5 Hard Water Pros and Cons – Benefits of Soft Water

Hard Water: 5 Pros and Cons

The quality of water you use impacts your daily life. Hard water has a poor reputation, but it isn’t necessarily as bad as some say. It isn’t poisonous or hazardous in any way; hard water only performs differently than soft water. If you’re someone with a hard water supply, you may be aware of its disadvantages, but there are quite a few advantages too.

Hard water is known for its disadvantages, such as limescale, staining, and skin-related issues. These are a result of prolonged exposure to hard water. On the other hand, it has a few benefits as well. For example, drinking hard water can add to your mineral intake. Hard water can also provide a coating in your pipes to protect you from lead.

In this article, you’ll learn about hard water’s important pros and cons. You can use this information to decide whether you’re okay with using hard water or want to invest in a water softener instead.

So, let’s get right into it!

Hard Water Pros and Cons

Water quality plays an important role in our daily lives, and hard water is one of the common types of water supply that has both advantages and disadvantages. The following table presents an overview of hard water pros and cons.

Advantages of Hard WaterDisadvantages of Hard Water
Lower sodium levelsSkin and scalp irritation
High calcium and magnesium concentrationBuild-up staining
Healthier house plantsLimescale damages to plumbing systems
Decreased risk of lead corrosionHigher bills for water heating
Helps against water toxicityFrequent replacement of clothing and appliances

Disadvantages of hard water

Hard water contains a higher level of calcium and magnesium than soft water, which can cause issues like skin and scalp irritation, build-up staining, limescale damages to plumbing systems, higher bills for water heating, and frequent replacement of clothing and appliances. One drawback of water softening is the slightly higher sodium concentration in the treated water.

Benefits of hard water

However, there are also some benefits to hard water, such as lower sodium levels, high calcium and magnesium concentration, healthier house plants, decreased risk of lead corrosion, and helping against water toxicity. These benefits are mainly related to the consumption of hard water, which can provide a small portion of essential minerals to our bodies. It is important to consider both the pros and cons of hard water before deciding whether to use it or invest in a water softener.

Read my comprehensive article Discover the Pros and Cons of Water Softeners: A Comprehensive Guide.

Five Disadvantages of Hard Water

Hard water has the same chemical composition as soft water. However, it has a higher level of calcium and magnesium. These salts change how other chemicals and products react with the water.

You might already be familiar with the drawbacks of using hard water, but here are five of the most common ones:

1. Skin and Scalp Irritation

Long-term exposure to hard water can negatively impact your skin and scalp. If you’re frequently washing your hands, body and hair with hard water, you may notice your skin becoming dry and irritated.

For some people, who especially have sensitive or dry skin can feel a difference in their skin quality. It becomes dry or flaky and can flare up with red patches. The high salt levels in the water can dry out their already vulnerable skin and reduce the efficiency of skin care products.

Hard water can also cause soap to lose its lather, meaning washing with it is ineffective.

The soap on your skin won’t clean it, but instead will stay stuck on it. You’ll need to add more water than normal to remove it from your skin surface and even more soap to get the results you desire. People with eczema note that hard water makes their condition worse.

2. Build-up Causes Staining

“Scaling” is the deposition of a chalky coating caused by calcium/magnesium reacting with oxygen and heat. It isn’t a rare sight but a natural reaction between these elements.

You can find examples of this damage all around your home. Minor damages are found in your crockery and utensils. Over time, crystal cups get foggy, and white china can get stained.

A bigger nuisance is found in bathrooms. Patches of rusty colored stains are often ground-in around floors and wall tiles. It’s a struggle to remove these stains, no matter how hard you scrub.

Looking around the bathroom, you’ll find more issues, like the shower head and taps losing pressure due to a chalky build-up.

3. Limescale Damages Plumbing Systems

The most vulnerable victim to hard water is your home’s plumbing.

Since water is continuously coming into contact inside pipes, there’s constant exposure to the elements in the water. As time progresses, the hollows within the tube can become narrower, and you’ll experience frequent blockages.

If you’re wondering, “How bad can it be?” it can be costly and time consuming to fix. Those who aren’t vigilant find themselves fixing burst pipes, repiping, and replacing fixtures – others who are careful save their pipes from excess build-up and corrosion in time.

The news is worse for installations such as water filters or water heaters. An indicator of trouble is inefficiency in their performance. You may have to replace all such attachments because limescale can render them useless.

Bringing your plumbing back to its original state can cost time, money, and effort.

4. Higher Bills for Water Heating

As you might’ve learned in school, water boils at 100℃. Do you think that since hard water is still water, it’ll have the same boiling point? The answer is no.

Soft water, or water without high levels of minerals, has a lower boiling point than hard water. So a glass of soft water will boil quicker, using less fuel or power.

In contrast, the minerals within hard water make the boiling point rise. The exact boiling point can only be determined after calculating the precise amount of salts present. The general understanding is it can take much longer to boil, so your boiler will run for more hours.

That extra time needed to heat water will leave you with a hefty bill.

5. Frequent Replacement of Clothing and Appliances

Your house’s piping isn’t the only thing that’ll wear out with hard water. Whatever comes into frequent contact with it will spoil sooner than later.

Clothes are a perfect example of this issue. As you consistently wash clothes with hard water, you’ll notice they lose their luster over time. The cloth becomes dull and rough to the touch, which can waste good quality clothing.

Pieces such as silks, knitwear, and luxury fabrics won’t survive more than a handful of washes.

