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How Can I Make Soft Water Harder?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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People can make soft water harder by adding a water hardener to their water, but some caution is advised when using a water hardener, depending on how the water is being used. As a general rule, soft water is better for pipes and appliances, so people who have problems with laundry and showering because their water is too soft may want to think about some alternatives before using a water hardener. In the case of aquarists, who use water hardeners to reach the right chemical balance in their fish tanks, it is a very good idea to consult a guidebook which discusses all of the issues involved with water hardeners before making soft water harder.

Soft water is simply water which lacks a number of dissolved minerals, most notably magnesium and calcium. The lack of dissolved minerals means that soft water is less likely to form stains and calcifications on pipes and appliances, and it also reacts differently with soaps and detergents. For example, soap tends to froth more freely in soft water, which can create a soapy residue on people or garments after washing.

When people want to make soft water harder because of problems with soap, they have a couple of options. They can attach a water hardening unit to their water system, making all of the water in the house harder with the use of chemicals, or they can address the problems caused by extremely soft water where they emerge. With laundry, for example, a small amount of baking soda can be thrown in with each load to harden the water, with the side benefit of deodorizing the laundry, and less laundry soap should be used with each load. People may also want to check their laundry detergent for water softeners, as many firms add softeners in case people are laundering in hard water.

In the shower, using soap products which are as pure as possible can help reduce the feeling of slickness or slime after showering in soft water, and people should also more generally use less soap because of the increased lathering. It is also possible to find water hardener units which attach to showerheads, making soft water harder as needed.

Aquarists can add commercial water hardeners to their aquariums, but they should only do so if they are comfortable with chemistry. Testing kits can be used to determine whether aquarium water is hard or soft, and the results of these tests can be used to select the best chemicals to make the soft water harder. Things like magnesium sulfate and calcium chloride are often sold along with commercially formulated hardeners for aquarists who want to be able to tweak the water hardness even further.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is soft water, and why is it preferable?

Soft water is water with low quantities of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. This water is favored for home usage because it is softer on skin and hair and does not leave residue on dishes or clothing. When water flows through deposits of limestone, chalk, and gypsum, which function as filters and absorb minerals, soft water is formed.

What are the disadvantages of soft water?

The biggest disadvantage of soft water is that, due to a lack of minerals, it can corrode piping and fixtures over time. Because of the low mineral concentration, it can taste salty or unpleasant and may not lather well with soap. Plants require specific minerals to survive, and soft water might make it harder to cultivate them.

How can I harden soft water?

Installing a water softener, which removes calcium and magnesium ions from the water and replaces them with sodium ions, is one way to make soft water tougher. This technique hardens the water and improves its flavor while also preventing corrosion.

Are there any other methods for making soft water harder?

Yes, there are additional methods for making soft water tougher. You can immediately add a calcium chloride solution to the water or use Epsom salts, which are a magnesium and sulfate mixture. A reverse osmosis system can also be used to remove the calcium and magnesium ions.

Are there any health hazards to making soft water harder?

Water softening does present some potential health risks. Kidney stones are more likely to form if calcium chloride solutions are added to the water.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon996492 — On Sep 07, 2016

I have the exact same problem. Hard water works much, much better for my hair. Soft water makes it look awful. If anyone finds a solution to make your shower turn soft water into hard, I'd love to hear it. I've experimented with adding calcium and Epsom salts to water, but that hasn't worked for me.

By anon996174 — On Jul 19, 2016

Has anyone found an attachment for the the shower head to turn the soft water hard? I too would like to be able to do that.

By anon345024 — On Aug 14, 2013

I have a heredity allergy condition from my mother's side. It manifests differently. In my case, I have extreme sensitivity to my own body oils and soap. I take hour long showers, and spend half of that time rinsing. Soft water is like ants crawling on me all day long. In other words, some of this might be more extreme than you would want to do, but in my experience, bath salts do work, but then you are taking baths, and my skin doesn't quite feel right.

If you have problems with waxy residue, you can lightly use a body wash after bar soap, but you have to get the mix just right or you will have oily residue. Oily residue sticks to the surface area, making it the worse where you have hair, but you can use that to your advantage by using a large washcloth during rinsing.

My latest solution is by far the most effective, but it somewhat worries me. I have been rinsing with about a cup of 70 percent rubbing alcohol. It does dry out my skin a bit, and my hair a lot, but it really works. Also, here's an interesting fact: After vigorously rinsing for 15 minutes in softish water, there is still enough residue to form suds with alcohol. Also, does anyone know where I could get a shower water hardener?

By anon327681 — On Mar 29, 2013

To all who have issues with soft well water, our community well is conditioned with salt and when I moved here, it made for many bad hair days. We tried adding a calcium block along with a whole house filter, which improved the texture of the water, but stripped the hair dye.

After much trial and error, the thing that helped my hair the most was my husband purchased a Zodi portable camping shower from Cabela's. We buy bulk Spring water from the grocery store and use it to fill the portable shower. It works terrific for a hair wash. A little extra effort, but no more bad hair days. I can now get a comb through my hair without effort, and my head no longer itches.

By anon176168 — On May 15, 2011

I have found a solution for better feeling hair!

Some bottled waters are high in calcium and magnesium, two elements that make water hard. I did a final rinse with Evian, highest count, and my hair feels fabulous! Less expensive water may have enough to work, as well. I will try some.

My next step is to use mineral drops from a health food store to see if that proves to be cheaper.

