What causes hard water?
When it rains, the water falling from the clouds is completely soft. It’s not until the rain hits the ground that it begins to absorb minerals found within the earth.
In the diagram to the left, rain is showing falling to the ground, where some of it will run off across the ground surface, and the rest will percolate through the earth collecting minerals as it filters down.
Living in the UK means we have the pleasure of experiencing plenty of the wet stuff, but is it hard water that occurs where you live?
Soft water areas:
In soft water areas, the composition of the earth is typically hard stone, such as granite leading to those areas being naturally soft. Looking at the map, these are typically the areas in green (Cornwall, Scotland, parts of Wales and parts of Ireland).
Granite is so hard that water cannot permeate through it, so rain water will simply run-off the surface Granite is therefore a very popular hard stone used in the construction of buildings, and is widely used for kitchen work surfaces.
Why is all water not treated?
This is because the water authorities in Europe are only required to ensure that the water they supply is suitably treated for drinking water purposes. This is the minimum standard they have to meet.
As you will see from the diagram below, only a very small proportion of all the water they treat is used for drinking water, whereas most of the water used only requires very basic water treatment.
Naturally soft vs softened water
If you’ve been on holiday to Cornwall, Wales or Scotland, you’ve probably experienced the beauty of naturally soft water – your skin might have felt softer, you might have found you were using too much soap in the shower and noticed that the bathroom and kitchen where you were staying stayed cleaner, shinier and brighter.
Softened water, by name association, is very similar, except ion-exchanged softened water is much softer than naturally soft water.
This means that your skin will feel much softer, your hair will be silkier and you will use as much as 50% less soaps and detergents than you would use in a naturally soft water area, which is of course less than you would use anyway in a typical hard water area.
Softened water has so many practical as well as financial benefits that the fitting of a water softener is often even considered an essential money saving appliance in hotels, laundrettes, commercial food growers, cafes, restaurants, schools, etc etc.
A premium quality water softener will typically pay for itself within 3-6 years, and could last in excess of 20 years.