Is Well Water Hard or Soft Water? (Explained)

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. For more information, please visit our Disclaimer Page.

Well water is not inherently hard; It is likely to become hard if it’s from the ground rather than reservoirs. Minerals like magnesium and calcium latch on the hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Also, ground well water takes on the soil’s attributes, and the water might have excess minerals in it.

water pump

What Is Well Water?

Well water is water pumped from the underground aquifers. It is stored in a threshold beneath the surface ground.

The aquifers are naturally-occurring, and it holds water from rainwater seeping through the soil above.

Essentially, a hole is dug in the ground, and a pump is used to pump fresh water from the well to your house for consumption. The water travels through mineral-rich soil and settles on top of bedrock.

What Is the Hardness of Well Water?

Water hardness is primarily determined by the quantity of calcium, magnesium, and, to a lesser degree, iron in the water.

It is calculated by combining the magnesium and calcium concentrations and translating the result to an equivalent calcium carbonate concentration in mg/L (milligrams per liter) of water.

The ideal hardness range for drinking water is 80 to 100 mg/L.

Water with a hardness of more than 200 mg/L is regarded bad, while water with a hardness of more than 500 mg/L is typically declared unfit for home use.

How Do You Determine If Well Water Is Hard?

You can do a home test to assess water hardness. First, find a see-through container and fill it about half full with water from your faucet.

Next, pour about ten drops of pure liquid soap into the container. Do not use detergent as it is formulated with additives that can skew the test results.

Next, shake the container for about 20 seconds to mix up the water and soap.

If the container has suds at the top and the water underneath the bubbles is clear, you likely have soft water.

But if you do not have a good amount of suds, and the water looks cloudy, that is an indication you have hard water.

Hard water has minerals that prevent soap from creating suds and keep it from cleaning effectively. The soap binds with the minerals forming the cloudy liquid that leaves residue on dishes, clothing, and skin.

What Are the Signs That My Well Water Is Hard?

Since water hardness is based on the mineral amounts present, you cannot determine if the water is hard by looking at it. You may, however, notice the impact of hard water on household water fixtures.

The minerals in hard well water usually leave behind deposits in your sinks, on your showerheads and toilet bowls.

Hard water also causes excessive scale buildup on appliances and pipes. They typically have a whitish appearance and don’t wash away easily.

You may notice discoloration, stains, or rust on these fixtures or your clothing. Furthermore, hard water does not properly remove shampoo and soap from your body and may leave residue on skin and hair.

Is Well Water Harder Than City Water?

City water is pumped from surface water supplies or deep wells and sent into the treatment center before reaching your house. Municipalities will treat water to filter the contaminants, bacteria, or pathogens.

However, some municipalities do not take city water through treatments to address hard water.

On the other hand, for the well water, it’s up to the homeowner to treat water for hard water quality issues. Despite the differences between well water and city water, hard water is equally likely in both sources.

Detail of faucet with limescale or lime scale on it, dirty calcified and rusty shower mixer tap, close up

Why Is Hardness So Common in Well Water?

For homeowners who rely on well water, whether you have hard or soft water depends mainly on the quality of the groundwater. Groundwater, on its way to your private well, will travel through rock and soil, dissolving anything soluble as it goes.

As a result, the hardness varies depending on the location of the well and the mineral content of the bedrock and soil.

If the soil contains minerals such as magnesium and calcium, they may bind to the water molecules.

The more minerals that cling to the water, the harder the water becomes.

Are There Any Health Risks of Using Hard Well Water?

There are not severe adverse health problems linked to drinking hard well water.

However, if the water has contaminants, it may negatively impact your health. Arsenic, lead, and nitrates are among the common chemicals you can find in well water.

In some cases, you can find heavy metals like chromium, lead, and copper. Besides, there could be harmful germs or bacteria present in well water. Thus, it is exceptionally vital to have your water tested for contaminants regularly.

Moreover, hard water might contribute to dry hair and skin. Showering and washing your hair frequently with hard water may leave your skin and scalp feeling itchy.

The minerals in well water can change the pH balance of your skin and thus weaken it as a barrier against harmful infections and bacteria. People with eczema could be especially vulnerable when using hard water.

 Do I Need to Soften My Well Water?

There’s no set requirement to soften your well water. The decision is a personal choice that can affect your environment and home.

However, if the water hardness is above 120mg/L, you should have a water softener to ensure your plumbing appliances run well and improve the smell, taste, and look of your water.

Can Well Water Be Soft Water?

Well water won’t always be hard. Some wells can reach greater depths and hence don’t have issues with water-soluble minerals that result in hard water.

However, well water can also change its chemical composition due to the changes in the soil, and thus it is vital to monitor regularly to assess the levels of hardness.

The tests are also conducted to ensure that the water you’re using is safe and clean. Remember that issues with wells can escalate quickly with shifts in the weather or geological activity.

Recent fracking operations could also disrupt well water quality and can turn water hard or even toxic.

How Will Water Softeners Soften My Well Water?

Water softeners are connected to your home’s plumbing system and filter the water before it enters your fixtures.

They use reverse osmosis technology to remove minerals from water. It contains negatively charged ions that attract positively charged magnesium and calcium ions.

Is Softening Hard Well Water Safe?

Essentially softening hard well water is safe.

However, if you installed a water softener that uses sodium ions, the sodium may create problems for individuals on low-sodium diets and may cause the water to taste somewhat salty.

To avoid such problems, you can use potassium chloride in your softener for your drinking water.

Does Well Water Need to Be Treated?

Well water treatment might be needed depending on the presence of contaminants in it. Besides, aesthetic issues linked to certain minerals can result in foul smell or taste.

This can make well water users pursue water treatment options, depending on the source.

It’s likely that you’d use whole-home or reverse osmosis systems. Again, you can seek professional assistance to help you choose the right solutions for your specific needs.