Lime deposits on a water fountain.

Lime deposits on a water fountain.

This article is a guide to turning hard water into soft water. Hard water is water that is high in minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. Soft water is water that is low in these minerals.

Hard water happens naturally as certain water sources (particularly underground ones) absorb minerals from their environment.


Hard water creates problems for people for two reasons.

First, it leaves mineral deposits. Overtime scales build up on places exposed to hard water, blocking the flow of water in pipes and reducing the ability of metal to conduct heat in kettles and water heaters. Hard water will reduce the lifespan of plumbing and certain household appliances.

Second, hard water reacts with soap and other cleaning products, producing a scum and limiting their ability to clean properly. Cleaning your house with hard water will make it easier for germs and mold to thrive.

If hard water is an issue where you live, the costs of softening your water may likely be surpassed by the savings you will gain from the increased efficiency and lifespan of your household appliances, as well as the effectiveness of cleaning products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc.


Mechanical Water Softeners

There are mechanical water softening systems available for purchase. These typically work by replacing calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium ions. While this leaves you with water that is no longer hard, the water does have a higher sodium content, which can cause adverse health effects, especially for those on a low-salt diet.

Water Softening Filters

There are water softening filters available that can be attached to taps and pitchers. These are a much cheaper option if you’re looking for soft water simply for drinking and cooking.

Reverse Osmosis

Another method of water softening is Reverse Osmosis. This method is usually found in large-scale industrial applications, and not at the household level, due to high cost.

Magnetic Water Conditioners

There are products for sale that claim to use magnetism or electricity to alter calcium ions and prevent lime scale. Their effectiveness is questionable, with some wondering whether to work at all, so buy at your own risk.



Put the water in a large pot, and bring to a rolling boil for 5+ minutes. Let the water sit and cool. Lime particles will begin to settle on the surface of the water. Scoop off the lime, and you will be left with a pot of soft water.

The Old Fashioned Way

In the past when hard water was an issue, people would fill large kegs with water, and then add washing soda or lime. After sitting for a few days, lime particles would settle at the bottom of the kegs, and soft water could be drawn from the top of the kegs.

The method is tried and true, so if you have the time this is a good, old-fashioned way to soften your water.

For Washing

If you’re softening water for washing, you can add washing soda or lye to the water. These will prevent the lime and soap from interacting, allowing suds to form and your soap to be effective.

Use 1/2 to 3/4 cups of washing soda for each load of washing (10-25 gallons)

1/4 tablespoon of lye for each gallon of water

Distilled Water

Another way to remove the minerals from the water is to distill it. To learn more, check out what is distilled water? and how to distill water at home.



Good luck and stay prepared!

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  1. Use 1 lb of washing soda for each quart of water? I use washing soda and don’t see how this is possible.

  2. Where can you get washing soda in bulk?

  3. I have heard that the prolonged use of washing soda in water while washing causes eczema problems on hand. Is that true?

  4. Would baking soda work instead of washing soda in a pinch?

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