Hard vs. Soft Water: What’s The Difference?

Hard vs. Soft Water: What’s The Difference?


Hard or Soft? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? THEY BOTH LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME! Hey there, Sapna here for Dnews. From the outside, all water is seemingly the
same: clear, mostly flavorless, two hydrogens, one oxygen. But once you get past the basics, water is
actually pretty versatile. It can be distilled, filtered, tap, bottled,
and if you’re real fancy, there’s water marketed as kosher, organic or kabbalah. But did you know water can also be hard or
soft? No, this isn’t to describe how the water
actually feels. It actually has to do with its mineral content. Water becomes ‘hard’ when it has a higher
than normal concentration of minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. Water picks up these minerals from rocks and
soil as it flows through rivers, wells or other waterways. Soft water, on the other hand, has a low mineral
content, either because it has not yet flowed through rocks or wells – like rain water – or
because the rocks it has come in contact with have little to no soluble minerals. But that isn’t to say that there is a set
amount of hard and soft water on earth. Because of the hydrologic cycle, our water
fluctuates between hard and soft. For instance, water that lives in oceans or
streams tends to be hard, because it has already picked up minerals. But when this water evaporates and later becomes
rain, it leaves these minerals behind and becomes soft. It’s important to note that water is not
just ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. It’s a spectrum, with water becoming more
hard as its mineral concentration increases. The United States Geological Survey classifies
soft water as anything with less than 61 mg of calcium carbonate per liter. Above that is moderately hard water, then
hard water, and very hard water. According to the US Department of Energy,
almost 75 percent of US homes have water that is at least moderately hard. Probably the best place to see the difference
between hard and soft water is in the bathtub. Soap is primarily made of a white solid called
sodium stearate, which, with the help of water, carries away dirt and oil. Normally the components of soap dissolve in
water, causing a really good lather, but in hard water, the soap reacts with the minerals,
forming insoluble compounds. For example, the magnesium in hard water reacts
with the stearate to form magnesium stearate..This makes it more difficult to get a good lather
in hard water. It also cause the soap=scum you see on the
sides of tub.. Hard water can also leave behind limescale,
which occurs when water is heated or when it sits for too long, and the minerals solidify
as the water evaporates. As you may have noticed in your own home,
limescale looks gross and is really difficult to get off of pots and faucets. To avoid this, a lot of people choose to ‘soften’
their water. An easy way to do this is by boiling water,
which causes the calcium carbonate to evaporate, leaving the remaining water soft. Some cities also choose to soften their water,
removing some of these minerals at the water treatment plant before it goes out to consumers. However there is another type of hardness
called ‘permanent hardness’ that cannot be boiled away. Water becomes permanently hard when it flows
through rocks with calcium sulfate, also known as gypsum, which cannot be removed through
boiling. But despite its name, water with permanent
hardness can be made soft. The most common way of doing this is adding
a chemical softener that filters out many of the minerals. But you may not be compelled to do this. Because beyond difficulties with bathing and
some household chores like laundry and dishes, both hard and soft water are generally thought
to be safe to drink, cook with and bathe in especially if the water has gone through a
treatment plant, at least in the United States. However some cities do choose to soften their
water, removing some of these minerals at the water treatment plant before it goes out
to consumers. If you’re curious whether the stuff coming
out of your tap is hard or soft, take a swig. You can usually taste the minerals in hard
water, whereas soft water is a bit more flat, and can sometimes taste slightly salty. So that covers fresh water, but what about
salt water? Why can’t we drink it? Trace answers that question here. Got any more questions about water? Let us know in the comments and subscribe
to DNews for more videos every day.

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