Having soft water can make a big difference in how your hair looks and feels after washing. Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium which can build up on hair strands, leaving it dull, limp and difficult to manage. Washing your hair with soft water allows it to fully absorb moisture and maintain a healthy bounce. Follow these tips to get the most out of washing your hair with soft water.
Assess Your Current Water Hardness
Before making any changes, test your current water supply to see how hard or soft it is. You can use test strips or ask your local water municipality for a report. The results are usually expressed in grains per gallon (gpg) or parts per million (ppm).
- Soft water: Less than 1 gpg/17.1 ppm
- Slightly hard: 1-3.5 gpg/17.1-60 ppm
- Moderately hard: 3.5-7 gpg/60-120 ppm
- Hard: 7-10.5 gpg/120-180 ppm
- Very hard: Over 10.5 gpg/180 ppm
Knowing your starting water hardness will help you know if changes are needed.
Install a Water Softening System
If your water supply is on the hard side, installing a water softener is the most effective way to reap the benefits of soft water for all your hair washes. Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to remove the minerals that make water hard and replace them with sodium ions. This leaves you with soft, mineral-free water from every faucet and showerhead in your home.
Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance. Using a professionally installed whole house system provides optimal results.
Use a Shower Filter
If a full water softener isn’t an option, shower filters can be useful for improving your hair washing water. Look for a filter designed to reduce minerals and improve conditions for hair. Many models easily attach to your existing showerhead.
While not as comprehensive as a softener, it’s an affordable way to remove some hardness and get softer water just for showering. Replace filters per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Wash With Bottled Water
Washing your hair with bottled distilled or purified water is a simple workaround. Since these waters go through advanced filtration processes, they don’t contain hardness minerals. You can buy gallons of distilled water at most grocery stores.
To use, pour some into a cup or pitcher and use it to wet and rinse your hair as you shampoo as usual. It may take some getting used to, but this technique lets you achieve soft water results without installing any extra equipment.
Adjust Your Hair Routine
Once you have access to soft water, you can start adjusting your regular hair care routine to get the most benefit. Here are some tips:
Use a Clarifying Shampoo
Use a clarifying shampoo once a week or so to remove any mineral buildup from hard water so your hair can fully absorb moisture. Focus this on the roots and lengths rather than scalp.
Skip Conditioner Occasionally
Since soft water helps hair retain moisture, you can skip conditioner occasionally. Let your hair air dry to see the full impact.
Reduce Styling Products
Similarly, you may be able to use fewer styling products like leave-in conditioners or anti-frizz serums on soft water washed hair. Try reducing how much you use or eliminating certain products to see if your hair looks and feels better.
Air Dry When Possible
Let your hair air dry after washing in soft water to get the full benefit. The lack of minerals will allow your hair to dry smoother and softer. Diffusing or heat styling works against this, so air drying is ideal.
Soften Shower Stream
Use a shower head water softener or pressure reducer to ensure your hair is saturated under a gentle stream of soft water rather than harsh spraying.
Soft Water Hair Benefits
Washing your hair with soft water provides both immediate and long term perks. Here are some of the top benefits your hair can gain:
- Increased shine and bounce
- Smoother, softer feel
- Reduced frizz and flyaways
- Less tangling and knots
- Easier detangling when wet
- Better moisture absorption
- Decreased need for conditioner
- Less mineral buildup and dulling
- More manageable and styles better
- Reduced hair damage over time
By taking steps to remove minerals and wash with soft water, you can achieve healthier, softer and more vibrant looking hair. Your specific results will depend on your hair type and current water hardness, but in general, soft water improves hair’s moisture content for superior wash results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does soft water really make a difference for your hair?
Yes, washing hair in soft water can have significant benefits. The lack of minerals found in hard water allows your hair to more fully absorb moisture from shampoos and conditioners rather than having minerals coat the strands. This leaves hair softer, smoother, shinier and more manageable.
Is installing a water softener worth it just for better hair?
A whole house water softener is a major investment, but it provides softened water for all uses around your home. If you also have issues with hard water buildup on appliances, fixtures and laundry, a softener can be worthwhile for hair and home. Improved hair over time is an added bonus.
Can I get soft water results by boiling tap water?
Boiling water will kill bacteria and evaporate chlorine, but it does not remove minerals that contribute to hard water. To make water softer, minerals like calcium and magnesium need to be filtered out through methods like ion exchange or reverse osmosis.
Does soft water make colored hair fade faster?
There’s no definitive evidence that soft water fades colored hair faster. Hair color tends to last longest when your hair is in good condition, which soft water helps provide. Avoid excessive shampooing and use a good color-protecting shampoo. Soft water alone should not directly cause faster fading.
Is it better to rinse hair in cold water even with a softener?
Warm water helps open hair cuticles to allow thorough cleansing. Cold water is better for sealing cuticles, so there may still be benefits to a quick cool water rinse at the end of your shower for maximum shine and frizz reduction. But soft water’s lack of minerals reduces the need for a cold blast.
Washing your hair with soft water can make a significant improvement in its look, feel and manageability. By reducing mineral deposits, it allows hair to fully absorb moisture. Install a softener or filter, buy bottled water or switch up your routine to reap the rewards of soft water hair.