It's Just Water, Isn't it? Hard Water Vs. Soft Water

Hard Water Conditions

Although, hard water is not a hazard to human health, there are some problems and aggravating conditions that are associated with hard water. For one, hard water and soap do not work well with each other. The dissolved ions in the water react with the chemicals in the soap creating a sticky scum.

Most soap is made with compounds of sodium and potassium, such as sodium stearate. Sodium stearate reacts with the calcium compounds in the water and produces calcium stearate. The ingredient found in soaps, sodium stearate, dissolves in water; however calcium stearate, the compound formed by the combination of hard water and soap does not dissolve. This means less lather for you and more soap curd, this is the deposits and residue of the combination of soap and hard water that is left on your skin.

According to the U.C Berkeley Wellness Letter, when you wash in hard water, the soap you're using reacts with the minerals in the water "to form an insoluble residue that's difficult to wash away." The "squeaky" feel or sound many people associate with being clean is actually your skin sticking because of the residue. Research regarding the effects on skin when using hard water is still in the works, however, recently a link between hard water and childhood eczema was found. Eczema is a skin condition where little to no natural moisture in the skin is found, creating very dry patches and sometimes painful, red inflamed skin irritations.

Scientists believe that the salts in hard water could be deposited on the skin causing dryness and irritation and second, it is possible that using hard water simply means that we use more soaps and shampoos for reasons listed previously, which can irritate the skin of eczema sufferers.

Even for women, who suffer from dry skin, may find that hard water makes their skin drier. And better yet, the curd I was talking about earlier can clog pores and possibly cause skin infections due to bacteria being trapped in pores beneath the soap curd build-up. Besides leaving your skin dry and rough, making your hair dull-looking and sticky, hard water can create other problems; such as water spots on dishes, soap rings on the shower and tub, and believe it or not; clothes that aren't as clean as those washed in soft water.

When a person uses soft water, it leaves the skin feeling smooth and silky. However, because most of us were raised in the 85% of the country that has always used hard water; some people describe the skin more as having an oily feel. Because the soap and mineral scum are absent, your natural body oils make your skin feel this way. Soft water rinses your skin and hair better than hard water, it let's the soap perform its purpose without getting in its way.

For the most part, when researching the hard water vs. soft water controversy on the World Wide Web, you find lots of information on the hard water problems and little on the soft water problems. Perhaps, that's because there is over a thousand sites dedicated to making your hard water- soft water. With a couple of hundred dollars, thousands in some cases, you too can have a filtration system to convert your hard water into soft.

So with evidence in tow, which would you prefer? Before you go out and spend the money on a filtration system to convert your water from hard to soft, consider this:
  • There are no studies in adults that verify soap scum can cause bacteria on the skin, which leads to skin infections.

  • Currently the Environmental Protection Agency (the guys and girls that regulate our water) has no regulations regarding water hardness or softness; they monitor color, odor, pH, and total dissolved solids, which are related to hardness in varying degrees.

  • United Kingdom's Drinking Water Inspectorate (like the US's Division of Water Quality) claims that "there is evidence of less heart disease in hard water areas than soft water areas, although not all studies find this link."

  • In 1980 the National Research Council reported claims that drinking water that was high in dissolved calcium and magnesium content can be an important source of these minerals in the diet.
Another thing you might want to try that's much cheaper than an "ionized exchange filter water treatment system"; collect some good ole rain water in a bucket the next time it comes a down pour, grab a bar of soap and go to town… Because you see, the rain from the skies is all natural, soft water in its mildest form.

What Type of Water are You Bathing In?
For many women, including myself, the thought of what type of water we are bathing and showering in has not entered my mind. But with some research and the help of the Internet, I have found that the hardness and softness of our water can affect our skin and hair. Like other women, I know hard water can leave a messy ring around the tub, that often takes much elbow grease to remove, but I never pondered the effects it can have on our bodies, particularly, our skin.

Natural water contains minerals necessary for all plants, animals and humans. The content of minerals in the water decides the quality and hardness. The degree of hardness is measured in parts per million of Calcium. Soft water contains less than 160-ppm, slightly hard water contains 160-320-ppm, and very hard water is above 460-ppm. Usually the amount of calcium found in your water can be attributed to the limestone in the earth's surface. Because more than 85% of the United States has hard water, you can assume there are high levels of limestone beneath our feet. Other minerals such as magnesium and manganese are found in hard water, as well.