Water softeners remove the “hardness” from water. Hardness is defined as all dissolved minerals in the water, but it is commonly only calcium and magnesium. High mineral contents exist in large segments of the United States, according to the United States Geological Survey. Hard water reduces the effectiveness of soaps and damages cloth. Knowing the hardness of the water in your area is the first step to understanding if a water softener will solve your water-quality problems. Does this Spark an idea?
Mineral content in the water that boils away with the carbon dioxide gas driven off with steam is known as temporary hardness. Well water with this type of hardness is associated with limestone rock formations. The testing process is repeated before and after boiling to determine if any of the mineral content in the water is temporary hardness.
Test strips offer an estimate of water hardness. You should purchase this type of kit as part of the investigative process. Dip the strips in the water and match the paper to a color to yield a basic idea of your water’s hardness. If you need a more exact measurement, laboratory testing will be necessary.
Commercial water-quality labs perform hardness testing for a fee. Businesses who market water treatment equipment often perform the tests for free, although it may be worthwhile to double-check the results. Samples are taken from a flow of water from a faucet.
Water’s hardness is stated in one of two ways. If the hardness is stated in milligrams per liter or parts per million — the same ratio — a reading of more than 180 indicates extreme hardness. Ratings below 17 indicate soft water, with all readings in between showing various levels of hardness. The hardness could also be stated as grains per gallon. A rating of more than 10.5 grains per gallon indicates extreme hardness, while ratings of less than 1 grain per gallon indicate soft water.