Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why we need Hard and Soft Water and how you can save using rain water?

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I like very long introductions, so if you prefer to know only what you can do with hard and soft water simply scroll down to the Benefits of soft water and Benefits of hard water section.

"Rain, rain go away come again another day little children wants to play."

As children, we love to recite this phrase several times hoping that it will hid our pleas and go away. But alas, it still pours down on us and so children learned to play under the rain. And when it is time for us to go inside the house we first take our proper bath, still under the rain, but finds out that the soap in our body is difficult to wash off using rain water.

Ever wondered why it is difficult to wash away soap with rain water? This is because rain water is considered as soft water. Soft water is basically water that  contains few to no minerals. The lesser minerals a water contains, the softer it gets. The reason behind it is that these minerals react with the soap and forms scum which are then washed off.

For better understanding, let us think of magnets and let us say the minerals are the positive pole and the soap as the negative pole. We all know that opposite poles attract and when they make contact the soap particles bind with the mineral and no longer stick to our body. So the lesser mineral content a water has, the less effective it is in washing off soap and therefore the more soft water you will need to wash the soap off your body.

For a more thorough explanation, let us go back to my magnet analogy and science we had at grade school. Water in its pure form is neutral, neither an acid nor a base but as it is exposed to the atmosphere, it dissolves some air, like carbon dioxide, which makes it an acid and becomes positively charged. Soap on the other hand is a base and is therefore more negatively charged. When a base and an acid combines, the by product is water and salt. This is why rain water can still wash away soap but the acidity is not enough and so it needs more rain water to wash it off. But as rain water drops to the ground, it carries minerals like magnesium and calcium, that are positively charged by nature, and thus become hard water. I need not go much further as I believe you guys already got the point.

Benefits of soft water

But did you know that soft water is actually better for cleaning than hard water? This is because hard water leaves more water stain. It also makes soaps and other cleaning solutions less effective.

Simple tips you can follow:
1. The next time it rains, collect rain water from your roof. Keep in mind though that the first rain water coming down your roof will not be very clean. Wait for the third rain or until the rain has washed out dust on the roof before collecting rain water.
WARNING: If you are aware that in your area you have acid rain, this rain water collecting thing is a bad idea.
2. Water collected from the rain is very suitable for washing clothes. Soft water does not fade out colors as much as hard water due to the properties mentioned above.
3. Washing with soft water reduces detergent consumption as there is not much on the water that it will react to but only the ones on the clothes.
4. Dishes washed with soft water don't leave water stains.

Other ways to get soft water
If collecting rain water is not an option for you, you can have a water softening device installed. Other benefit of such a device installed is reduced limescale which could potentially clog your pipes over time. The same limescale deposit in your water heater reduces its efficiency since heat transfer is reduced due to the deposits and with reduced heater efficiency comes more cost to your gas or electric bill.

Unfortunately, this is the only way how to make a soft water. When I find other means, I will be updating this part.

Benefits of hard water

But don't count out hard water just yet. It has its own benefits as well.

1. The same limescale that could potentially clog pipes also creates coating to the surface of the pipe which prevents undesired particles like rust from pipes into the water.
2. Minerals like calcium are required by our body and therefore hard water could be a natural source for it.
3. It is good for washing away detergents. After washing clothes or dishes, use hard water to remove the soap and make use of soft water for final rinse.
4. Others claim it promotes cardiovascular health. Now this bit of information does not have much supporting evidence so take it with a grain of salt.

How to make soft water harder?
Aside from tap water, you can make soft water (or rain water) harder. All you need is a little baking soda or table salt in the water and dissolve it evenly. Start with a pinch for every bucket and increase or decrease it depending on how hard you want the water to be.

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