Hard water is defined as water that contains high levels of dissolved minerals (specifically 7 grains or more per gallon on the water hardness scale). Hard water can have a major impact on your home, but many people want to know about the health aspects. When it comes to home drinking water, people are especially sensitive about any potential risks to the health or safety of their family. So what’s the verdict on drinking hard water?
Is Hard Water Bad for You?
Drinking hard water is not bad for you. In fact, the minerals it contains – most often calcium and magnesium – are actually beneficial to your health. However, the amount of these minerals in hard water isn’t all that nutritionally significant. You would have to drink a lot of tap water to get enough of those minerals to make a difference.
That said, while drinking hard water isn’t bad for you, there are other aspects of it that can impact your health, albeit in minor ways. Soap does not work as well in hard water, so showers and dish washing may not be quite as hygienic. Also, hard water leads to soap scum, which can clog skin pores and even cause rashes in some people. Overall, your skin may not appear as clean and attractive when you shower with hard water.
The same goes for your hair. Hard water leaves mineral deposits in your hair just as it does in your plumbing. As with the skin issues, this is mostly a beauty issue rather than something that threatens your health. However, for many people, having dull-looking hair is one of the biggest problems with hard water.
Is Softened Water Bad for You?
But what about soft water? Is it safe to use? For the most part, the opposite arguments apply here. Soft water is not good for drinking, but for showering and general use it’s much better than hard water.
Water that has been softened with conventional soft water systems contains a small amount of sodium. Unless you’re on an extreme low-sodium diet, this likely isn’t enough to impact your health. However, if you naturally have really hard water in your home, then the amount of sodium in your home’s water increases. In this case, you probably don’t want to be drinking tap water on a regular basis – not only because the extra sodium isn’t ideal, but because it tastes bad. Instead, get a water filter for drinking water, or have your softener bypass your kitchen tap.
Similarly, plants may not fare well with heavily softened water. This is why you should never soften outside water – not only is it a waste of salt, but it can kill your lawn. For houseplants, use filtered water, or better yet, hard water from an outside spigot.
Hard Water, Soft Water, and Your Health
At this time, there’s little reason to think that drinking hard water or softened water seriously impacts your health one way or another. If you’re on a low sodium diet, or just want to avoid extra sodium, there are plenty of options available – including drinking filtered water or purchasing a saltless water softener. But before worrying too much about the sodium content of your water, make sure you’re making the right choices for your food – because that’s where you can make a much bigger difference.