All tap water is not created equal. Tap water is divided into two categories: hard or soft. It is important to know what type of water runs through your taps, as it can determine how you clean your home, how you care for your appliances, and how much maintenance you plumbing needs.
Hard Water vs Soft Water
Soft water is naturally occurring or produced with water treatment devices that work to remove minerals from the water. Soft water can have a salty taste to it and therefore is not suitable for drinking. However, soft water can extend the lifetime of appliances that run on water, such as washing machines, and soft water is better for cleaning surfaces.
Although water is naturally soft, it can pick up minerals, such as calcium or magnesium, when it passes through materials that contain these minerals, such as limestone. Water with a high concentration of these minerals is called hard water, and is the preferred water for drinking because of the minerals and its taste.
What is the Effect of Each Water Type?
Although hard water is the tastier option, its minerals leave behind deposits, called scale, on the interior and exterior of plumbing. Although scale is not harmful to our health, scale build up can reduce the efficiency of appliances, such as coffee makers, and clog up pipes. Surfaces that come in to contact with hard water will also need to be cleaned more often, for example, glass shower doors. This could cost you more in cleaning products and increase you energy bill as appliances have to work harder to function.
Soft water is preferred when it comes to cleaning as surfaces are left scum-free. You can also save money on cleaning products and electricity. However, one must still be careful when using soft water, as water that is too soft can cause staining and resistance to chlorine, which is problematic if you have a swimming pool.
How to Tell If You Have Hard or Soft Water?
Hard water will leave behind soap scum in your bath, sink or on the glass doors of your shower. It will be clearly visible as a white film or ring on the surfaces of these fixtures that builds up soon after they have been cleaned. Soft water will leave behind a small amount of scum that will gradually build up and become visible. Soap will also lather more and form more bubbles in soft water.