Let’s be honest, water is underrated. It’s an absolute necessity for all life on earth, and yet many of us take it for granted in our daily lives.
In the developed world, whenever you want or need water, turn on the faucet and there it is.
Even though we need to drink water to live, many of us have long since gotten bored of drinking plain water, coming up with all sorts of different flavored drinks from soda to alcoholic beverages.
Those of us who do drink a lot of water will tell you that water does have a taste, and that taste can vary wildly depending on where you are in the world. A lot of it comes down to whether your water is ‘hard’ or ‘soft’.
“But wait,” I hear you shout! There are different types of water? Yes, there are! I imagine you’ve got a few questions. Luckily, we’re about to discuss soft water, and whether or not you can drink it.
What’s The Difference Between Hard Water And Soft Water?
Although water often looks completely clear, it contains lots of different minerals like calcium and magnesium. The concentration of these two minerals is primarily what determines the water’s ‘hardness’.
The more of these minerals, the harder, the fewer, the softer. In place of calcium and magnesium, soft water has a greater concentration of sodium (salt).
In the United States, for example, many states in the North East, South, and North West including New York, Oregon, Washington, the Carolinas, as well as much of the Deep South have ‘very soft’ water.
On the other hand, Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, New Mexico, and the western half of Texas are all considered to have ‘very hard’ water.
The Signs Of Hard Water Vs. The Signs Of Soft Water
So, we’ve had the technical definitions of hard water and soft water, but what sort of difference does it make in practice, in daily life?
Signs Of Hard Water
There are a few telltale indicators of hard water. You might notice:
- Spots and mineral stains on your dishes and clothes after you’ve washed them. These are mineral deposits, usually of calcium carbonate.
- Feeling a ‘film’ form around your hands after you wash them. This is because the calcium in hard water reacts with soap to create soap scum. You’ll probably notice that you need to rinse your hands for longer with hard water.
- Low water pressure. Mineral deposits could form in your pipes, restricting the flow of water and as a result causing low water pressure.
- Water that tastes particularly ‘strong’ or has a distinct taste. Admittedly, this one can be hard to spot if you’ve never known any different.
Signs Of Soft Water
Generally speaking, soft water creates the opposite effect of hard water. You’ll see:
- Dishes and clothes that come out of your appliances, or the sink, are cleaner and with less general wear and tear.
- A healthy lather forms when you wash your hands, your body, or dishes and clothes.
- Robust water pressure across your home.
- Water that tastes slightly of sodium, or in many cases doesn’t have much of a taste at all.
Can You Drink Hard Water?
Yes, you can. There are absolutely no negative health effects associated with hard water. A lot of people will argue that drinking hard water is better for you!
Some scientists speculate that it might be beneficial for cardiovascular health, but what is unquestionably true is that it’s a good source of your recommended daily intake of minerals like calcium and magnesium.
After all, a lot of water – like that coming from mountain streams – is naturally hard. You could say hard water is how nature intended it!
On the other hand, hard water may cause problems for your hair and skin. It can cause dry hair and an itchy, irritated scalp.
It can also dry out your skin and affect its pH balance, reducing its ability to protect itself against bacteria and infections. This is particularly a concern if you or your family suffer from skin problems like eczema or dermatitis.
Can You Drink Soft Water?
Yes, soft water is fine to drink. For the vast majority of people, whether you drink hard or soft water makes absolutely no difference apart from the taste.
However, if your diet isn’t great, you might lack certain minerals. Since you won’t get them from drinking soft water, your doctor may recommend supplements to complete your diet.
Another minor health concern associated with soft water is its sodium levels. For people prone to high blood pressure, the higher sodium levels in soft water might contribute to an increase in blood pressure.
People across the world with high blood pressure drink soft water just fine. However, you may want to consult your doctor before installing a softening device if you or anyone in your home suffers from high blood pressure.
To summarize, both hard and soft water is safe to drink. Hard water may taste ‘stronger’, while soft water may taste mellower or have a hint of sodium.
The increased sodium content of soft water is minimal but may prove a concern to some people. On top of this, soft water is generally preferred for household tasks and bathing, as hard water can feel unpleasant.