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Water Hardness in Ontario: Do You Need a Water Softener?

Water Hardness in Ontario: Do You Need a Water Softener


If you’re grappling with the challenges of hard water in Ontario, you’re not alone. Many households face issues like scale buildup, irritated skin, and wear on appliances due to hard water. But what exactly causes water hardness, and more importantly, how can it be managed?  

This article explains everything from its origins to how water softener appliances can solve your issues. Whether you’re considering installing a water softener or simply want to learn more about the impact of water hardness on your daily life, keep reading to learn more.  

What is Water Hardness, and How is it Measured? 

Water hardness refers to the concentration of calcium and magnesium ions in water. It is measured in parts per million (ppm), grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per litre (mg/L). The higher the mineral content, the harder the water. A water hardness scale is typically used to classify water from soft to very hard. 

What Causes Hard Water? 

Hard water is mainly caused by high concentrations of certain minerals. These minerals are dissolved into the water as they move through soil and rock formations. The level of hardness varies significantly depending on the geological composition of the region where the water is sourced. In areas with limestone, chalk, or gypsum deposits, water tends to be harder due to a higher concentration of these soluble minerals. Rainwater, in contrast, is naturally soft when it falls, but it can collect minerals from the ground and become hard water by the time it reaches household water systems. 

What Measurement in PPM and mg/L is Considered Hard Water? 

Water is typically considered hard when total hardness (mineral content) is over 75 ppm. See below for a more detailed breakdown:  

  • Soft water: 10–75 ppm 
  • Moderately Hard: 75–150 ppm 
  • Hard water: 150–300 ppm 
  • Very hard water: Over 300 ppm 

Also, here’s a breakdown of how water hardness is classified when measured in milligrams per litre (mg/L) of calcium carbonate (CaCO3): 

  • Slightly Hard: 100 – 150 mg/l 
  • Moderately Hard: 150 – 200 mg/l 
  • Hard: 200 – 300 mg/l 
  • Very Hard: More than 300 mg/l 

Does Ontario Have Hard Water? 

Ontario is known for varying levels of water hardness depending on the region. Cities that source water from lakes tend to have softer water, whereas groundwater sources can be quite hard due to mineral deposits in the soil. According to data from across the province, around 90% of communities in Ontario have hard water! This is also consistent with results from a U.S. Geological survey study that included Ontario. 

A detailed water hardness map of Ontario or a table of values can help you understand the specific conditions in your area. 

How Can I Test the Hardness of My Water at Home? 

ClimateCare locations across Ontario will test your water hardness for you. If your local ClimateCare offers this service, they will send your water to a lab for a detailed analysis, at no cost. Find your local ClimateCare today and inquire about this free service today. 

To test your water hardness yourself, you can also use a testing kit available at most hardware stores. These kits often include strips that change colour based on the hardness of the water.  

What Are the Signs of Hard Water in Homes? 

The signs of hard water in homes are easy to spot: 

  • Limescale buildup on faucets and fixtures 
  • Dry skin and hair after showering 
  • Faded clothing and stiff laundry after washing 
  • Increased soap usage and poor soap lather 
  • Spotting on dishes and glassware 

Recognizing these symptoms can help determine the need for a water softener system. 

What Benefits Does a Water Softener Provide? 

Installing a water softener in your home offers several benefits, including: 

  • Extended appliance life, as soft water reduces scale buildup in appliances like dishwashers and water heaters. 
  • Improved cleaning efficacy, as soft water, requires less detergent and leaves fewer soap residues. 
  • Softer skin and cleaner hair due to the absence of excess minerals in the water. 
  • Cost savings over time from reduced soap usage and lower energy costs due to more efficient appliance operation. 

How Does a Water Softener Work? 

A water softener works through a process called ion exchange, where hard minerals like calcium and magnesium are swapped for sodium or potassium ions. Sodium and potassium are effective in softening water because they do not precipitate out of water as scale, nor do they react adversely with soap. This process softens the water, preventing the negative effects of hard water throughout your home. Regular maintenance, including adding water softener salt, is necessary to keep the system functioning efficiently. 

Can You Drink Softened Water? 

Drinking softened water is generally considered safe for most people. However, because the softening process increases sodium content, those on strict low-sodium diets might need an alternative, such as a reverse osmosis system at your kitchen sink for ultimate filtration. 

What Types of Water Softeners Are Available? 

Several types of water softeners are available: 

  • Salt-based ion exchange softeners, the most common type, use salt to replace hard water minerals. 
  • Salt-free softeners use a mechanical filter to prevent minerals from building up. 
  • Dual-tank softeners are ideal for large families or continuous-use requirements. 
  • Magnetic or electronic softeners use magnetic fields or electric charges to alter mineral properties, reducing their ability to form scale. 

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Water Softener? 

The cost of running a water softener varies based on the type of softener, the hardness of your water, and how much water you use. Typical expenses include the cost of salt or other additives, water usage (for regeneration of the softener), and electricity. On average, homeowners might spend between $5 to $20 monthly on salt and additional operational costs. 

Can I Install a Water Softener Myself, or Should I Hire a Professional? 

While some homeowners may feel comfortable installing a water softener system themselves, especially if they are handy or have plumbing experience, it’s generally advisable to hire a professional. Professional installation ensures that the system is set up correctly, which is vital for proper functioning. Additionally, technicians can provide valuable advice on the type of system best suited to your home’s specific needs. 

A professional will also know if your home’s equipment requires any specific considerations. For example, it’s generally advised that if you have a tankless water heater that it bypasses the softener as it requires the minerality in the water to heat it more efficiently. 

Does Your Region Have Hard Water? Your Local ClimateCare Can Help 

Don’t let hard water disrupt your home comfort. Contact your local ClimateCare today to learn more about your water softener options and how we can help you achieve the perfect balance in your home.