It’s almost a tie. Around half of our populated regions on planet earth have hard water, the other half, soft water.
‘Hard water’ is water with calcium and (perhaps) magnesium dissolved in it. The term refers to water from your tap.
‘Soft water’ is the opposite. It has little or no dissolved minerals.
Both have their problems, so let’s discuss them first.
Because it carries alkaline minerals, hard water is also capable of depositing these minerals when you use it. Typical problems are calcium encrustation on kettles, glasses, hot water system elements, dishwashers. Even the kitchen tap can block up with calcium!
Also, because hard water is high in calcium, drinking it increases the amount of calcium we get internally. This sounds good.. but without the right calcium management strategy, it can be quite dangerous, with possible CVD, and no advantage to your skeleton.
The WHO has made very clear that demineralised or mineral free water is NOT healthy. The recent scientific study of Israeli deaths attributed to reverse osmosis water demonstrates the problem.
We have a need for set ratios of electrolytes (charged minerals) in our body and lack of them does have a resulting longterm health effect.
People do get confused about what should stay in your water and what should leave, but the above dire result demonstrates that we do need some minerals in our water.
Our water filtration decision, therefore, comes down to:
Maximum contaminant reduction.
Minimum dissolved mineral removal.
Your two choices are reverse osmosis and non-reverse osmosis..
..has been sold as the ultimate filter. While reverse osmosis is effective for removing a variety of contaminants in water, the reverse osmosis membrane alone does NOT remove volatile organic chemical (VOCs), chlorine and chloramines, pharmaceuticals, and a host of other synthetic chemicals found in municipal water. However, some newer, more expensive R.O. systems now have multi-stage filtration media (in addition to the R.O. membrane), such as activated carbon, which does remove chlorine and certain pesticides.
It is seen as the best all round contaminant filter system but as we have seen here it’s now clear that drinking ’empty’ water is a real health risk. (lack of electrolytes)
Vendors offer remineralising cartridges but frankly, most are of very poor quality, do not give a regulated dosage over the life of the filter, and are usually sourced from China.
Reverse osmosis is also a hard install job, the most difficult of all filters to keep replenished with replacement filters, and the hardest to repair. If you buy a quality RO you will most probably be also buying an ongoing contract for filter replacement by a professional who has to come to your home.
.. is your alternative. I’ll keep to the basic points of comparison here because this is a BIG subject.
The standard carbon filter you can buy off the shelf at a big box store is a basic filter and doesn’t come anywhere near an RO for contaminant removal.
It’s usually GAC (Granular Activated Carbon) the cheapest and least effective form of the most common filter material, carbon. Carbon works for chlorine, taste odor and smell, some pesticides and lead, but only for a short time. This is why these filters never show you a life-of-filter test result. Their first day of use is their best and it’s all downhill after that!
More advanced filters may include technologies like activated catalytic carbon, fluoride reduction media, heavy metal reduction media and electro-adsorptive technology to remove viruses, bacteria and cysts.
These cost more, naturally (you really do get what you pay for in filtration!) but give filtration efficiency even better than RO in some areas, without the complexity of installation, support and maintenance. The most important comparison point to RO is that they allow dissolved minerals through, but also remove the nasty ones (heavy metals).
Effects Of Hard Water
The ‘mechanism’ of hard water effects is:
1. Water with dissolved calcium enters a water filter.
2. Calcium comes out of solution and accretes on internal surfaces.
This may be caused by heat, passing through filter media, or a change in pH.
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