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Soft vs Hard Water: What's the Difference?
Wednesday, April 28, 2021

You've heard of soft water and hard water, but what causes the differences? Is one type of water better than the other?

If you need to learn more about soft vs hard water and how to detect the type of water you have, look no further. We talk about the minerals you can find in water and the effects they have, as well as how to test your water levels.

Breaking Down Soft vs Hard Water

What causes the differences in soft vs hard water? It comes down to minerals.

Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium.

One of the benefits of hard water vs soft water is that these minerals can be good for your diet and body. For instance, magnesium plays a part in heart health and higher bone density.

Drinking water may serve as a good source of calcium and magnesium in the diet. As it stands, around half of Americans are magnesium deficient.

However, hard water has some downsides as well.

For one, hard water can cause spots or a film to appear on dishes and appliances. You can also feel a filmy substance on your hands after washing them with hard water, causing you to wash your hands for longer.

Hard water can cause limescale buildup, blocking pipes and reducing the efficiency of boilers and tanks. Water softening can help extend the lifespan of pipes.

You should be able to feel the difference if the water is too hard, much like taste can reveal a lot about the minerals and contaminants in your water supply.

What Is Water Softening?

A water softening system exchanges specific ions. Calcium and magnesium ions, for example, have s a strong positive charge and are considered "hard" ions as they tend to bind with negatively charged anions and form a solid precipitate (i.e. limescale).

These "hard" ions are readily removed from water using cation exchange resins. The resins in an ion exchanger bind with calcium and magnesium ions to remove them from the water, and release potassium or sodium ions into the water to maintain a charge balance. Sodium and potassium are considered "soft" ions as they do not readily bind with anions to form a solid precipitate.

The product water contains a much lower concentration of calcium and magnesium ions and a higher concentration of sodium or potassium which is why this process is referred to as water softening.

Testing Water Levels

You can test water levels with water quality monitors and panels.

Why should you test the hardness levels of your water? Hard water can form deposits that can clog pipes and damage equipment. Depending on the water quality application, you may need to maintain a careful balance of hard and soft water.

Testing and monitoring the water ensures you always have a perfect balance and that water isn't too hard or too soft.

Monitor calcium and magnesium levels, as well as overall water hardness, and consider an ion exchanger to soften water as necessary.

Test Your Water

As you can see, there are some benefits to hard water, but it also has a few drawbacks. Water softening can help, but it's also important to keep up with system maintenance.

Now that you understand the differences and benefits of soft vs hard water, you can start testing water levels with confidence. At ATI, we strive to provide our customers with what they need to safely and accurately monitor and measure air and water quality.

If you have any questions about our gas or water monitors, call us or send us a message today.

Our goal at ATI is to help provide our customers with the knowledge needed to ensure a safe and healthy environment. Toward this goal, we strive to develop and produce the highest quality instruments available. Our commitment to continuous improvement of analytical sensing systems is the key to our steadily expanding monitoring capability, and provides our users with the power of reliable information. 

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