Do You Have Hard Water or Soft Water?

Soft water and hard water behave vastly different from one another. For instance, you may notice that when you are in the shower or washing dishes, soap lathers better with soft water than hard water. Soft water also requires less soap and leaves behind less residue than hard water.

Water softeners reduce the hardness of your water, but the question is: what is soft water and how soft does it need to be?

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C.F. ‘Chubb’ Michaud, Technical Director and CEO of Systematix Company, discuses the differences of soft and hard water in his article, “How Soft is Soft Water?” Michaud performs an experiment on varying levels of soft and hard water, to see how soap reacts with each. Below are photos from his experiment, including photos 3-6 showing the haze (build-up of soap scum) over-time.

Figure 1. Soap test on varying degrees of hardness

Hard Water or Soft Water?

Figure 2. Double the soap

Hard Water or Soft Water?

Figure 3. Half the soap

Hard Water or Soft Water?

Figure 4. Half the soap after one minute

Hard Water or Soft Water?

Figure 5. Half the soap after two minutes

Hard Water or Soft Water?

Figure 6. Half the soap after four minutes

Hard Water or Soft Water?

*Photos courtesy of C.F. ‘Chubb’ Michaud’s experiment.

Hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium ions. While these do not pose any harm to your health, they do cause buildup in your pipes, as well as keeping your soap from lathering properly.

When you add soap to your hard water, it combines with the calcium and magnesium ions to create soap scum. This substance not only makes those undesirable rings around your tub, but sticks to your clothes, dishes, skin, and hair, too.

What’s really happening when soap scum is created is that your water is being softened. That’s why you don’t get as many bubbles with hard water: all of the soap is going towards softening the water instead of cleaning your laundry or dishes.

When your water is soft, it takes less soap and detergent to clean your dishes and laundry.

A study conducted in 2011 by an independent testing firm and funded by the WQRF (Water Quality Research Foundation) showed that when you run a washing machine with soft water, you can save 50% on soap by cutting your detergent use in half. Similar results were shown with dishwashers. Soft water is also gentler than hard water, so it extends the life of your appliances, clothes, and clothing colors.

So, back to the question—how soft does your water need to be? Michaud’s experiment, using a standard soap test demonstration kit, tested water types ranging from 0gpg (grains per gallon) to 10gpg.  Each water sample was placed in a small capped vial with one drop of soap. Then, the vials were shaken to create bubbles.

The results of this experiment revealed that water with a softness of 2gpg or less generates a decent detergency, but water with a softness of less than 1gpg creates the most bubbles, and the most long-lasting bubbles.

“Do I have hard water problems?” Hard water causes both soap scum and scale buildup. It leaves soap residue on tubs, appliances, dishes, laundry, hair, and skin. It’s also a culprit for ruining your towels and clothes by making them lose absorbency and color saturation. Scale causes pipe blockage which often leads to appliance failure.

Why not make your water soft? Appliances last longer and work more efficiently with soft water. Soft water helps you to save money on soap and detergent, too.

Clearwater offers a wide selection of water treatment systems to deal with a variety of water problems. Our water softeners are specially designed to combat hard water—from minor problems to the most severe.

Not sure if your water is hard? Don’t know what solution is the best answer to your water problem?

Clearwater can help. Our trained professionals are capable of identifying your exact water problems and helping you find the best solution to make your water clean, clear, and usable. Learn how you can get a FREE Water Analysis. We also offer free 90-day trials of our water treating systems.

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