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Are You Drinking Conditioned
or Soft Water?

NoBSWater-drinking-softened-water200x200What is hard water?

Everyone has heard the terms “hard water” and “soft water”, let’s discuss what that means. I am often asked if one type of water is somehow better than the other?  You may be wondering what type of water you have.  Let’s take a look…

Hard water is any water containing an appreciable quantity of dissolved minerals. Soft water is treated water in which the only cation (positively charged ion) is sodium. The minerals in water give it a characteristic taste. Some natural mineral waters are highly sought for their flavor and the health benefits.  Soft water, on the other hand, may even taste salty and just not be suitable for drinking.

Sometimes people find soft water very unpleasant to drink, then the reason may be the use a water softener… softener can certainly alter the taste of water.

Extremely hard water may shorten the life of plumbing and lessen the effectiveness of certain cleaning agents. When hard water is heated, the carbonates precipitate out of solution, forming scale in pipes and tea kettles, hot water heaters and other equipment. In addition to narrowing and possibly completely clogging the pipes, scale prevents efficient heat transfer, so a water heater with scale will require a lot of energy to efficiently heat water to temperature.

Soap is less effective in hard water because its reacts to form the calcium or magnesium salt of the organic acid of the soap. These salts are insoluble and form grayish soap scum, but no cleansing lather.  Detergents, on the other hand, lather in both hard and soft water. Calcium and magnesium salts of the detergent’s organic acids form, but these salts are soluble in water.  Hard water can also leave laundry looking drab and gray.

Hard water will also take a toll on your fixtures and appliances… many people find themselves scrubbing aggressively with harsh cleaners to remove the mineral deposits that eventually become more embedded in surfaces as finishes are worn off from over cleaning.

A whole house water softener will without a doubt transform hard water to soft water but here’s a common concern… the water conditioner requires a regular regeneration utilizing conditioner salt.  I find the average home will use 40 lbs. per month, just a rough estimate… not a rule of thumb.

Is conditioned water safe to drink…
but what about the sodium that’s added to the water?

Let’s see if I can explain, regular tap water that meets guidelines contains very little sodium. The amount of sodium a water softener adds to tap water depends on the “hardness” of the water.  Hard water contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium.  Some water-softening systems replace calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions.  The higher the concentration of calcium and magnesium, the more sodium that is required to soften the water per regeneration.   Even so, the added sodium doesn’t really add up too all that much.

Example: An 8-ounce (237-milliliter) glass of softened water generally contains less than 12.5 milligrams of sodium, which is well within the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines definition of “very low sodium.” So, it’s very unlikely that sodium in softened water would pose a risk for most healthy people.

However, if someone is on a very low-sodium diet and they are concerned about the amount of sodium in softened water, they may want to consider a treatment  system that uses potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride for regeneration.  Another option is to soften only the hot water and use un-softened cold water for drinking and cooking ~ which would absolutely be my preference.

With many years of experience in the industry I’ve seldom seen highly elevated sodium levels as a result of the installation of a whole water conditioner providing the system is backwashing as it should.  If your rinse cycles are cut short or your system is lacking and not adequately lifting the media, then perhaps the sodium will be noticeable but at around 200 mg/L the water would taste a little brackish and be quite noticeable.

If you have little choice because of the way your home is plumbed but to condition all the water throughout your home then what I recommend is either building a manifold or offsetting your bypass by as much as 30%.  The reason for this is you will allow at least some of the valuable calcium and magnesium to re-enter or blend with your treated water.  Over the years I’ve come to the opinion that drinking 100% conditioned water is likely not a good idea, there are actually studies to back up my opinion.  We will soon have a video and some of the studies available.

In any case, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of sodium in an average person’s diet comes from table salt and processed foods. Really, the very best way to decrease sodium in our diet is to put away the saltshaker and cut back on processed foods.

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