Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) and X-ray photoelectron emission microscopy (X-PEEM) provide quantitative chemical analysis at a spatial resolution well below 100 nm. Soft X-ray absorption or near edge X-ray absorption (NEXAFS) contrast provides sensitive differentiation of species which have similar elemental composition but are chemically distinct. Due to the ability of soft X-rays at wavelengths below the O K-edge to penetrate water, and on account of lower radiation damage, soft X-ray microscopy is an ideal tool for providing quantitative information about soft matter in the context of biological, polymer and environmental studies. Examples are given from recent studies of: phase segregation in polyurethanes and polymer blends, protein adsorption on polymers relating to biomaterial optimization, and metal mapping in biofilms. These examples show that it is indeed possible to get quantitative (hard) information by combining soft X-rays and soft materials.