You are on page 1of 11



Hard and soft water - experiments with hard water - removal of hardness conservation of water.

You have studied many aspects of water in your previous classes. Water is a wonderful substance. It is one of our invaluable resources. Without it life can neither exist on earth nor can the bio-chemical reactions take place. Let us once again recall some of the important points that you have already studied about water.
! ! !

Water is a compound made of hydrogen and oxygen. Most of the land on earth is covered with water. Water exists on earth in all the three states - solid, liquid, and vapour. Water can dissolve the highest number of substances in it. Most of the substances that dissolve in water are inorganic ionic compounds. The ionic compounds dissociate into positive and negative ions when dissolved in water. Seawater is saline and hence not potable. Distillation is a method of obtaining pure water from seawater. Even distilled water is not potable. Water gets cycled continually through the biosphere and this movement is called water cycle. Water sources are being polluted due to human activities.

! !

Indian philosophers regarded water as one of the five elements that constitute the universe. Even the westerners had similar views. A British chemist, Sir Henry Cavendish, showed, for the first time in 1781, that water is produced when hydrogen burns in air. Lavosier, a French chemist, proposed that water is not an element but a compound made of hydrogen and oxygen.

The water obtained from natural sources has several salts dissolved in it. Salts such as nitrates, sulphates, chlorides, and bicarbonates might have been dissolved in water. Pure water has neither colour and taste nor smell.
Note Rainwater dissolves small amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide in it to form a weak acid called carbonic acid. The other chemicals that are let into the atmosphere may also be dissolved in it. Hence even rainwater is not pure.

Water gets colour, taste, and smell due to impurities. Water acquires certain properties other than colour, taste and smell, when certain salts are dissolved in it. The change in the way it interacts with soap is one such property. Based on the way in which it acts with soap, water is classified as soft water and hard water.


Water that gives lather with soap easily and readily is called soft water. Pure water is always soft. Water may be soft even when some salts are dissolved in it.

Experiment 1: Collect samples of water from different sources - tap, borewell,

pond or lake etc. Take equal quantity of the samples collected in different labeled test tubes. Add about 1 gram of soap powder to each of them. Shake well. Which of them gave lather easily and spontaneously? Which sample does not give lather readily?

Experiment 2: Collect samples of water from various sources as mentioned in

the experiment cited above. Add 1 gram of soap powder to each of them and stir until the soap dissolves in water. Now blow the contents of each of the test tubes using a drinking straw a few times. Which of them gives lather profusely?

Experiment 3: Does the water you use at home give lather readily with soap?
Test and find out.

Eperiment 4: Take equal quantities of water in two beakers. Add about 1 gram
of calcium chloride to one of them and stir well. Now add about 1 gram of soap powder to each beaker. Blow the contents of the beakers using a straw. Which of them give lather well? Repeat the experiment by using sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium chloride, calcium sulphate, and magnesium sulphate instead of calcium chloride. Which of them give lather? Which of them does not give lather? Examine.

It is not practically possible to obtain calcium bicarbonate and magnesium bicarbonate in solid form. This is because these salts chemically dissociate much before the evaporation is complete and form their respective carbonates. Therefore, it is only possible to have solutions of calcium bicarbonate and magnesium bicarbonate

Certain salts dissolved in water form a scum with soap. Water that forms an insoluble scum with soap before giving lather is called hard water. Hard water does not readily give lather with soap. The dissolved salts such as calcium bicarbonate, calcium sulphate, calcium chloride, magnesium bicarbonate, magnesium sulphate and magnesium chloride are the chief salts that cause hardness of water. Let us consider how these salts render water hard.

