We call water “hard” if it contains a lot of calcium, magnesium or other minerals. Groundwater acquires these metals by dissolving them from surrounding soil and rock. Water hardness is measured in terms of grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). If your water tests at 1 GPG (17.1 mg/L) or less, then you have soft water. Water around 1-3.5 GPG (17.1-60 mg/L) occupies a gray zone between soft and slightly hard water and 3.5-7 GPG (60-120 mg/L) is moderately hard. Hard water is around 7-10.5 GPG (120 – 180 mg/L), and very hard water is above that.
Source: Water Quality Association
Hard water causes multiple problems:
- Dissolved calcium and magnesium precipitate out of hard water as scale, which builds up on the insides of pipes, water heaters, tea kettles, coffee makers and industrial machinery. Scale reduces flow through pipes and is a poor conductor of heat. Eventually, pipes can become completely clogged.
- Hard water reduces soap’s ability to lather, whether in the shower, sink, dishwasher or washing machine, and reacts with soap to form a sticky scum.
Benefits of soft water in your home:
- Improve the appearance and life of clothing. Fabrics washed in hard water tend to wear out as much as 15% more quickly than if washed in soft water.
- Use less soap. When you have soft water, you can use less soap in your washing machine.
- Extend the life of appliances that use water. Dissolved minerals in hard water tend to collect in appliances and shorten their life.