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How to Soften Hard Water Naturally

Hard water refers to the concentration of certain substances like calcium and lime in your water. If your water contains calcium, a quick boil may remove its funny taste. Other contaminants can be removed with filters. For better water throughout your household, consider installing an ion exchange system. Laundry water, on the other hand, can be softened with baking soda and vinegar.


EditSoftening Drinking Water

  1. Boil away impurities. If your water contains a lot of minerals, especially calcium, you can remedy the unpleasant taste by boiling the water before drinking. Fill a clean pot or kettle with water and place it on a stove burner set to high. Allow the water to boil for a few minutes.[1]
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • If you aren’t sure if your water is hard, or if you want more specific information about the minerals in your water, test it with water hardness testing strips. You can pick up testing strips at your local hardware store.[2]
  2. Transfer the clean water to a container. Turn the heat off and allow the water to cool completely. You’ll likely see white sediment gather on the bottom of the pot or kettle. This sediment is made up of insoluble minerals, which can’t be boiled away. Use a baster, siphon, or ladle to transfer the water to a clean container.[3]
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • Although it’s not harmful, try to avoid as much sediment as you can during the transfer.[4]
    • Letting the sediment settle on the bottom first allows you to easily remove the clear water while leaving most of the sediment behind.
  3. Pour the boiled water back and forth between 2 containers. Boiling water can cause it to taste flat. Pouring it back and forth between 2 clean containers for a few minutes will restore oxygen to the water, improving its taste.[5]
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 3 Version 2.jpg
  4. Remove impurities with a drinking water filter. If you drink water straight from the tap often, boiling it every time may become a nuisance. Instead, try using a drinking water filter to purify your water before drinking it. Some filters attach directly to faucets, while others act as filters for pitchers. Water treated with a filter often has a better taste.
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • These filters can be bought at most grocery stores and general retailers.
    • Look for systems that have a secondary filter, like one made from carbon or that uses reverse osmosis, to ensure contaminants are being removed from your water.[6]

EditUsing Ion Exchange Systems

  1. Install an ion exchange shower head filter. A shower filter is one of the best ways to remove chlorine and lead from your water. Shower filters are also effective at neutralizing unpleasant smells. They are specially designed to work with high temperatures and flow rates.[7]
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • Shower head filters can be found at hardware stores, home centers, and online marketplaces.
    • To know exactly what minerals your water contains, try testing it with water hardness testing strips. You can pick up testing strips at your local hardware store.[8]
  2. Install an ion exchange softener for your entire water supply. These kinds of softeners are usually installed by a professional. Water coming into your home is run through resin to pull out the contaminants. Purchase these kinds of softeners at hardware stores and home centers.[9]
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • Home ion exchangers are ideal for hard water rated medium to very hard. They are one of the most common choices for improving household water.
    • You may want to run a hard water test first to note the kinds of minerals in your water. Some softening systems may be better at removing certain contaminants than others.
    • Prices will vary according to model and region, but these kinds of softeners generally run between $500 and $1,500.
  3. Maintain your softener system. Many softener systems are straightforward and require little upkeep. Some filters may need to be regenerated by adding salt, while others may have a replaceable cartridge.
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    • Always follow the directions that came with your softener system to keep it running in the best condition for the longest time.[10]

EditSoftening Laundry Water

  1. Put in 1/2 cup (118 ml) of baking soda with your laundry. Pour the baking soda into the washing machine, then fill it with clothing and detergent as you would normally. Set the washing machine for your desired cycle and run it.[11]
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • Baking soda doesn’t filter the minerals out of hard water, but it makes it softer to the touch. Softened water cleans and rinses better.
    • Baking soda is also mildly abrasive, so it helps to more thoroughly clean your clothing.[12]
  2. Add 1/2 cup (118 ml) of distilled white vinegar to the laundry. Keep an eye on your laundry and add the white vinegar before the last rinse cycle. If your machine has a fabric softener dispenser, you can fill this with the vinegar before you start the load and it will be released automatically.
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 9 Version 2.jpg
    • Vinegar, which is a natural acid, helps to neutralize hard water with a lot of calcium in it. Calcium is a very alkaline mineral.
    • Even though vinegar has a strong smell, this will be completely washed out by the rinse cycle.
    • If you want to turn vinegar into a scented cleaner, mix 1.5 drops of an essential oil, like lavender, with it before adding it to laundry.
    • Only use white vinegar for softening your laundry water. Other kinds, like apple cider vinegar, won’t do the trick.[13]
  3. Dry clothes as you would normally. Move the clean clothes to your dryer and run them on a suitable setting. When dried, you should notice that the baking soda and vinegar have reduced the hardness of your water, resulting in softer laundry.
    Soften Hard Water Naturally Step 10 Version 2.jpg


  • Reverse osmosis could be considered slightly more natural than an ion exchange softener. However, reverse osmosis units may have special needs, like a consistent operating temperature.
  • Smaller reverse osmosis systems can be installed in-line to provide softened water to strategic areas of your home, like high-use sinks.[14]

EditThings You’ll Need

EditSoftening Drinking Water

  • Pot or kettle
  • Ladle (or baster/siphon)
  • 2 clean containers
  • Drinking water filter (optional)

EditUsing Ion Exchange Systems

  • Ion exchange softener for shower head
  • Full ion exchange softener system

EditSoftening Laundry Water

  • Measuring cup
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Essential oils (optional)

EditSources and Citations

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