Water is water, right?
Actually, in the water world, not all water is equal. It is considered hard or soft, depending on its mineral content. Approximately 85 percent of U.S. water is classified as hard, while many homes and businesses utilize water softeners to strip minerals, making water soft. With such a range of water quality, there are a lot of misconceptions about which is better: hard or soft?
In reality, what’s best depends on the situation and personal preferences. Yet, some strong opinions exist due to misinformation. Below are a few hard and soft water myths you’ve likely heard, as well as the truth behind them.
Water Myth: Hard water is contaminated.
Truth: Hard water is full of “stuff” – but it’s not contaminants. Hard water contains minerals, which are actually nutrients. Drinking hard water with abundant essential minerals is good for your health. According to the World Health Organization, calcium and magnesium-rich hard water can actually help protect against heart disease and stroke.
Water Myth: Hard water will clog up my piping.
Truth: This myth originated back when homes were built with galvanized steel piping. Hard water may contain magnesium and calcium, which can clog steel piping, as these minerals will stick inside.
Today’s homes have copper piping, which are perfectly compatible with hard water. If your home was built after 1975 or your older home has been re-piped, hard water poses no threat. If you have a home built from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s that hasn’t been re-piped, soft water may be safer on your plumbing. It’s important to not over soften your water though as softer water is also more corrosive and might shorten the life of your home plumbing.
Water Myth: Hard water tastes foul.
Truth: It’s actually soft water that may not be so tasty, yet hard water gets a bad rep because people assume it’s contaminated when it’s really filled with minerals – as discussed above. Minerals improve water’s taste, you can even purchase fancy mineral water for its flavor. Soft water not only doesn’t contain minerals, but the softening process can cause the water to taste a bit salty, thanks to the potassium or sodium ions used to eliminate magnesium and calcium.
Indiana American Water does not soften the water, because calcium and magnesium pose no health problems and can promote stronger bones. Conversely, removal of these components through advanced processes has the potential to increase sodium levels in the drinking water, which could be harmful to those who have high blood pressure.
Water Myth: Soft water gets your body cleaner.
Truth: Soft water is a better cleaner for household cleaning and laundry, as it doesn’t leave behind the mineral residue that hard water does. When it comes to your body, soft water may not be the superior cleaner.
The minerals in hard water give soap something to cling to, so it can easily rinse away. The trade-off? Mineral build-up in your shower, called scale. Super soft water, found in cities such as Seattle and NYC, can leave your skin and hair feeling like there is product left behind after a rinse – it just doesn’t bind with soap the way hard water does. Some say taking a shower in soft water makes their skin feel slippery.
Water Myth: Rainwater must be hard, because it’s natural.
Truth: Rainwater, as it falls, is actually soft. This natural water flow becomes hard, as it works its way through and across the ground, picking up minerals on its way to join waterways and eventually into the ground to replenish aquifers. Groundwater is typically much harder than surface water because it is in contact for extended periods of time with underground rock formations like limestone.