Note that the salts that cause hardness are ionic compounds. These salts ionize to give positive ions and negative ions when dissolved in water. For example, magnesium sulphate when dissolved in water, dissociates into Mg++ ions and SO4- - ions. Similarly calcium sulphate (CaSO4) dissociates into Ca++ and SO4- -. The equations showing the process of ionisation of salts causing hardness of water, are given below. MgSO4 CaSO4 CaCl2 MgCl2 Ca(HCO3)2 Mg(HCO3)2

Mg ++ Ca ++ Ca ++ Mg ++ Ca ++ Mg ++

+ + + + + +

SO4- SO4- SO4- 2Cl2(HCO3)2(HCO3)-

The salts that cause hardness in water include calcium fluoride and salts of iron. Ions of iron and manganese will also cause hardness of water.

Of the ions mentioned above, only Mg++ and Ca++ ions cause hardness. These ions form an insoluble scum with soap. How does hard water form scum with soap? Soap (you will know more about it later) is a sodium salt or potassium salt (E.g. sodium stearate or potassium stearate respectively). These salts react with Mg++ and Ca++ ions present in water to form magnesium stearate and calcium stearate respectively. These insoluble precipitates, form a scum on the surface of contact. Soap begins to give lather only after all the Mg++ and Ca++ ions present in this water samples are precipitated.


Depending on the kind of negative ions present along with Mg++ and Ca++ ions, hard water is classified into two types namely temporary hard water and permanent hard water. The water that contains bicarbonate ions along with Mg++ and Ca++ ions could be softened by mere boiling. Hence, such water is called temporary hard water. The water that contains chloride or sulphate ions along with Mg++ and Ca++ ions is called permanent hard water. This means the hardness caused by dissolved magnesium bicarbonate and calcium bicarbonate is temporary hardness. The hardness caused by dissolved magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium sulphate or calcium sulphate is called permanent hardness. Water samples may contain more than one salt that cause hardness.
The practice of

classifying hardness of water as temporary and permanent is being given up. Now the practice of classifying hardness as carbonate hardness and non-carbonate hardness is gaining currency.


We use water daily for a number of activities such as washing clothes, cleaning utensils, bathing, drinking, cooking and so on. Hard water is not so suitable for these activities. Pulses and vegetables are not cooked properly in hard water. Hard water used for bathing makes the skin dry and leaves a whitish residue on the skin. The utensils lose shine and get stained when washed with hard water. Hard water is not suitable even for washing. Clothes are not cleaned in hard water. Soap is also wasted. The salts of Iron present in hard water form a yellow stain on clothes. The salts accumulated on the inner walls of the cooking utensils makes their cleaning difficult. It also wastes fuel energy. Hard water poses many problems in industries such as paper, dye, printing, textiles, sugar etc. Hard water forms a scale on the inner walls of industrial boilers. Why does hard water cause scales on the walls of boilers? Hard water usually contains dissolved bicarbonates. The dissolved bicarbonates, on boiling, dissociate to form insoluble carbonates which go on depositing on the inner walls of the boiler. This results in scaling. The scale not only corrodes the boiler but wastes fuel as well. Hard water sometimes causes foaming and explosions of the boiler.
Fig 19.1 142

The scales formed inside the pipes reduce the size of the pipes and corrode them (fig 19.1). Therefore hard water is not suitable for use in boilers. Hence we need to soften water and then use it. There are many methods of softening water. Some methods remove only temporary hardness while others remove both types of hardness.
Take some amount of hard water in a glass beaker and boil it. Allow the water to cool. Observe the walls of the beaker closely. Repeat the experiment with soft water. What difference do you notice? Why? Explain.


a) Method of removal of temporary hardness

Boiling: You already know that temporary hardness is caused due to dissolved
bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium. Boiling is a method of removal of temporary hardness. When water is boiled, the bicarbonates that cause temporary hardness are converted into insoluble carbonates, leading to the removal of Ca++ and Mg++ from water. Calcium bicarbonate Ca(HCO3)2 (Aqueous)

Calcium carbonate + Water + carbon dioxide

CaCO3 (solid) + H2O + (liquid) CO2 (gas)

magnesium bicarbonate magnesium carbonate + Water + carbon dioxide Mg(HCO3)2 (Aqueous)

