, when the rain falls on the ground, it travels on the ground and reaches its final destination – it may be a sea or an ocean. While travelling on the ground, water picks up minerals of all kinds, which get mixed with it on the way.

The streams and rivers are considered to be our main suppliers of drinking water. The water in the river and stream has all kinds of minerals in it, which are further filtered out before distributing to households. This water is considered hard water.

We receive the water through the pipeline system. Some people use it as it is, while some people decide to soften the water. Softening the water means making the water cleaner by eliminating the minerals in it.

The water received after the softening process is known as softened water or soft water. Soft water is pure in its characteristics and form. Some examples of naturally soft water are rainwater before falling on the ground and glaciers.

 In the discussion of hard water vs soft water, both are the same, but the journey taken is different.

Difference between Hard Water vs Soft Water

Hard water can be found everywhere, but there is a certain process for obtaining soft water. In the simplest words, hard water represents the natural water obtained through rivers and streams.

In the hard water vs soft water discussion, the main difference between them is minerals. Hard water2 contains the constituents of calcium and magnesium. On the other hand, due to the process of water softening, sodium ions or salt is the main constituent of soft water.

Hard water and soft water are classified based on these minerals, but the merits and demerits of hard water and soft water depend on these minerals. The choice of water in hard water vs soft water mainly depends on the merits and demerits it provides.

Do you know which type of water you mostly use at home? The answer mostly depends on the observation you make. The differentiation in hard water vs soft water can be made by merely feeling the water.

Hard Water

1. Signs of Hard Water

a. Spots – You can observe spots on the glassware, and window ceilings when you wash them with hard water. These spots are caused because of the deposits of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate3 forms when the hard water is mixed with the soap.

b. Mineral stains – When you use hard water for washing clothes, you can find mineral stains on the clothes after taking them out of the washing machine. This happens due to the hardness of the water. The hardness in water can also make clothes weak as well as leave them discoloured.

c. Less water pressure – As hard water flows through the pipe, it leaves behind the pipe’s mineral deposits. This causes the shrinking of the pipe, which later reduces the flow of water.

d. Feeling a layer on hands after washing them – When you wash your hands with soap, soap reacts with the minerals in hard water and creates soap scum. Therefore, you need to wash your hands longer if the water is hard.

2. Benefits

Hard water contains an excessive amount of calcium and magnesium. Therefore, drinking hard water enables us to acquire these minerals, which help in the body’s growth and development. Also, calcium in the hard water makes the bones stronger.

The benefits of hard water are seen only when we consume it. Hard water has many health benefits but using it for external purposes may have the opposite effect.

3. Drawbacks

Hard water contains excessive minerals, and it can neither be used for household purposes nor bathing.

When hard water is used for washing clothes, you can see spots on the clothes or clothes left discoloured.

Bathing with hard water makes the skin dry by stripping the surface oils from the skin. It also causes a dry scalp, which increases the possibility of hair damage. It changes the pH balance of the skin and makes the skin weak against bacteria and infections. It can be dangerous for people having eczema.

Hard water also takes a toll on energy. As it contains excessive minerals, the appliances take more electricity to process the water and perform the task.

When the hard water passes through the pipes, it leaves behind the minerals. These minerals clog up the pipe, resulting in less water pressure and shrinking of the pipe’s interior diameter.


Soft Water 

1. Signs of Soft Water

a. More water pressure – As soft water does not contain large constituents of minerals, nothing gets left behind in the pipe. Therefore, having soft water tends to create healthy water pressure in the house.

b. Clean Clothes – By using soft water for cleaning and washing purposes, there will be an absolute absence of mineral stains and spots in the household. On the other hand, soft water makes the clothes cleaner and clothes are subjected to less wear and tear damage.

c. Change in taste of water – If you are drinking soft water, you can find the taste of the water slightly salty. This happens due to the sodium ions used while processing the water.

d. Form a soft lather – Soft water forms a healthy and soft lather on clothes and dishes after they have been washed. It is also advantageous for the body as soft water makes the skin slippery by washing the shampoo and soap quickly and easily without any effort.

2. Benefits

When hard water is treated with sodium ions4, we get soft water. Because of the softening process, soft water has an excessive amount of salt in it.

The salinity of soft water also helps for household purposes. When soft water is used for cleaning and washing purposes, the salt in it helps in doing the activities without taking any extra effort.

Soft water also helps in rinsing the shampoo from hair easily and quickly. It also lathers the soap well.

Soft water is a preferable option to conserve energy as the appliances work swiftly with soft water. Therefore, electronic appliances like washing machines and water heaters take less time to perform the task, resulting in a reduction in electricity consumption. Thus, soft water is budget-friendly.

As there are fewer minerals in soft water, the pipeline does not clog up. This results in healthy water pressure in your home.

3. Drawbacks

After the softening process, the water loses all its mineral constituents, and the amount of salt is increased. Due to the sodium ion treatment, the soft water gets a very salty taste.

Consuming excessive salt through soft water may harm the body by causing high blood pressure. People having high blood pressure should avoid drinking soft water as it may affect their health.


