One of the best ways to compare the difference between hard and soft water is to place two bowls of water alongside each other – one with hard water, the other with soft.
Get a bar of soap and see how long it takes to create a lather from each one. You’ll struggle to get any kind of foam at all in the hard water. The water will turn a milky, murky colour – that’s the soap reacting with the calcium and magnesium minerals in the water – but there’ll be a distinct absence of froth and bubbles.
On the other hand, rub the soap bar in the bowl of soft water and after a few seconds - virtually straightaway – you’ll generate a good lather. Yet underneath all the bubbles, the base water will remain almost completely clear.
Rub your fingers in the hard water and you’ll notice it produces a harsh, squeaky noise that feels almost abrasive, whereas the soft water leaves a soft, smooth feel to the skin. No squeaks, no dryness to the touch.
If you then transfer the bulk of the lather from the bowl of soft water into the hard water to see if you can give the hard water a bit of a boost, the bubbles just dissolve. The milky murk prevails. You can already detect and feel the soap scum clinging to the edge of the bowl.
When you then empty the bowl of soft water down the sink, after a quick rinse round, you’ll have a nice clean bowl, with no residue. With the bowl of hard water, after emptying it and giving it a quick rinse round under the tap, you’ll clearly see the residual soap scum clinging to the sides of the bowl.
Worse still, if you collect that soap residue and rub it into your skin, it just disappears into your pores and dries out your skin. And, for those who suffer from complaints like eczema, dry skin is the last thing you want.
The Difference – Simply Explained
Water gains its hardness from lime and chalk in the ground, which produces calcium and magnesium in the mains water – turning into hard water.
Soft water occurs naturally and contains few, if any, of these elements. But in certain parts the country – especially Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and other parts of the south east – there’s so much limescale and chalk in the ground that it is impossible to avoid hard water coming through the taps and into your property.
So, the conclusion is, if you want your skin to feel soft and smooth, you appreciate the benefits of lying in a bath of soft water, and you don’t want soap scum and scale on your household surfaces - that constantly need cleaning with limescale remover products like Mr Muscle and Cillit Bang - then a water softener is really the only solution.