Is Well Water Hard Or Soft? (A Well Expert Explains)

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Wondering whether your well water supply is hard or soft? Read this short guide to find out how to know.

๐Ÿ“Œ Key Takeaways

  • Well water is likely to be hard, but some homes have naturally soft well water.
  • The factors affecting the hardness of your water are the water source (groundwater vs surface water) and your local geology.
  • If your well water is hard, you may notice chalky white limescale on your water-using fixtures and appliances, a sticky feel on your skin after washing your hands, and spots on your dishes and glassware.
  • You can conduct a water hardness test to learn whether or not you have hard water. The best way to treat hard water is with a water softener.

Well water is usually hard, but the hardness of your well water depends on where you live. You can check out this water hardness map to see the hardness of the water in different regions in the United States.

Water hardness map
Source:ย United States Geological Survey (USGS)

๐Ÿšฑ Is Well Water Hard?

Most well water supplies are hard – just as most municipal (city) water supplies are hard.

But there’s no guarantee that your well water is hard. Well water usually comes from the same water sources as city water. Both city and well water supplies may be hard or soft, depending on the region.

Read on to learn more about why you might have hard water in your well.

๐Ÿ“– Factors Affecting the Hardness of Well Water

The two factors that affect the hardness of your well water are your water source and your local geology.

Your Water Source

Let’s start with your water source.

๐Ÿ“Œ If you have a shallow well that takes surface water, your water is likely to be softer than the water in deep wells.

That’s because the water in a deep well has seeped through layers of rock and soil before reaching the aquifer, picking up dissolved minerals along the way.

Below-ground water is known as groundwater. Typically, well water sourced from an underground aquifer has a hardness of 1,000 mg/L.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that groundwater in a deep well is harder than surface water in a shallow well. It all depends on the types of rocks in the ground: your local geology.

Contractors drilling a shallow well

Your Local Geology

Your local geology refers to the types of rocks that are found in your region.

Sedimentary rocks, like sandstone and limestone, have a high content of water-soluble minerals.

๐Ÿ“Œ So, if your region has a lot of sedimentary rocks, your well water will pick up more calcium and magnesium minerals as it seeps through the earth. More minerals present in your water = hard water.

On the other hand, if your region has a lot of igneous rocks (like granite) and glaciers, which have a low mineral content, your water will most likely be soft.

๐Ÿ†š Hard Vs Soft Water

What’s the difference between hard and soft water?

Hard water contains excess minerals, while soft water contains little-to-no minerals.

Hard water has aesthetic effects in your home, while soft water doesn’t cause any damage.

๐Ÿ”Ž Signs Your Well Water Is Hard

Trying to work out whether or not your well water is hard? Look out for these hard water signs:

  • Soap scum residue on your skin and hair after washing, leading to dry skin, dandruff, and hair breakage
  • Mineral deposits, known as limescale, on your plumbing and water fixtures
  • An alkaline mineral taste in your drinking water
  • Poor water pressure caused by excessive scale buildup inside your pipes and plumbing
  • Spotting or mineral residue on your dishes and glassware
  • Poor lather with soap, requiring more soap for washing and cleaning

๐Ÿ‘‰ Continue reading: 11 Telltale Signs You Have Hard Water

Limescale in home

๐Ÿงช How To Tell Whether Your Well Water Is Hard Or Soft

The best way to know for sure whether or not your well has hard water is to conduct a water test.

You can buy a DIY hard water test for less than $20 online. This test can give you an indication of whether your water is soft, moderately hard, hard, or very hard, based on the minerals detected in the sample.

Water testing with tap score

๐Ÿ’ก It’s easy to test your water for hardness minerals: just take a sample from your kitchen faucet and dip the test strip into the water. The test strip will change color to indicate your water hardness. Compare the color of the strip to the color chart to get your answer.

๐Ÿ“ฅ How To Treat Hard Well Water

Hard well water can be damaging and expensive in the long run, reducing your water flow and leading to inefficient appliances. Hard water may even shorten the lifespan of your water fixtures and result in increased maintenance and repairs.

The most effective treatment for hard water is a water softener.

Water softeners exchange calcium and magnesium minerals with positively charged sodium ions in a process known as ion exchange.

This eliminates water hardness, preventing future limescale issues.

Looking for cost efficient water softener systems? Check out our Top Recommended Water Softeners for Well Water in 2024 ๐Ÿ‘ˆ

Can water filtration systems treat water hardness? No.

Only water softeners are designed to remove calcium and magnesium. A water filtration system can improve your water quality, but it won’t alter your water hardness.

water filtration system and salt based ion exchange water softener

โ” Is Well Water Hard Or Soft? FAQ

Why is my well water naturally soft?

Your well water might be naturally soft if you live in a region where calcium and magnesium minerals aren’t widely present in your local geology. Naturally soft water is more prone to metal leaching, so make sure you conduct regular tests on your well water to avoid drinking dangerous quantities of metals.

Is well water harder than city water?

No, typically well water isn’t usually harder than the origin of the city water. Well water and city water in the same region usually have similar hardness levels. The local geology and the water source (surface water vs groundwater) have the biggest impact on water hardness.

Do I need water softener for well water?

Nobody needs a water softener for well water, since hardness minerals aren’t dangerous. However, if you have hard water and you want to reduce your cleaning and boost your appliance efficiency by improving your water quality, you could benefit from installing a water softener at your main water line. Test your water if you don’t already know its hard mineral content.

How do I know if my water well is soft or hard?

The easiest way to know if your water is hard or soft is to look for limescale – a chalky, white residue that you’re most likely to find around your faucets and on your showerhead, in your kettle or coffee pot, or inside your hot water heater and dishwasher.

What hardness is well water?

There is no average well water hardness. However, if you get your well water from a groundwater supply, your water hardness is likely to be greater than 1000 mg/L, since groundwater is known to be harder than surface water. If you’re keen to know the exact hardness of your well water in mg/L, arrange for a laboratory water test.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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