When considering using a water softener, there are a lot of questions that go through our minds. And doing a quick search does not answer all the questions that we have from is my tap water safe to drink? What is the water hardness? Can we have an ideal water hardness? Do I need to get a water softener for my house?

ideal water hardness

The simple answers to these questions are: Yes, your tap water is most likely safe to drink.

Water hardness tells us how many minerals are in our water, and the more minerals mean the harder the water.

There is an ideal water hardness for homes as well as health, and depending on which city you are in, you may need a water softener.

What is the Ideal Water Hardness?

Ideal Water Hardness

If water hardness is between 0–3 grains per gallon, then your water is at the ideal water hardness and it won’t require a softener.

If the pipes in your house are made of metals that can rust out (copper can rust out but takes longer) then too soft of water can create a pipe leak somewhere in your house and you will need a higher hardness level than something with PVC piping.

Something around 80-180 PPM would be ideal for metal pipes, but PVC would want softer so 20-80 PPM.

If you are looking for water hardness for your garden and lawn you will want a higher hardness than you want something in the 120-200 PPM (more is better and will not hurt) range so that they get as many nutrients as they can to grow better.
If you are prone to dry skin and have signs of hair loss your ideal water hardness would be lower and want much softer water and want something in the 20-60 PPM range.

What Does Water Hardness Mean?

Water Hardness is the number of minerals (specifically calcium and magnesium) that are in your water. The more the minerals in your water the harder it is. Hardness can best be described as if the water will stick to your skin or roll off it. The harder it is the more it will stick to your clothes and skin.

The softer the water is the more it will roll off you and your clothes and leave your dishes crystal clear and your appliances and pipes running perfectly. The softer the water you have the longer your appliances last because of not having mineral buildups inside of them.

How Will Water Hardness Affect My Family?

Water Hardness can have an effect on your family if it is too hard or too soft. If it is too hard, you may notice faucets that have little white crusty bits that are mineral deposit buildups. If you notice these happen a lot you may notice some water pressure losses in your home as well because mineral deposits can build up and clog pipes.

If your water is too soft, you may be rusting out your pipes depending on what type you have for your house. You also may not have a very healthy yard or garden if your water is too soft due to plants not getting enough nutrients.

What are Acceptable Levels of Water Hardness?

Acceptable levels of water hardness are what is the best range for cities and water treatment plants to have systems last the longest along with what is best for the consumers and what consumers will tolerate. An acceptable level range for water hardness is going to be 100- 300 PPM depending on what city you live in and what the water treatment plant has decided on.

Water Hardness Scale (Chart)

This Water Softener Hardness Scale tells us if the water is soft or hard on a scale based on how many minerals are found in it. This water softener hardness chart will be based on grains per gallon (GPG) or Parts Per Million (PPM) and will look like this:

Less than 1Less than 17.1SOFT
1-317.1 – 51.3SLIGHTLY HARD
3-751.3 – 119.7MEDIUM-HARD
7-10.5119.7 – 179.55HARD
10.5-15179.55 – 256.5VERY HARD
Over 15Over 256.5EXTREMELY HARD

When Is Water Softener Needed?

A water softener is needed when your water hardness is above 300 PPM or over 15+ grains per gallon. This is when you may notice changes in the water in your house or your health.

This can range from the water pressure dropping, the taste of the water being different, the color-changing, mineral deposits are building up quicker than they used to, or the dreaded pipe bursting.

The health effects of using too hard of water can be a nuisance. Having hard water in your shower can cause dry skin and hair loss. It may also cause clothes to always feel itchy because of the mineral buildup in your clothes when you wash them. While these are not always major, your skin is your first defense against diseases and should be taken care of.

What Does the Hardness Number for Water Softeners Mean?

This is based on how much water you use in your house and how many people live in it you will have a water hardness number based on the water softener you buy. This means that if you have a family of 2 your hardness number will be different for how often the water softener will need to soften your water compared to a family of 6.


Is 7 grains Considered Hard Water?

cropped rainfall showerhead1

7 grains will be considered hard water. Specifically, it will either be on the high end of medium-hard water or the low end of hard water. This means it will have around 120 PPM, which if it is coming from the city, is a very acceptable and optimal range for good water. It is on the lower end of the scale for what cities typically have but not low enough to accelerate pipe corrosion.

How Many grains of Hardness is in Soft Water?

rainfall showerhead

Soft water will typically be between 0-1 grain per gallon for water hardness. This means it will have less than 20 PPM for minerals in the water.

If your water is under 3 grains per gallon, there is no need to soften your water, because it is already soft enough and only considered slightly hard at 60 PPM. Either is great for your skin, but you will need to add extra nutrients for your garden and lawn for them to be taken care of.

How Do I Clean a Hard Water Scale?

Ask Drew the Plumber

Vinegar-soaked rags will be your best bet to clean the hard water scale without scratching the surfaces that it is on. You will want to dilute the white vinegar with water, so for every 1 ounce of vinegar, use the same amount for water.

Leave the rags on for at least half an hour, and then you will be able to start breaking them up with a non-scratch scrubber of some sort.


Knowing that water softeners can corrode our pipes if they are metal, that they can be beneficial to our skin and our health, along with that if water softeners are used at our homes that lawns and gardens will need added nutrients helps us understand the ranges to consider when looking at water softeners and the water hardness scale.

For reading this far, here is an interactive map for finding the water hardness by zip code for cities across the United States https://www.hydroflow-usa.com/water-hardness-map

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