Hard water test strips from amazon will make my search smoother as I seek the cheapest way to produce water for a final rinse on my hair. But it is nice to know that a bottle of Evian is as close as the nearest grocery when traveling. --Gwen

By anon175609 — On May 13, 2011

Definitely not true. Florida has soft water, Phoenix AZ does not and I love my hair when I visit my son. I have searched for a shower head that would convert from soft to hard and there just is nothing available that I can find. I will keep looking.

By anon174798 — On May 11, 2011

The only thing I have found to harden is called a neutralizer. I would like to find something for just the shower head.

@anon139144: In regard to your comment...'All water supplies treated by municipalities are hard to a different level (GPG). The only way to have soft water is with a water softener.'

This is not true. I used to live up north where this was the case and water was hard. However I now live in southern Maryland and the water is soft and I can't stand it. We do not have a softener. I used to live in an apartment complex around the corner and the water was the exact same way. We live in a brand new home so I know for sure there is no softener. It is possible to just have soft city water because I have it! I tested my water and it shows 0 hardness.

By anon150809 — On Feb 08, 2011

@anon139144: You are the lost one here! Hard water does not suds the soap well, but it rinses extremely well.

Soft water is just the opposite: it would suds the soap up extremely but it leaves a residue. I know because we have very soft water where i live.

When i shower. i can rinse 10 time over and rub my hands together and still get some suds action! If they don't make a product to harden the water, they should, as it is a problem!

To even further prove my point, my water pipes never get any lime scale build up even though the pipes have been in use seven years now, you can open them up and you won't find any lime whatsoever!

By anon139144 — On Jan 03, 2011

You guys are confusing soft and hard water. The only reason why you can't find a system to make your water hard is because it doesn't exist! All water supplies treated by municipalities are hard to a different level (GPG). The only way to have soft water is with a water softener.

The slime feeling is actually your natural body oils that we all have and there's nothing better for your skin. Hard water can't rinse off the soap, not soft water!

The cleaner the water is, the more aggressive it will be, so soft water cleans up your skin pores and lets the oil come up as oppose to hard water, which will clog your pores with soap.

By anon131250 — On Dec 01, 2010

what shower filter can i use? my hair is greasy.

By anon114330 — On Sep 28, 2010

I am interested if anyone finds a shower head fixture that would turn soft water harder as well. I have looked and so far nothing. It is not a common request, clearly! -- Gwen

By anon113990 — On Sep 27, 2010

Help. i have found that ''soft water'' makes my rosacea (facial skin rash ) flare up. I'm looking for a shower head filter that will turn the soft water coming from my shower head into hard water. please someone help me. when i wash my hair using soft water, i get a rash on my face. I'm in need of help and desperate for help. i need to turn soft water to hard water, using a shower head filter. Jason

By awwashburn — On Aug 26, 2010

Jon W.: I never found anything. Gwen's idea of Epsom salts helps my hair. The guy who installed the water system at my dad's house told me putting cement blocks into the water tank would harden the water, but my parents didn't want to do it. I also tried out some little pebbles he gave me- I placed them into the shower head, but they clogged the water flow. -- Audrey

By anon105963 — On Aug 23, 2010

Audrey, if you find something that works for the shower and hardens that water, would you please post again? I'm in the same position as you and want to install something in my shower to harden the water so that the soap will wash off of my skin. Thanks! Jon W.

By anon96554 — On Jul 16, 2010

I use one tablespoon in 1 quart of water. Gwen

By anon96528 — On Jul 15, 2010

Thanks Gwen! I'm going to try it. Audrey

By anon95971 — On Jul 14, 2010

Yes, I have color treated hair. It works like a charm! Gwen

By anon74664 — On Apr 03, 2010

I like the idea of Epsom salts but can this be used on color treated hair safely without stripping it?

By anon62713 — On Jan 28, 2010

anon58801: it's because your water is too soft.

By anon58991 — On Jan 05, 2010

I forgot to mention that your water certainly seems to be soft. Try what I said and I think that will be your answer.

By anon58987 — On Jan 05, 2010

I have found the perfect answer to lousy hair and soft water. Epsom salts added to a bucket of water for the final rinse does the trick! I am thrilled. It makes the water hard to get the desired result! Squeaky clean hair with body and starch. :)

I keep a bucket and plastic glass in the shower stall to do the final rinse. I use two heaping serving spoons from my silver ware to a couple of quarts of water. My hair is short so I don't need much. I have experimented with different amounts and the results have been good, every time. Go for it, you will be a very happy woman, I promise! --Gwen

By anon58801 — On Jan 04, 2010

I just moved into a new home that has well water. I use to have to wash my hair everyday in my old house but in this new house every time i wash it, it feels greasy. Is it because my water is too soft or too hard? How could I find out? -cjabour

By Gwen — On Dec 17, 2009

I am looking to buy the same thing Audrey. Hard water is great for hair! I am still looking and will post back here if I find one.


By rbrtpig — On Apr 15, 2009

my wife was diagnosed with psoriasis a number of years ago, with scaly patches on the palms of both hands, last week we were on holiday in cumbria and after a week of washing dishes etc. the patches on her hands have almost cleared. i checked the ph of the water used in cumbria and checked it with the ph of our home supply and found that the water in cumbria was 6.5 whereas our home supply is 7.0. can i connect some kind of filter to our tap to change the ph to 6.5?

By awwashburn — On Jul 25, 2008

I'd really like to put a water hardener in my shower. I have looked on the internet, and can't find any companies mentioned that sell them. Does anyone know of a supplier or a way I can make my own? Thanks! Audrey

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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