Nashville TN Plumbing Advice

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Difference Between Hard and Soft Water


Our grandmothers knew that to get really soft hair, you should rinse it in rainwater. Why? How does this work? It’s because rainwater is actually very “soft” water, while water that comes through our pipes (or wells in the case of our grandmothers), is usually quite hard. So what does that mean? What makes water “hard” or “soft”?

What Does Hard Water Contain?

Hard water contains lots of minerals, mostly calcium and magnesium carbonates. It gets these minerals as it percolates through rock such as limestone or chalk. Because we have lots of limestone in our local area of Middle Tennessee (this applies to any areas with lots of limestone), and most of our domestic water comes from the rivers that run between limestone cliffs, we generally have moderately hard water. Soft water, on the other hand does not collect these minerals as it goes through the cycle of water treatment to come into our homes. People who are using well water, rather than domestic water, may have hard to very hard water.

Hard Water Test: Does it Make Soap Suds

You can tell you have hard water if a normal amount of detergent does not create suds when agitated. Folks with hard water tend to use more detergent, because they think the amount of suds indicates the proper amount of soap to use. Not necessarily so. You should always use the recommended amount, or you may be paying more for your soaps and detergents than you need to.

Hard water tends to leave more soap scum in your tub or sink. Most detergents contain softeners to help with this problem. It can also leave deposits, called scale, that will clog your pipes. You may find some of these deposits in older plumbing, but our domestic water should not cause major problems. Very hard water will also leave deposits on your dishes, but most dish detergents contain softeners to take care of these.

Benefits of Hard Water Versus Filtered Water: Drinking

Drinking hard water sometimes has health benefits, particularly if your body is in need of the calcium and magnesium. However, many people prefer the taste of filtered, or bottled water, which removes most of these minerals. There are no health risks in using moderately hard water, but if you are interested in getting a whole house water softening system, let us know and we can advise you.