Quite a few folks write in to us with questions regarding water hardness, testing for water hardness, getting rid of water hardness, etc. Today, however, we received an email from ‘jj5551212’ who, ironically, asked for information about why water produced by a recently installed water softener felt slippery.

Our well water before filtering was high hardness according to the builder when we moved into our new house and we saw that the first time dishes got done. We had SPOTS on all the glasses plates and cups. Then the bathtub junk started and we had lots of scummy caked on stuff that we had to clean out of the showers a lot. SO we put a water filter in and the scummy junk all but disappeared… but water now feels slippery and like it dowes not get all the soap off us when we shower. Is that normal?

After doing a bit of research we found conflicting answers regarding why softened water feels slippery to the touch.

Saltless Water Softener/Conditioner
Crystal Quest Salt-Free
Water Softener & Conditioner

  • We read in a Culligan Water (Mid-Missouri) article that soft water does not have ‘scum’ (calcium & magnesium ions bonded to soap particles) that gets deposited on your skin and since your skin therefore has no ‘scum’ on it to cause friction, water then feels slippery.
  • On a Collective Science Q & A Site we read that the slippery feeling comes from the depositing of soap ions that would ordinarily have bonded with the calcium and magnesium that the water softener took out. Apparently in the absence of those metals the skin’s weakly positive charge becomes a magnet for negatively charged, free-floating soap particles. Therefore, the deposits on skin make water seem slippery.

Which do we believe? Although both answers seem somewhat plausible, we believe that the first answer has a lot more merit. Why do we believe that? Quite simply, since soft water fails to leave deposits on other surfaces that possess weakly positive charge, why would it selectively leave deposits on the skin?

Total Water Hardness Test Strips
Total Water Hardness
Test Strips

Testing for water hardness (aka: total hardness)

The simplest water test method for hardness involves using a dip-n-read testing product such as the WaterWorks Total Hardness Test Strip. Just dip the indicator test pad into a water sample, remove it, and match the developed color to a corresponding color on the product’s color chart.

Will too much or too little hardness hurt me?

We have yet to hear of any cases where overly hard water negatively affected the health of a person and, coincidentally, we have also not heard of a case where softened water negatively affected a person’s health.

Hard water WILL, however, shorten the life expectancy of plumbing, water heaters, refrigerator ice makers, washers, and any other devices that use (or transport) water in your home. Oh, and it will increase the amount of cleaning you will have to do in the shower stall to get the ‘soap scum’ off of, well, pretty much every surface.

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