Is the water in your home hard or soft?
While you might not know or think it’s important to know what kind of water is in your pipes, hard water has many drawbacks.
What is hard water?
Hard water is water that’s filled with calcium and magnesium. It can lead to limescale. In fact, 15 million UK homes have hard water and use water containing 70kg of scale every year!
That limescale in hard water can affect your home’s pipes and various appliances in the home, such as your kettle, dishwasher, and washing machine.
Hard water also has some other negative effects you should know about.
With that in mind, let’s explore hard water vs. soft water to see if you should make the switch to soft water.
Why Is There A Lot Of Hard Water In The UK?
The UK is known for having high amounts of hard water. But what causes it? Hard water appears in the UK where bedrock is composed of sedimentary rock like chalk, sandstone, and limestone.
In southeast areas of the UK, you’ll mainly find limestone and chalk regions, so they’re the hardest hit by hard water. Why sedimentary rock results in hard water is because it’s so porous that minerals can seep into the ground easily.
Calcium and magnesium enter the water in this way and as the water moves through the ground it gathers in larger bodies of water. From there, it enters the water supply and enters the pipes in your home.
Interestingly, when it comes to water in less porous rocks, such as the granite that you’ll find in Northern Ireland and Wales, the water doesn’t become hard because it can’t collect the minerals that are in the ground.
Is Hard Water Dangerous?
Hard water isn’t dangerous to consume. Yes, it might make your morning cup of coffee taste a little “off,” but it’s not a health hazard and most people probably won’t even notice anything wrong with its taste.
When it comes to your home and your self-care, however, hard water can be problematic.
But is it all bad?
Let’s check out some pros and cons of hard water.
Hard Water Pros
- Hard water is less likely than soft water to dissolve metals in your pipes that could be toxic, such as lead.
- Hard water can be nutritious because of its calcium and magnesium content. Calcium, for example, can be valuable for healthy growth and development.
- Hard water contains less sodium than soft water. This is a result of how sodium is used to convert hard water into soft water.
Hard Water Cons
- Hard water can negatively impact your home’s pipes and appliances. This is as a result of the limescale that is produced in hard water due to it containing minerals. Not only can this result in you having to clean your appliances more regularly to remove limescale, but it can cause damage to pipes and appliances, making them break down.
- Hard water doesn’t properly dissolve soap and other cleaning products, and is quite harsh on the skin and hair. You might find that the high quantities of minerals in the water are leaving your skin dry and your hair brittle.
- Hard water minerals leave a film – known as soap scum – on bathroom surfaces and in your kitchen sink.
What Is Soft Water?
Soft water is basically hard water that’s had its minerals removed from it.
This makes it safer for use in your pipes and home appliances, such as your kettle. It also will taste better because it doesn’t have those minerals in it. This is why it’s said that you should be making your favourite tea with soft water!
But, what are other pros of soft water? And its cons?
Let’s check them out!
Soft Water Pros
- Soft water reduces limescale so that your appliances and pipes can be kept in better condition. Soft water can therefore prevent them from being damaged.
- Since soft water dissolves soap and cleaning products better than hard water. This means you’ll be able to use less of these products, therefore also saving yourself some money.
- Washing your laundry with soft water will be beneficial because it makes your items cleaner and prevents mineral stains that are common with hard water.
- Soft water can save you money when it comes to your energy bill. This is because there’s no limescale that forms in your pipes and this makes your water heater work more effectively without pressure being put on it.
- Since it’s free of minerals, soft water doesn’t leave stains on your kitchen sink or bathtubs, which form as a result of minerals in hard water mixing with soap and other cleaning products. No more soap scum!
Soft Water Cons
- Soft water contains some salt in it. This is as a result of how the minerals in hard water are removed (to find out more about this process, read, “How Does A Water Softener Work?”) While this shouldn’t be a concern, for people with high blood pressure this could increase their daily intake of sodium.
- There is a risk that soft water will accumulate lead from inside old water pipes that haven’t been treated to prevent lead from being leached into water.
- Soft water systems can use a lot of water. While the amount of water will vary depending on the type of system you have installed in your home, you’re looking at the general usage of between 50 and 100 gallons of water at one time. However, that’s not much more than what would be used by a washing machine.
Should You Switch To Soft Water?
If you can see the negative effects that hard water is having on your home, whether that includes limescale deposits in your kettle or dry skin after showering, it’s a good idea to switch over to using soft water.
Is it necessary, though? If your water has a hardness that’s more than seven grains per gallon, or 120mg per litre, you can benefit from using a water softener as it improves the texture of your water and prevents damage to pipes and appliances.
In addition, if you find that you’re experiencing more problems than just limescale in your kettle, then investing in soft water is a good idea.
For example, if you have eczema and your skin is left dry after washing it with hard water, or if you’re spending a lot more time on washing laundry and cleaning the bathroom because of the negative effects of hard water, then these are all good reasons to invest in soft water.
It’s better for your hair and skin and will help to keep your home cleaner while saving you money.
How Is Hard Water Measured?
We can measure hard water in parts per million (PPM) so that we can see how many hard particles are dissolved in the water per million particles. This provides us with a rating of the water to see how hard it is.
Basically, water that’s 0 to 55 PPM is considered soft, while 101 to 150 PPM is slightly hard. The higher you go, the harder the water becomes, with 201 to 275 PPM being considered hard water and over that amount being very hard.
How can you find out if your water’s hard, and by how much?
You can enter your postcode on the Thames Water website to find out how hard your water is. This is worth doing to see if you have a hard water problem and should start using soft water.
Does hard water cause pipes to clog?
Since it contains minerals in it that can lead to limescale deposits, these deposits can accumulate and cause your pipes to clog. Even though PVC, copper, and PEX pipes are more resistant to hard water, they can still become blocked by its effects.
If you’re worried about the hard water in your pipes that you’re using to wash dishes, wash laundry, and bathe in, you might consider installing a water softener.
This can certainly come in handy in a variety of ways, such as by preventing pipe and appliance damage from occurring. In this article, we’ve looked at why you should consider using soft water instead of hard water in the home.
We’ve also provided you with more information about hard water in the UK and how it reaches your home.