Is Tap Water Hard or Soft: Benefits of Hard Water vs. Soft Water

Is Tap Water Hard or Soft?

While using tap water to clean your dishware, to wash your hands, or drink daily, do you ever wonder what type of water you’re consuming?  Your crystal clear water varies significantly in its chemical components. The hardness of water is measured based on grains per gallon, and the majority of American households fall into the category of hard water levels.

Tap water can be either hard or soft, depending on the level of dissolved minerals in your area. Generally, in the US, tap water is hard. More than 85% of American households have hard water. Soft water is normally found in New England, Hawaii, Pacific Northwest, and South Atlantic Gulf Regions.

Of course, it’s not easy to tell which type of water you’re consuming unless you know what you’re looking for. Keep reading this article if you have queries about the water you’re supplied with and you want to find out how you can tell what tap water you use.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water contains high levels of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. These minerals are naturally present in the earth’s soil and rocks, and can be dissolved in groundwater as it flows through underground layers of rock and soil.

When hard water is heated or evaporates, the minerals can precipitate out of the water and form a hard, crusty deposit known as scale. Hard water can cause a number of issues, including damage to pipes and appliances, decreased efficiency of soap and cleaning products, and skin irritation.

The degree of water hardness can vary depending on the source and geographic region, and is typically measured in grains per gallon (GPG) or parts per million (PPM). A water test can determine the hardness of the water in a particular location.

Water is generally considered “hard” if the gpg is greater than 3 gpg. This is equivalent to 17.1 ppm.  It is naturally soft if the dissolved minerals are below these levels.

Consequences of drinking hard water

Drinking hard water is generally safe and does not pose a significant health risk to humans. The minerals that cause water hardness, such as calcium and magnesium, are actually essential nutrients that our bodies need in small amounts. In fact, some studies have suggested that drinking hard water may have some health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

However, while drinking hard water is generally safe, it can have other negative impacts on our health. For example, hard water can exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, as the minerals in the water can cause dryness and irritation. Hard water can also make it more difficult to clean skin and hair effectively, as soap and shampoo do not lather as well in hard water. Additionally, some people may experience digestive discomfort after drinking hard water, particularly if they have pre-existing digestive issues.

How to Tell If Your Water is Hard or Soft

You’ll probably try to find the answer to this question when your dishware, your plumbing, or your skin are not reacting well with your tap water. There are many ways you can determine the hardness of water coming through your pipes.

Here are some methods you can use and signs to look out for to figure out the hardness of your tap water:

1. Look for soap scum

A simple way to find out whether you have hard or soft water is by taking a closer look at your dishware. Do you notice any stains? If you do, then the likely cause is due to a combination of minerals and soap that form a film.

If you find prominent and several stains, then your tap water is definitely hard. If your dishware is spotless, you’re most likely using soft tap water.

2. Test your water

Another quick method would be to run a test in the comfort of your home. Water testing is the most reliable and accurate way to evaluate the hardness of your water.

All you need is a clean and clear empty cap bottle, liquid soap, and your own tap water. Fill one-third of the bottle with tap water, and add a few drops of the liquid soap.

Once you’re done, strongly shake the bottle several times. If you notice a lack of bubbles and the water appears milky, your tap water is hard.

In contrast, soft water would have an abundance of bubbles, and the water would be clear.

For best results, basic liquid soap is recommended. In just a few minutes, you will have your answer. This simple home water test is a great way to assess the hardness of your water.

3. Check your plumbing conditions

The condition of your water pipes and, eventually, your tap can be affected by the type of water that flows through it.

If you notice clogged pipes and weak water pressure, this is a good indication that you have hard water.

This is because the water builds up on minerals. However, if the flow of water is smooth, and you haven’t experienced any plumbing problems, then your tap water is probably soft.

4. Call your local water provider

The simplest way to find out is to call your city water provider and inquire about your water concerns.

You can ask for their latest report on water quality, however, you’ll have to know how to read these reports.

You may not know the exact quality of your water, because after the water is filtered, it could be contaminated before it reaches you.

It will, however, give you a general idea of whether your water is hard or soft. Reports should be relatively easy to find via your local water providers website.

5. Advanced hardness testing method

To receive the most accurate results, you could purchase a high-quality hard water test kit, and follow its easy-to-use steps. This will include water strips, and a color chart explaining what the results mean.

Water test kits are very popular and effective. They include single-use strips that’ll change color based on the presence of specific contaminants.

You first fill a bottle or container with your tap water and then dip the strip in. Finally, compare the provided chart with the resulting color in your bottle or container. This will then provide you with your answer regarding the hardness level of your water.

All the above-mentioned tests can give you an idea of your tap water type, but performing an advanced test will give you definite results!

Follow the above-mentioned steps and get your answer within minutes!

How to Treat Hard Water

If you have hard water in your home, you may be wondering how to treat it. There are several options available to homeowners for treating hard water, including water softeners, reverse osmosis systems, and lime scale removers. Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for you will depend on the severity of the hard water in your area, your budget, and your personal preferences.

Water softener

Water softeners are one of the most common methods for treating hard water. These systems use a process called ion exchange to remove the minerals that cause hard water, such as calcium and magnesium. The water is passed through a resin bed in the water softener, which is filled with small resin beads that are coated with sodium ions. As the hard water passes through the resin bed, the minerals in the water are attracted to the resin beads and are replaced with sodium ions. The result is softened water that is free of the minerals that cause hard water. Water softeners typically require regular maintenance to ensure that they are working properly, such as adding salt to the system and cleaning the resin bed.

Reverse osmosis water systems

Reverse osmosis systems are another option for treating hard water. These systems use a membrane to remove minerals and other contaminants from the water. The water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out the minerals that cause hard water, as well as other impurities. Reverse osmosis systems are often more expensive than water softeners, but they can be more effective at removing a wider range of contaminants.

Lime scale removers

Lime scale removers are a third option for treating hard water. These products are designed to dissolve lime scale and other mineral deposits that build up in pipes and appliances. They are often used in conjunction with water softeners or reverse osmosis systems to prevent the buildup of mineral deposits in plumbing and appliances. Lime scale removers can be a quick and easy solution for addressing the symptoms of hard water, such as stains on dishes and fixtures, but they do not actually remove the minerals that cause hard water.


Is soft water better than hard water?

Soft tap water is more beneficial than its hard counterpart. The benefits of each type of water vary, depending on its use. Soft water is better for cleaning your dishes and using it on your skin.

However, if you drink from your tap water, soft water is less suitable.

Hard water on the other hand is not suitable for your dishware, water pipes, and taps. However, it brings health benefits through consumption. Finding solutions for each activity based on the water type is the safest option.

What level of tap water hardness is safe?

The level of hardness in your tap water will be measured by grains per gallon. The industry rule of thumb is that water should not exceed 7 to 10 grains per gallon.

Any level above that is very hard water and will prove to be a risk to your kitchen or bathroom taps, appliances, and sinks.

Final Thoughts

The tap water in your home can be both soft and hard. The only way to determine its actual hardness is to perform tests. You can also make a guess based on the area you live in. In general, it is considered hard or soft based on the concentration of calcium and magnesium in your water.

The steps listed above will give you definite results as it’s not that difficult to differentiate between hard and soft water.

Besides, you can always contact your local water supply line and enquire about the properties of your tap water for concrete information.

The Filter Guy

Scott Birch is a water filtration installer and designer. He has worked in the industry for many years and is very familiar with and knowledgeable about residential water treatment equipment. Scott enjoys helping people get the most out of their water filtration systems and ensuring that their homes are getting the best possible quality of water.

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