Water Softening Process

The water softening process is a process used for converting hard water into soft water.

For converting the hard water into soft water, resin – an insoluble substance obtained from plants is coated with positively charged sodium ions.

In this process, calcium and magnesium ions are replaced by sodium ions. Thus, the water softening system removes the minerals from the water.

These water-softening systems need regular maintenance as bacteria and fungi can form on the resin that may later affect the water.

The addition of sodium in the water can be an issue of worry here. If someone has high blood pressure and is on a low-sodium diet5, then he can avoid softening the water or can consult the manufacturer regarding the amount of sodium being added to the water.

You can also try and find a potassium-based softening system rather than sodium.


Water Tests

There are many ways to differentiate the water in hard water vs soft water discussion.

1. Signs

The signs can be seen by observing the water or by feeling it. As discussed above, the signs are discussed in the hard water vs soft water discussion that let us know the difference.

2. The Soap Test

Soap test is an affordable way to test the hardness of water and identify the water in hard water vs soft water discussion. The steps to perform the soap test are:

a. Take a half glass of water.

b. Add soap to it.

c. Cover the glass and shake it well.

If you have hard water, then the water will be cloudy and unclear to see. If you have soft water, then the water will be clear, but the top surface will be filled with bubbles.

3. Water Hardness Test

There are many test kits available to check the hardness of water ranging from the simple dip in strips to read strips

The hardness of water is divided into different ranges. Those are soft, slightly hard, moderately hard, hard, and very hard. The boundaries of the ranges are decided by the number of Grains Per Gallon [GPG] found in water.

If the GPG is less than 1, then the water is considered to be soft water. If the GPG exceeds 10, then the water is very hard by nature.

If the GPG is 1-3, then the hardness of water is slightly hard, whereas if the GPG is between 7-10, then the water is considered to be hard. And if the GPG is between 3-7, then the hardness of water is classified as moderately hard.

Best of Both Worlds

 In the hard water vs soft water discussion, both have their merits and demerits. If we use hard water, it is good for drinking but does not support other household activities. If we use soft water, it is best suited for performing household activities but has many salts that may affect health.

These methods may help get the best from both hard water vs soft water that is suitable for drinking and supporting household activities. The methods are:

1. Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis6 [RO] is a process by which we can remove contaminants from water with the help of pressure.

During this process, water molecules are forced through the semipermeable membrane from which the water is filtered out, and the contaminants are left behind.

As an end result of this process, we receive clean and delicious water to drink.

2. Distillation

The process of distillation includes two important parts to purify water: evaporation and condensation.

First of all, the water is heated to form steam. During this process of evaporation, inorganic compounds, and heavy metals are eliminated as they cannot turn into steam. This evaporation process also kills microorganisms like viruses and bacteria.

After the evaporation process, the steam then cools down and returns to its liquid form. This process is known as the condensation process.

At the end of this whole process, we get contamination-free water to drink.

3. Deionization

Deionization is similar to the water-softening method. But there is a slight change in that, in the deionization process, both positively and negatively charged resins are used.

Positively charged ions are known as cations, whereas negatively charged ions are known as anions. Cations exchange hydrogen ions [H+] while anions exchange hydroxide ions [OH-], which, when combined, become water [H2O].

Therefore, the water obtained by the deionization process is considered extremely pure water without any contaminants.

Key Takeaways

The discussion between hard water and soft water is an ongoing debate. But there are also other classifications of water, such as spring water vs purified water

Both hard water and soft water are helpful to us according to their characteristics, and we can choose either of them according to our needs.

Hopefully, this article – Hard water vs Soft Water has helped you find out which type of water you have and its merits and demerits.


1. Which is better hard water or soft water?

Ans. According to the National Institutes of Health, hard water is better than soft water. Calcium and magnesium play an important role in our body hence, hard water is more beneficial than soft water.

2. Does hard water make the hair rough?

Ans. Yes, hard water makes the hair rough as the hard water has many build-up minerals.

3. Which water is best for hair?

Ans. Cold water is best for the hair.

  1. Sadollah, Ali, et al. “Water cycle algorithm: a detailed standard code.” SoftwareX 5 (2016): 37-43. ↩︎
  2. Sengupta, Pallav. “Potential health impacts of hard water.” International journal of preventive medicine 4.8 (2013): 866. ↩︎
  3. Morse, John W., Rolf S. Arvidson, and Andreas Lüttge. “Calcium carbonate formation and dissolution.” Chemical reviews 107.2 (2007): 342-381. ↩︎
  4. Boisen, A. M. Z., et al. “Sodium and chloride transport in soft water and hard water acclimated zebrafish (Danio rerio).” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Biomembranes 1618.2 (2003): 207-218. ↩︎
  5. Paterna, Salvatore, et al. “Normal-sodium diet compared with low-sodium diet in compensated congestive heart failure: is sodium an old enemy or a new friend?.” Clinical science 114.3 (2008): 221-230. ↩︎
  6. Greenlee, Lauren F., et al. “Reverse osmosis desalination: water sources, technology, and today’s challenges.” Water research 43.9 (2009): 2317-2348. ↩︎

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Saakshi Kulkarni

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