Hard vs soft water - what’s the difference?

So, what does hard and soft water mean?

Water hardness refers to the mineral content (particularly calcium and magnesium carbonates) within the water. As water falls from the sky it is considered soft. This is because it has yet to come in contact with minerals.

As water moves through rocks and other substrates, it accumulates dissolved solids. Water that has higher than normal amounts of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium is considered ‘hard’.

Basically, we define hard water as having a high mineral content, which is measured in milligrams per litre. Anything below 60mg/l is considered soft:

  • soft below 60 mg/l
  • moderately hard between 60 – 120 mg/l
  • hard between 120 – 200 mg/l
  • very hard above 200 mg/l

How does the hardness of water affect us?

Hard water is water in its most natural state. There are differing opinions on whether hard or soft water is the healthiest for us to drink. The visible impacts of hard water in the home can be seen in limescale build up inside the plumbing system and on household appliances.

When hard water is heated, calcium deposits can form. If this builds up, it can greatly damage the performance and lifespan of your appliances such as kettles and coffee machines.

Hard water is also harder to lather so more detergent is required in washing and in the shower.

Soft water is the most common form of water in Australia. Unlike hard water, soft water is free of harsh minerals that can damage your home and your body.

It increases the effectiveness of soap compared to hard water because hard water can deactivate the soap’s ingredients.

Those who suffer from eczema and psoriasis often prefer soft water because of the lower mineral count. So soft water generally means silkier hair and skin for your family.

Water hardness across Australia

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines dictate that drinking water must be treated to a high standard. In Sydney, 80% of water comes from Lake Burragorang at Warragamba. This water is then filtered through filtration plants, which are monitored 24/7 to ensure that water is safe to drink. Sydney Water adds fluoride and chlorine before it reaches our taps.

Whilst the quality of drinking water in Australia is highly regulated, water hardness is not. Therefore, we can see that the water’s origin across Australia plays a huge role in how hard or soft it is.

Hardness comes from contact with minerals rich in calcium, magnesium and carbonates that the water passes through.

In Sydney, water is considered ‘soft’ with a hardness level of about 50mg/L. If you look at the water hardness map of Australia, Victoria and Tasmania have the softest water, while Western Australia and South Australia have some of the hardest. Between capital cities in Australia, water hardness varies dramatically. In Hobart, it is barely above 10 ppm, whilst in Brisbane and Adelaide it reaches nearly 100 ppm.

Which is better for you?

The jury is still out on this one. Many people advocate for hard water because it contains essential minerals and nutrients such as magnesium and calcium. However, hard water is linked to kidney stones and makes hair and skin dry.

Your best option, whether the water in your area is hard or soft, is to install a home water filter system. All our filters remove contaminants such as dust, dirt, rust and cysts (giardia and cryptosporidium). These affect not only the taste but also the odour and colour of your water. Our filters then remove chlorine and limescale, so your skin and household appliances will thank you.

The best news is our filters leave all the good minerals in the water. This is because fluoride, calcium, magnesium and sodium are all dissolved minerals with the same consistency as water, so they simply pass through our filters.

Learn more about WFA’s water filter systems.

Read more interesting filtered water facts.

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