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Water that contains mineral salts of calcium and magnesium, principally as bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates, and sometimes iron. Hardness caused by calcium bicarbonate is known as temporary, because boiling converts the bicarbonate to the insoluble carbonate; hardness from the other salts is called permanent. The calcium and magnesium in hard waters form a hard, adherent scale on boiler plates, increasing fuel consumption and leading to deterioration through overheating. Home water softeners consist of tanks containing zeolite minerals or ion-exchange resins, which contain sodium ions that change places with the calcium and magnesium.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hard water, visit Britannica.com.