MgCO3 (solid)

H2O (liquid)

CO2 (gas)

The precipitates that are formed are removed by filtering. Boiling is the easiest method of softening a small quantity of water. Softening a large quantity of water by boiling is highly expensive. The process is also time consuming. Temporary hardness is rare. Boiling removes the bicarbonate component only. Therefore, we need to consider other methods of softening.
Do it yourself
If the water you use at home is hard, can it be softened by boiling? Boil and examine.


b) Methods of removal of permanent hardness

1. Distillation: Water obtained from any source, Think it over however hard it may be, can be softened by distillation. Distilled water is both soft and pure. The condensation Why is the process of water vapours produced on heating is the principle purification of seawater involved in this process. This method removes both through distillation not temporary and permanent hardness. You have studied so feasible? the distillation of water in VIII standard. You may once again go through the description on distillation of water given in Chapter 8 of VIII standard science textbook. 2. Soda process: Both temporary hardness and permanent hardness of water can be removed by adding sodium carbonate. This method is called Soda process. Sodium carbonate reacts with salts that cause hardness to give their respective carbonates. The following chemical equations clarify these reactions. CaSO4 MgSO4 CaCl2 MgCl2 Ca(HCO3)2 + + + + + Na2CO3 Na2CO3 Na2CO3 Na2CO3 Na2CO3 Na2CO3

CaCO3 + MgCO3 + CaCO3 + MgCO3 + CaCO3 + MgCO3 +

Na2SO4 Na2SO4 2NaCl 2NaCl 2NaHCO3 2NaHCO3

Mg(HCO3)2 +

The insoluble carbonates present in the softened water are removed by filtration. The water softened by this method, however, contains salts such as sodium sulphate, sodium chloride and so on. The presence of these salts does not pose serious problems. These salts do not come in the way of formation of lather with soap. 3. Permutit process: Permutit is used in softening hard water. Naturally occuring sodium aluminium silicate is called Zeolite. This compound can also be prepared artificially. Artificially prepared sodium aluminium silicate is called permutit. Permutit is prepared by heating quartz, sand, china clay and sodium carbonate. Fusing sodium silicate and sodium aluminates is another method of preparing permutit. Permutit is in the form of a porous gel.

The principle involved in this process is to convert the dissolved salts of calcium and magnesium into insoluble calcium and magnesium permutits, respectively. This is done by exchanging the base ion radicals such as Ca++ and Mg++ with the base ion Na+ of sodium aluminium silicate. Hence this process is also known as base exchange process. This is carried out by passing hard water through the layers of zeolite or permutit. This method removes both temporary hardness and permanent hardness. In the permutit process, there will be a column in which gravel, sand and permutit are placed in alternate layers. Hard water is made to rise up through the various layers. As water passes through the permutit, the ions of calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) which cause hardness are exchanged with the sodium ions of the permutit. Due to this exchange, the sodium ions of the permutit is changed eventually into calcium aluminium silicate and magnesium aluminium silicate. These are called calcium permutit and magnesium permutit respectively. We shall see two examples to understand how this happens.
Fig. 19.2 1. Hard water 2. Sodium chloride 3. Soft water 4. Zeolite 5. Column 6. Fine gravel

Sodium permutit + Calcium chloride Calcium permutit + Sodium chloride Sodium permutit + Magnesium sulphate Magnesium permutit + Sodium sulphate Water that comes out of the permutit column contains neither calcium ions nor magnesium ions. However, the water softened by this method contains sodium ions. The presence of these ions, however, will not make water hard. Justify
Pure water is soft. However, soft water need not be pure. Is this possible? How?

Permutit process is an economical way of softening water. The hardness is more or less completely removed by this method. This method is not so appropriate if the hard water contains sodium salts or suspended matter in large quantities. Lead, if present in water, is not removed in this method. The permutit process is useless if the water contains iron or manganese impurities. What we get through permutit process is only soft water and not pure water.


