Most drinking water supplies contain a small amount of sodium. The sodium content of a water supply depends on the rocks and soils that the water comes into contact with, and how the water is treated before being sent to your home.
A low salt content in water isn’t dangerous, but you might still prefer to drink sodium-free water.
Wondering how you can separate salt from a water supply? We’ve shared the best methods of salt removal in this guide.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Salt gets into water as it flows through rocks and soils containing sodium ions.
- You might want to separate salt from your water if you’re on a low-sodium diet or you prefer the taste of water with no salt.
- The best ways to remove salt from water are with reverse osmosis, distillation, ion exchange, and deionization.
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📤 4 Best Ways To Remove Salt From Water
Here, we’ve shared the 4 best ways to separate salt from water.
Reverse osmosis is one of the best ways to eliminate salt from drinking water.
Reverse osmosis systems use membrane separation technology. They force water through a semi-permeable membrane with tiny pores of around 0.0001 microns, allowing only water molecules (H20) to pass through. The rest of the contaminants are left behind in the RO chamber, where they’re washed down a drain with a small amount of wastewater.
The RO process is so effective at separating salt and water that it’s often used in large-scale seawater desalinating applications. In residential applications, a reverse osmosis system is most commonly installed as a countertop or under-sink system.
The cost of reverse osmosis systems is their biggest setback. Even relatively small, at-home reverse osmosis systems for drinking water filtration cost around $300+, and they produce a small amount of wastewater, which you don’t get with other methods.
The process of water distillation is also a highly effective way to separate salt from water.
A water distillation unit heats up water to boiling point, causing it to vaporize. This vaporized water travels into a condenser, where it’s cooled and condensed into a separate container. The impurities that can’t vaporize at the same boiling point as water – including the separated salt particles – are left behind in the boiling chamber.
You can buy a countertop water distiller that distills water in batches. Add a batch of water to the boiling chamber, then switch the distiller on and wait for the clean container to fill with purified water. It takes around 4-6 hours for a 1-gallon batch of water to be distilled.
Because distilled water is free from all impurities, including healthy minerals and salts, it tends to have a slightly flat taste.
In a water softening system, sodium ions are swapped with calcium and magnesium ions in the ion exchange process – so it makes sense that you can use the opposite of this process to get rid of the sodium.
Cation and anion exchange resins charged with calcium hydroxide are effective at removing salt from seawater and drinking water supplies. The resin pulls the sodium ions out of the water, and the calcium replaces the sodium to balance the water’s charge.
While ion exchange is a highly effective means of removing salt from a water supply, it has an obvious disadvantage: it adds calcium to water and increases its hardness. This isn’t ideal if you’re looking to remove salt from softened water, since you’ll end up simply reversing the softening process.
Deionization is a process that removes all dissolved salts and minerals from water.
You can deionize water at home using a deionizer water filtration system. This filtration system sends water through an electrically charged resin bed, which will grab onto the salts that give water a positive or negative charge. The water that leaves the unit is free from all dissolved salts.
A deionizing system regenerates occasionally to flush the resin bed and get rid of the collected ions.
🔎 How Does Salt Contaminate Water?
Salt is a naturally occurring element that’s found in rocks, soils, and seawater. It’s also found in low levels in groundwater and surface water sources.
Salt contaminates water as it flows past surfaces that contain sodium chloride ions. Some of these ions dissolve into the water, increasing its salt content.
Most natural bodies of water (excluding seawater) are freshwater, meaning that they contain only trace amounts of salt.
Your home’s water supply might also contain more salt than normal if you have a water softener. A water softener adds small amounts of salt to water during the softening process.
👨🔧 We’ve shared a dedicated guide on how to separate salt from soft water if that’s what you’re looking for.
📉 What’s The Safe Level of Salt In Drinking Water?
There is no drinking water standard that outlines a safe level of salt in drinking water. However, state and federal agencies have several recommendations for folks with health conditions who need to watch their sodium intake:
- 270 milligrams per liter mg/L for people on moderately restricted sodium diets
- 20 mg/L for people on very low sodium diets
Usually, if your water tastes salty, it likely contains unsafe levels of sodium chloride. It’s the chloride, not the sodium, that gives water its salty taste. In short, it’s difficult to drink too much sodium without knowing about it.
🤔 Why Remove Sodium From Water?
First off, we just want to be clear that normal tap water usually doesn’t contain enough sodium to cause harm.
Even if you’re on a diet that restricts your sodium intake, you shouldn’t be at risk of health effects from drinking tap water with low, natural levels of sodium.
Even softened water from ion exchange systems shouldn’t contain enough salt to significantly contribute to your daily sodium intake.
For healthy humans, sodium is beneficial in low levels. Many bottled water products and sports drinks are enriched with minerals including sodium for this reason.
However, you might still choose to reduce or remove the salt in your water as a precautionary measure, or you might simply prefer the taste of water with no sodium.
Many of us exceed our sodium dietary intake every day, so removing salt from your water might – in a very small way – help to reduce how much salt you consume in your diet.
📑 How Else To Reduce Your Salt Intake
Removing salt from your water is one of the small ways you can reduce your sodium intake. In fact, if you have normal unsoftened drinking water (not softened water from an ion exchange system), it’s probably not worth spending money on getting the salt removed from your water since there’ll be so little of it.
Instead, you can focus on how to reduce your salt intake in your day-to-day diet.
Some of the most effective ways to reduce your salt intake in your everyday life are:
- Make sure you know how much sodium you’re eating. Check out Healthline for a list of high-sodium foods. Cut down on salty foods in your diet, and don’t season your foods with table salt.
- Use herbs, seasonings, and spices to add flavor. Try replacing table salt with herbs, spices, and seasonings, like onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, and nutritional yeast. Be careful not to buy seasoning mixes that contain added salt.
- Stay away from processed foods. They usually contain preservatives and flavor enhancers that increase their sodium content. If you can’t avoid processed foods entirely, try to only eat them occasionally.
- Watch out for beverages containing sodium. Certain energy drinks and sports drinks often contain salt. It’s best to stay hydrated with plain drinking water.
❔ How To Remove Salt From Water: FAQ
Does boiling water remove salt?
No, boiling water won’t remove salt. Why? Because sodium’s boiling point is 1620 degrees F – almost three times water’s boiling point of 212 degrees F. All that boiling water will do is kill any pathogens present in the water and encourage chlorine to dissipate. The water’s salt content will stay the same. If you boil the water for long enough, some of the water will evaporate, resulting in the same amount of sodium in a smaller volume of water.
How do you remove salt from seawater?
You can remove salt from seawater in a process called desalination, which takes place in desalination plants. The desalination process removes minerals and salts to make seawater safe for human consumption. Alternative ways to remove salt from seawater are with a reverse osmosis system (using a semipermeable membrane) and with natural distillation.
What neutralizes salt in water?
Dissolving baking soda in water is thought to neutralize the salts present. However, baking soda won’t get rid of salt in water. The only way to remove salt is with a dedicated water treatment system.
Can you turn salt water into fresh water?
Yes, you can turn salt water into fresh water. You just need to use a water treatment method that removes salt from your water supply. Good methods of removing salt are reverse osmosis, distillation, ion exchange, and desalination.
Can you boil the salt out of ocean water?
No, boiling ocean water alone won’t remove the salt. You’ll need to distill the water – allowing it to evaporate into vapor, then condense it into a separate container. This condensed water will be salt-free since all the sodium ions will be left behind in the heating chamber.