For Most People... Hard Water & Softened Water Are Just As Healthy,
& Softening Your Home's Water Is Just A Personal Preference.
Hardness is a term to describe the presence of calcium and magnesium minerals in water. A chemical analysis accurately measures the amount of minerals in grain weight. To relate it to something familiar, one aspirin tablet usually weighs five grains. We rate hardness of water based on the grains of these minerals per gallon of water (gpg,) Hardness can also be in parts per million (ppm.) To convert ppm to gpg, just divide the ppm by 17.118. For example, 387 ppm equals 22.6 gpg
Note: Water softening systems work by reducing the concentrations of the calcium and magnesium minerals in the water. However, the tradeoff with soft water is instead of having higher levels of calcium and magnesium, most soft water tends to have higher concentrations of sodium, or salt.
Indiana, and The Greater Indy Area Has, By Most People’s Standards, Very Hard Water!
The average water hardness for the state is 15.3 gpg (grains per gallon). For context Indianapolis as the state’s largest city has a water hardness level of 16.0 gpg.
SOME COMMON QUESTIONS...
IS HARD WATER OR SOFTENED WATER HEALTHIER FOR YOU?
While you should always speak with your own health provider, for most people there are no serious adverse health risks associated with drinking or using hard water or softened water.
From a health perspective the most common negative to softened water is people with high blood pressure are typically advised against adding salt to their diet, so some people may be also advised against softening their home drinking water. Plus, if your home has older water pipes, softened water is more likely to pick up lead from the inside of these older pipes. Because of the possibility of one or both of these negative side effects, many who install water softeners also choose to also add a reverse osmosis filtration system for drinking water to remove sodium from the softened soft water, along with other contaminants like chlorine and lead.
IS SOFT WATER BETTER FOR BATHING?
Many people think that soft water is better for cleaning your body and your home because it doesn’t leave behind any mineral residue like hard water can. But the truth is that neither type of water offers a better or worse cleaning experience.
Ironically, showering with softened water may leave you feeling like there is a residue left behind because the lack of minerals makes your skin feel more slippery. Similarly, you may also find the floors both inside and outside the tub or shower more slippery making entering and exiting more dangerous.
For some though hard water can contribute to dry skin and hair and related side effects like your scalp feeling itchy and an increase in dandruff. The minerals in hard water can also change the pH balance of your skin, this is why those with eczema may not want to shower and wash with hard water. If you have a history of dry skin and related issues, as an alternative to installing a water softener, you may want to talk with a dermatologist about moisturizers and hair products you can use to combat the effects of the hard water.
IS SOFT WATER BETTER FOR YOUR PLUMBING, MECHANICALS AND APPLIANCES?
If your home was built before 1986, and you still have pipes, solder or flux that were not “lead free” then softened water is typically not a good idea since the salt in softened water can increase the lead you may be drinking and be exposed to.
The pipes and valves within major water-using appliances and mechanicals, like your water heater, and whole house humidfiers can become clogged with scale, reducing water flow or causing leaks. Most people with water softeners feel their appliances last longer and they clean better. This can be true of both your dishwasher and your washing machine. Plus if water supply into your refrigerator's water chiller compartment is softened this means that your drinking water and the ice cubes will be softened. Beyond the taste, that many people tend to prefer, softened water typically prevents calicum deposits on the water dispense and in the ice cube maker trays. Even small appliances like coffee makers will be easier to clean and use. Certainly items like shower doors and even commode bowls are easier to keep clean and free of calcium and limestone deposits and scale in homes with water softeners.
IS A WATER FILTER AND A WATER SOFTENER THE SAME THING?
Water softeners do not filter water, they only remove calcium and magnesium minerals to address hard water. In order to remove contaminants like chlorine, salt or lead, so that the water is safer for drinking, cooking, and showering, you’ll need to use a water filter even if you already have a water softener installed.
A whole house water filter will enable you to provide filtered water throughout your entire house, but you can also get clean water through under sink or countertop filters that provide filtered water only in specific areas. Even non-whole house systems have the same contaminant-removing benefits over water softeners. Some options like a reverse osmosis water filtration systems both reduce contaminants and also reduce total dissolved solids that can contribute to hard water.