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Hard Water vs Soft Water | What’s the Difference?

The difference between hard water and soft water

You’ve probably heard the terms “hard water” and “soft water” before, but maybe you aren’t entirely sure of the difference. Understanding the difference between the two will help you determine what type of water your home has, and if a water softener is necessary.

What is Hard Water?

We know what it’s like to taste bad water! We also know how “hard water” contains a lot of minerals that cause scaling and staining, and build up on the inside of your pipes causing flow reduction and eventually complete clogs.

These metals and minerals, mostly compounds of magnesium and calcium, are what makes water “hard.”

General guidelines for classification of waters are: 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as calcium carbonate is classified as soft; 61 to 120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121 to 180 mg/L as hard; and more than 180 mg/L as very hard (water.usgs.gov).

Residue on your hands, showers, and sinks, known as “soap scum,” is usually the result of calcium in your hard water interacting with the soap to form the residue. You may have also have noticed film on the dishes that come out of your dishwasher. While not dangerous, this residue is unsightly and requires even more soap and water to get it off. Hard water requires more detergent and soap to get things clean. Those expenses add up.

If your water is too hard, it will wreak havoc on your plumbing system, contributing to scaling and damaging pipes, faucets, pipes and shower heads. Hard water is also bad for your skin and your digestive system. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to water contaminants due to their weaker immune systems.

Unfortunately, most homeowners in the United States have hard water. Use the map below to find your hard water level. You can also test the hardness of your water using test strips found at your local hardware store.

find your hard water level

Source: whirlppolwatersolutions.com

Effects of Hard Water

  • Reduces lifespan of water-using equipment
  • Raises water heating costs and water bills
  • Increases water use
  • Reduces flow rates and clogs pipes
  • Contributes to scaling and staining
  • Bad-tasting water
  • Damages clothes, skin, and hair
  • Film and residue on dishes

The good news is that you can treat hard water with chemical softening, membrane separation, or cation exchange. Soft water may taste a bit salty afterwards due to the disappearance of most of the ions, but you can deionize the water, which will remove the salty taste.

Soft Water

Soft water is the opposite of hard water. It contains low concentrations of metals and minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium (0 to 100 mg/L). Soft water reduces scum, scaling, and stains. They can be installed at point of use or at the entry point for whole-home water softening.

The NOVO water conditioning products that we use are powered by the force of moving water instead of electricity, requiring very little maintenance. NOVO systems provide high quality water and:

  • operate only when there is a demand (saves water and energy)
  • provide a never-ending supply of soft water, even during self-cleanings
  • operate efficiently and effectively, with little maintenance

Click here to learn more about soft water and a full list of water softening benefits!

Well water or city water, whole house or drinking water, we have a NOVO system for you! NOVO systems remove iron, hardness, manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and acid water – to name a few.

Our systems boast greater efficiency, non-electric operation, twin tank design, demand operation and OUTSTANDING Warranty Coverage. We are certified and highly skilled in every aspect of water purification.

More Water Quality Tips


If you are concerned that your home has “hard water,” give us a call right away at 1-800-553-6060 or schedule an appointment online!

For NJ homeowners who need a trusted plumber to inspect their home and plumbing system, the professionals at Gold Medal Service are ready to serve. We can test your home’s water and recommend different options for water softeners and filters.

Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, and Google+ for more home safety and maintenance tips.

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