Hard water and Soft water

Do you know what kind of water you are washing your hair in?  Hard water vs soft water? Most water is described as soft or hard. 

This post explains the difference, explains what this means for your hair and gives you some suggestions (spoiler: you don’t need to buy a special hard water shampoo. The best shampoo for hard water is still a zero waste shampoo bar).

What is the difference between hard water and soft water?

  • Soft water is surface water – it has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium water naturally occurs when the ground rock (drainage basin) is formed with hard, calcium poor and / or impervious rock. There just isn’t much calcium / magnesium for the water to pick it up as it runs through cracks in rocks and through the ground.
  • Hard water contains more dissolved minerals (normally calcium, magnesium and sulfates). You’ll get hard water when rainwater filters through ground that contains rocks with limestone, chalk etc. It’s safe to drink, but can create limescale build up in pipes.

How can you tell if you have hard water or soft water?

Easy! If you have limescale build up in your kettle / jug in the kitchen, then you probably have hard water.  If you’re not sure, then you can tell by lathering up some solid soap or shampoo bar. 

If you have soft water, you’ll get a good lather with lots of bubbles.  If you have hard water, you won’t get much.

Does it matter?

It does matter a bit.  The effectiveness of soap, and of shampoo bars, is reduced when used in hard or acidic water.  The pH is different. 

But don’t give up!  If you have hard water, you can still use shampoo bars! Although hard water shampoo is a thing, the best hard water shampoo is still a natural shampoo bar – but follow it up with an apple cider vinegar rinse.  I do this anyway, as it makes my hair feel super soft and clean.

You can buy one, or make your own.  To make your own, dilute apple cider vinegar with water, spray or rinse through hair, then rinse out.  Easy.

But if you are looking for a hard water shampoo, a solid shampoo bar is still the answer!

What to do about hard water

Using hard water when washing your hair with a shampoo bar is absolutely fine – just rinse with vinegar afterwards. But there are water softeners you can use if you would prefer soft water in the shower (or for drinking).   If you dye your hair or don’t like the chlorine content, then a water filter would be perfect.

  • A hard water shower filter removes some of the substances in hard water.  You will notice the difference when you shower – softer skin and softer hair for a start!  Switching to soft water reduces dry itchy skin, dandruff, eczema, and improves the condition of your hair, skin and your nails.
  • There are lots of hard water shower filter options, and they are easy to install.  You can just order one on Amazon and either install it yourself (if you are handy!) or get a plumber to do it for you.

This one below comes highly recommended – it is affordable, and easy to install. It comes with a cartridge installed.  A filter cartridge should last around six months depending on how much use your shower has.  If you read through the reviews on Amazon you’ll see that it has a great reputation as the best water filter.  They have a few different versions, but this one covers most needs.  It works with fixed, rain and handheld shower heads. See below for a couple of options from Amazon, and replacement cartridges.

Other product options:



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