Water appears to be abundant source. This has led to abuse of water. Although more than 75% of the surface of the earth is covered with water, the water that is fit and available for our consumption is very much less. Therefore we need to conserve water. The effort made by the society towards the rational use, prevention of pollution and recycling of water is called water conservation.

Distribution of water on earth

(in percentage) Ocean and salt lakes Ice Atmospheric vapour Rivers Ground water Ponds/lakes 0.7 97.3 2.0

About 97% of the surface water is in the oceans. This water being saline is unfit for use. A large part of the remaining 3% water is stocked in the form of ice in the polar regions. Only less than 1% water is supporting the organisms. The demand for water is continuously increasing. Obviously there is acute shortage of water. There are many reasons for this. Some of these are listed below: ! Ever increasing population ! Unsatisfactory management of water ! Deforestation and soil erosion ! Inadequate storage facilities ! Pollution of water ! Growing crop-breeds that consume more water ! Overuse of ground water ! Wastage through leakage, absorption, and evaporation. ! Lowering of the storage capacity of water bodies due to silt collection. ! Wasteful habits of using water.

Note this
The ground water resource in India, before seventies, was ten times greater than rainwater. With the increasing number of tube wells, the ground water level is fast depleting. It has even become completely dry in some places.

Note this !
Many industries throw out liquids at high temperature to the water bodies. Thermal power stations and nuclear power stations cause substantial thermal pollution. When the temperature of the water bodies increase, the amount of dissolved oxygen decreases. This will threaten the existence of aquatic organisms.

Water use How much and for what?

Agriculture Domestic use Animal husbandry Industry Others 93.37% 3.73% 1.08% 1.26% 0.56%


Only 10% of the rainwater is being utilized in India. This utility is poor when compared with that of other countries. We need to collect and store more and more of this water and learn to use it. This is described as rain water harvesting. If we fail in this, a severe water famine is inevitable. We can do many things to conserve water. Some of these are briefly listed here. Try to learn more about them. ! Collection and use of roof water ! Improved methods of farming/ irrigation ! Development of crop-breeds that consume less water ! Preventing pollution of water ! Conserving and recharging ground water ! Conservation of soil ! Preventing deforestation
Some human activities cause pollution of water available for our use. It is also due to the unabated addition of substances like city effluents, industrial wastes, synthetic chemicals, detergents, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, radioactive wastes etc., into our environment. The widespread pollution of water due to agriculture, industries and city effluents, is one of the problems causing greatest concern to human kind.

Here is a challenge for you!

Make an estimate of the amount of roof water that can be collected from your house roof during rainy season. Prepare an action plan to do this and implement the same. You may take this as a science project.


! Removing silt in water bodies periodically ! Recycling of water wherever possible ! Avoiding wastage of water.

Project Activity
Make a list of the habits that result in wastage of water. Prepare charts and make slogans to create awareness about these wasteful habits and display them.

1. List the physical properties of water. 2. Why is water called a universal solvent? 3. Mention any six substances that are insoluble in water. 4. List any four substances that are soluble in water. 5. Why do certain samples of water not readily give lather with soap? 6. What is soft water? 7. What is hard water? Why does water become hard? 8. How do you find out whether a given sample of water is hard or not? 9. List the salts that cause hardness of water. 10. How many types of hardness of water are there? Which are they? 11. Mention some salts whose presence in water does not cause hardness? 12. What salts causes temporary hardness in water? 13. Why is pure water not fit for drinking? 14. List the problems presented by hard water in industries. 15. What causes permanant hardness of water? 16. What are the problems of using hard water in boilers?

17. Explain how boiling removes temporary hardness of water. 18. Mention a method of obtaining pure water from seawater. 19. What is permutit? How is it different from zeolite? 20. How is water rendered soft in permutit process? 21. List the injudicious ways of using water. 22. Mention some of the wasteful habits of using water. 23. Justify the need for conserving water. 24. List the various ways of conserving water.