# What is hard and soft water and how does the process of dissolution work?

This is a very basic question about solubility, especially solution of table salt in water and solution of sugar in water. I have heard about terms like hard water, soft water, filtering of water to remove impurities etc., but I don't understand these well enough. My questions are:

1. If table salt is dissolved in water, why do we call it a solution? Don't say that a chemical reaction has taken place and some new product say $\ce{NaH2OCl}$ etc. is formed.

2. By mere filtering using a cloth or a machine, how can we get rid of minute impurities, (which make water hard) which are not even visible to naked eyes?

• Welcome to chemistry.se! If you have questions about how to beautify your posts, have a look at the help center. Do you want to know more about this site, please take the tour. 1. There is quite a good wikipedia article about solution 2. You can't. – Martin - マーチン Feb 10 '15 at 8:55

Hard water and soft water differ only in the presence or absence of certain impurities:

• Hard water: Water with impurities in the form of minerals containing calcium and magnesium added in.

• Soft water: Water with these minerals removed.

One thing to note is that hard water is not the slightest bit dangerous. Studies have been conducted by the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Sciences, and no evidence was found linking hard water to and adverse health effects - or any effects at all!

By mere filtering using a cloth or a machine, how can we get rid of minute impurities, (which make water hard) which are not even visible to naked eyes?

This is impossible. Many devices have been proposed, but none have been shown to work. Quoting from this article,

There are a variety of devices that claim to manage hard water scale using primarily magnetic or electrical technology. Manufacturers generally claim the devices utilize energy to alter the behavior of compounds or elements within the water. They do not claim water chemistry is altered. In fact, the hardness of the water before and after treatment is not changed. This complicates assessment of their performance. While protocol has been established to assess the effectiveness of ion exchange water softeners (NSF/ANSI 44), at this time, no recognized agency in the U.S. has established protocol to assess the effectiveness of physical water treatment devices. Therefore, questions remain as to their effectiveness.

Chemicals are the only way to go, unfortunately.

If table salt is dissolved in water, why do we call it a solution? Don't say that a chemical reaction has taken place and some new product say $\ce{NaH2OCl}$ etc. is formed.

In case you're interested, the reaction is $$\ce{NaCl + H2O \to Na+ + Cl- +H2O}$$

It fits the very definition of a solution:

a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase.

$\ce{NaCl}$ is separated into ions that separate uniformly throughout the water.

• The other answer wasn't really answering the question completely, and I was feeling too lazy to add a better one! – M.A.R. Feb 10 '15 at 17:20

Note that:

A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another.

Salt when put into water, dissolves into ions as $\ce{Na+}$ and $\ce{Cl-}$.The positive and negative part of the ions are attracted by the oppositely charged water molecules. The ions are stable and do not undergo further reactions.

For the second part of your question, external impurities can be removed by filtering if they are of considerable size. Dissolved impurities like phosphates, sulphates cannot be removed by a cloth. The hard water has to be then 'treated' to make it soft again.