From spots on glassware and a film on showers and tubs to plumbing problems and a buildup on water-using appliances, hard water can cause many problems in a home, and installing a water softener can help.
Hard water can leave deposits, making cleaning tougher. But do you really need a water softener for your home?
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is water that has a high mineral content, formed when the water percolates through deposits of limestone and chalk that are made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates.
How Do I Determine My Water Hardness?
If you are on water provided by a municipality, you can check with them for the hardness of the water. If you have a well that provides your water, a simple water-quality test can be performed. You also can purchase a water-testing kit or have a plumbing professional test the water for you.
Hard water particles are abrasive and cause stains. The easiest way to identify hard water is by the stains it makes. Spots can even appear on windows when washed with hard water and remain even after a thorough cleaning.
Why Is Soft Water Desirable?
For some people, the water feels “better” – when showering, soft water tends to be kinder to hair and skin, and it feels less “rough” than hard water. Hard water can cause itchy, dry skin and dull hair, due to the increase in calcium and magnesium salts contained within the water. It also can lessen the effectiveness of soaps and shampoos. It is gentler on appliances, plumbing fixtures, and dishes, and it does not leave stains on tubs, showers, and sinks.
What Are the Advantages of a Water Softener?
Water softeners are designed to remove calcium and some iron from the water. If you live in an area with hard water, softening your water will help extend the life of many plumbing fixtures in the home – like faucets, toilets and the water heater. It also cuts down on the amount of cleaning needed for toilets, bathtubs, showers, and sinks. The harder the water is, the more valuable the softener is to the home.
Is the Salt From the Softened Water Bad for Me?
Softened water may contain slightly more sodium than non-softened water. When very hard water (greater than 10 grains of hardness per gallon) is softened, between 20-to-30 milligrams of sodium is added to every eight ounces of water, dependent upon the measured hardness. For comparison, an eight-ounce glass of low-fat milk contains about 120 milligrams of sodium, while a 12-ounce can of diet soda contains about 40 milligrams, and an eight-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 25 milligrams. It is unlikely that a physician would discourage anyone from drinking softened water. Anyone concerned about sodium intake should consult a physician.
What Are the Disadvantages of Softening Your Water?
You have to buy salt for a water softener, and it’s not cheap, so softening water is an added expense. Water softener units are also expensive. The normal lifespan of a water softener is 8-12 years, depending on the size of the unit and the quality of the water. And believe it or not, some people prefer to drink and bathe in hard water.