Whether a water supply is labelled "soft" or "hard" is dependent on the presence of two highly soluble minerals, calcium and magnesium. From a health standpoint, these minerals have no adverse effects and are, in fact, essential daily nutrients. It is minerals that give water the refreshing flavor many people find desirable. However, when calcium and magnesium permeate water, they buildup on contact surfaces, possibly plug pipes and damage water heaters, and decrease the effectiveness of soaps and detergents. At this point the water is said to be hard.
Water hardness is expressed in one of two units of measurement. The first unit is parts per million (ppm) of calcium carbonate, a term equivalent to the concentration of dissolved calcium and magnesium. Using this equivalent simplifies hardness calculations. One ppm means that one unit of calcium carbonate is dissolved in one million units of water. Parts per million is also equal to milligrams/liter (mg/l). A second expression of hardness is grains per gallon (gpg) of calcium carbonate. A gpg is used exclusively as a hardness unit and equals approximately 17 mg/l or ppm.
If you have your water tested, the report will use one or both of these units to tell you how hard your water is. Since the level of calcium carbonate means little to water consumers, water specialists have classified levels of hardness.
|ssification||Grains per gallon|
|Parts per million or|
liter (ppm) or mg/l)
|Soft||Less than 1.0||Less than 17|
|Slightly hard||1.0 to 3.5||17 to 60|
|Moderately hard||3.5 to 7.0||60 to 120|
|Hard||7.0 to 10.5||120 to 180|
|Very hard||Greater than 10.5||Greater than 180|
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