When considering using a water softener, there are a lot of questions that go through our minds. From is my tap water safe to drink to what is water hardness? And if by doing a quick search does not answer all these questions, then I’m here to help you with your water hardness concerns. Is there an ideal water hardness? Do I really need a water softener for my house?
All this and more I addressed below. But first, let’s get into water hardness and how it affects you.
Water hardness tells us how many minerals are in our water; the more minerals mean, the harder the water.
There is an ideal water hardness for homes and health, and depending on which city or zip code you are in, you may need a water softener to balance it for you.
What is the 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) in your water. The more 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.
Hard water is not necessarily bad, but it can cause problems in some situations. For example, hard water can make it difficult to get soap to lather and leave behind mineral deposits on fixtures and appliances.
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.
The Different Types of Water Hardness
Water hardness is a measure of the amount of dissolved minerals in water. The more dissolved minerals in water, the harder it is. The two types of water hardness are temporary hardness and permanent hardness.
- Temporary hardness is caused by the presence of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals can be removed from water by boiling it, which is why temporary hardness is also sometimes called “boilable hardness.”
- Permanent hardness is caused by the presence of dissolved minerals that cannot be removed by boiling, such as iron, manganese, and sulfates.
The Ideal water hardness depends on the purpose for which the water will be used.
For example, too soft water may not be ideal for washing clothes because it may not remove all of the dirt and stains.
On the other hand, water that is too hard may not be ideal for drinking because it can cause gastrointestinal problems. The best way to determine the ideal water hardness for your needs is to consult with a water treatment expert.
How Will Water Hardness Affect My Family?
Water Hardness can affect your family if it is too hard or too soft. If it is too hard, you may notice faucets with little white crusty bits that are mineral deposit buildups. If this happens often, you may also notice water pressure loss in your home 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 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 will be 100- 300 PPM, depending on what city or zip code you live in and what the water treatment plant has decided on.
For drinking water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends a hardness level around 50 to 70 ppm.
For most other uses, such as bathing, washing dishes, and doing laundry, water hardness between:
30 and 60 MgL Is Generally Considered Ideal.
Some people prefer very hard water for bathing because it leaves their skin feeling clean and refreshed. However, hard water can also cause soap to build up on the skin and in hair, which can lead to dryness and irritation.
If your water is too hard or too soft for your liking, there are ways to adjust the hardness level. Water softeners and filters can remove excess minerals from hard water, and mineral-adding systems can be used to increase the hardness of soft water.
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:
|GRAINS/GAL||MG/L & PPM||CLASSIFICATION|
|Less than 1||Less than 17.1||SOFT|
|1-3||17.1 – 51.3||SLIGHTLY HARD|
|3-7||51.3 – 119.7||MEDIUM-HARD|
|7-10.5||119.7 – 179.55||HARD|
|10.5-15||179.55 – 256.5||VERY HARD|
|Over 15||Over 256.5||EXTREMELY HARD|
The water hardness scale begins with water classified as soft if it contains 0 to 50 mgL (milligrams per liter) of dissolved calcium. Moderately hard water contains 51 to 120 mgL, and very hard water is classified as containing more than 180 mgL.
Water at the high end of the water softness scale, with many dissolved minerals, can leave a residue behind that affects clothes washed in the water and can leave a film on dishware and glass shower doors. Spots or film left on glasses in the dishwasher is due to hard water.
Ideally, water hardness should be somewhere in the middle of the scale, around 7-10 gpg. This is the level at which water is considered “hard” but not so hard that it causes significant problems.
If your water hardness is outside of this range, you can take steps to correct it. For water that is too hard, a water softener can be installed. This will remove the dissolved calcium and magnesium from the water, making it softer. A calcium carbonate filter can be installed for water that is too soft. This will add calcium to the water, making it harder.
How to Test for Water Hardness in Your Home
Fortunately, there is an easy way to test for water hardness in your home.
You only need a water hardness test kit, which you can purchase at most hardware stores. Once you have your kit, follow the instructions to collect a water sample from your tap.
- 💧 QUICK AND ACCURATE – Save time and get accurate test results within seconds. Simply dip the strip into the water and compare it to the large color chart on the bottle. No need to visit a store or wait for someone else to test the quality of your water. Enjoy consistently accurate and reliable results whenever you need them.
Then, simply compare the color of your water sample to the chart included in the kit to determine the hardness level.
There is also a way of testing water pH without a kit using cabbage.
Interpreting Water Hardness Testing Results
What Does Your Water Hardness Test Say About Your Water Quality?
If your test of hard water results in measurements of less than 1 grain per gallon (17.1 milligrams per liter or less), you have soft water. Anything higher than this amount indicates hard water:
Once you test your water and get your number, see where your water quality falls using the guide below:
- 0-3 Gpg: This is Soft Water and is Ideal for Most Uses
- 3-7 Gpg: This is Considered Moderately Hard Water and is Still Ok for Most Uses
- 7-10 Gpg: This is Considered Hard Water and You May Start to See Some Mineral Buildup
- 10+ Gpg: This is Very Hard Water and You Will Definitely See Mineral Buildup
When Is Water Softener Needed?
A water softener is needed when your water hardness exceeds 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.
The hardness of water is measured in grains per gallon (GPG). The ideal hardness of water for a water softener is 1-4 GPG. If you set your water softener incorrectly, the water hardness will not be ideal. This can cause several problems, including reduced efficiency of the softener, reduced lifespan of the softener, and increased water usage.
Water Hardness By Zip Code
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
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is 7 grains Considered Hard Water?
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 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?
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, it is not necessary to soften it, 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 to take care of.
How Do I Clean a Hard Water Scale?
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.
Is 25 ppm hard water?
25 ppm is not considered hard water.
Will Hard Water Kill Aquarium Fish?
No, hard water will not kill your aquarium fish as long as the water hardness is within the ideal range for the fish species.
How Do You Increase Water Hardness in Your Aquarium?
One way is to add calcium to your aquarium water. You can also add magnesium to your aquarium water. Another way to increase water hardness is to use a water hardness increaser.
Knowing your water hardness is crucial if you want all the health benefits from properly pH-balanced water. Being in an area with hard water, you may want to consider installing a water softener.