Other objects, such as kettles in your kitchen, faucets in your sinks, etc., will require replacement after a few months. You can try DIY tips to save them, but there aren’t any long-term solutions.

Five Advantages of Hard Water

With all the struggles hard water creates in our lives, it’s difficult to imagine any benefits. However, hard water has a handful, yet vital, advantages.

They aren’t discussed as often, but many researchers are now focusing on the impacts of hard water intake and finding impressive results.

Here are five advantages of hard water that you probably haven’t heard of:

1. Lower Sodium Levels

Normally, whenever we hear about a mineral or salt, the first element that comes to mind is sodium. However, that’s not the case with what’s found in hard water.

Sodium levels aren’t as high in hard water as in softened water. Soft and softened water are different. Soft water is found in natural sources and has a healthy amount of sodium.

Softened water is treated with ion exchange chambers or other methods to remove excess minerals and replace them with sodium. It’s a good solution for household issues.

However, softening water isn’t viable for everyone because of added sodium. For every grain of hard matter removed, 8 mg/liter of sodium is added. At this rate, sodium levels for softened or very hard water will become a health hazard.

Some individuals with sodium-related health concerns are better off using hard water for drinking and soft water for other uses.

You can have an extra tap for drinking water with a direct hard water supply, whereas other faucets can connect to your water softener.

2. High Calcium and Magnesium Concentration

Although finding out your water is mixed with added chemical elements isn’t good, these two salts are an exception.

You shouldn’t confuse calcium and magnesium with the likes of chlorine and lead. The former two are essential to our daily diet and benefit us through hard water.

The National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) state that drinking hard water can actually provide a small portion of the two elements to our bodies. Since people generally lack calcium and magnesium in their diets, this is a welcome aid.

Additionally, better cardiovascular health has also been associated with hard water. More health benefits include improved digestion and reduced constipation.

Since the calcium and magnesium intake through hard water is minuscule, you probably won’t see the benefits with a few glasses. Consistent intake has a higher chance of providing these health benefits.

3. Healthier House Plants

Unless you have levels that come under very hard water, you can benefit by using hard water for your plants.

Calcium and magnesium are secondary nutrients vital for the healthy growth of all plant types. They’re normally absorbed from the soil by the roots. Farmers and gardeners invest in many fertilizers and chemical solutions to supply these minerals to their ground.

By adding hard water, you’ll maintain the mineral concentration levels of the pot’s soil and boost your plants’ uptake.

Softened water would be disastrous for irrigation because of its sodium levels. Extremely high salt levels leave white patches on top of the soil and make it unfit. Sodium will also block the absorption of minerals by depositing on the roots.

The best water for plants is rainwater. However, hard water is also useful. Softened water or very hard water does more damage than good.

4. Decreased Risk of Lead Corrosion

Lead contamination is a leading culprit in brain damage and other health concerns.

It’s introduced into drinking water through plumbing such as pipes, faucets, and other metal-based fixtures.

There is no threshold amount under which the consumption of lead is safe. So, our drinking water should have no traces of lead at all. However, as that isn’t possible, a lead concentration of 10 μg/dL or higher is considered dangerous.

One way in which limescale is a hero, rather than the daily villain, is its protection from harmful chemicals dissolving into the water supply.

As limescale coats the inside of a pipe, it eventually blocks contact with water with the pipe’s original material.

Limescale erodes inside the pipes manufactured with low levels of the poisonous metal. Through build-up, contact with lead is reduced until it’s completely covered.

So, pipes with significant traces of lead don’t threaten hard water supplies after a certain amount of time.

5. Helps Against Water Toxicity

Two main health threats in drinking water are cadmium and lead.

Although cadmium is a bigger threat to people who work with the material due to high levels of industrial pollution, the danger is spreading. Lead is unfortunately found in many objects, such as pipes, fixtures, etc., within water supply chains and our homes.

Hard water is saturated with different minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, etc. That means there is less space for other elements to dissolve in it, so they only settle in the water.

That makes hard water safer than soft or softened water, as water-soluble forms of chemicals easily dissolve in them.

However, it would be best if you checked the quality of your water to see what elements are present within it. A hidden chemical in your water, or other purifiers, such as chlorine, could threaten you.


Should Everyone Have a Water Softener?

You should invest in a water softener if your water supply is hard or very hard.

Slightly or moderately hard water isn’t as damaging to your home’s plumbing or causes as much staining.

Can You Drink Hard Water?

Hard water is generally safe to drink; however, very hard water is difficult to drink because of its taste. You won’t get a stomach ache or feel sick afterward.

If you drank hard water and felt ill, there’s probably something else in the water, and you should check its quality.

Will Hard Water Make You Bald?

Hard water is known to increase hair loss due to scalp dryness and brittle hair, but it isn’t drastic.

You can counter the side effects if you take care of your hair and moisturize it well. Those with very hard water can invest in a showerhead with a built-in filter.

Is Soft Water Better Than Hard Water?

Naturally sourced soft water is usually considered better.

However, it shouldn’t be confused with softened water that has been chemically treated to remove excess minerals. Softened water has a much higher sodium content.

Final Thoughts

Hard water is infamous for ruining appliances and plumbing within the home, but it isn’t all bad. It has its benefits, which are mainly related to its consumption. While it damages your house’s plumbing, drinking hard water can boost your mineral intake and prove to be beneficial!

Whether you want to continue using hard water, or invest in softening your water supply, is your choice, but you should consider both the pros and cons of hard water before deciding.

Boch Richard

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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