There are many benefits of using a water softening system for your home, including decreased limescale and soap scum formation. But, these benefits aside, is softened water safe to drink?
Find out in this short guide.
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🤔 Is Soft Water Safe To Drink?
So, is drinking softened water safe?
Softened water is considered safe to drink for most healthy adults because the amount of sodium added is minimal, and the minerals removed are found much more plentifully in the foods that we eat.
However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind when it comes to the safety of soft water. If you have been medically advised to follow a low-sodium diet due to a health condition (such as high blood pressure), drinking soft water may have negative effects on your health. Speak to your doctor for advice on whether or not you can safely drink softened water.
💡 What is Soft Water?
Soft water is similar to normal tap water, but with one big difference: all its hard water mineral ions have been removed.
When you use an ion exchange water softener system to treat your home’s water supply, it’ll add a small amount of softener salt to the softened water.
So, soft water is water that contains little-to-no calcium and magnesium minerals, and low levels of sodium ions.
👨🔧 Related: Soft vs Hard Water: Complete Guide
📝 How is Soft Water Made?
A conventional water softener consists of two tanks: a brine tank and a resin tank. The softening process takes place inside the resin tank.
Water flows through the resin beads, and the positively charged hardness minerals are attracted to the negative charge of the beads. They stick to the surface of the resin beads, and positively charged sodium chloride ions are released into the water to balance its charge. This process should effectively soften water.
👨🔧 Related: Learn how to treat and get rid of hard water.
🤏 How Much Sodium Does Softened Water Contain?
Softened water has a very low sodium content, so you don’t need to panic about overdosing on salt from your water supply alone – and your soft water shouldn’t taste salty. Even if your water is very hard, the amount of sodium that replaces the hardness ions isn’t dangerous.
The average 8oz glass of softened water contributes to around 1% of your daily sodium intake – so it’s certainly nothing to worry about.
Can Water Softeners Use Too Much Salt?
During the softening process, most water softeners automatically calculate the ideal amount of sodium based on your water’s hardness levels. If you have hard water of more than 10 grains per gallon, your softener will exchange around 20 to 30 mg of sodium with every regeneration.
Water softeners can use too much salt if your hardness setting is too high, causing your sodium levels to be too high. You’d be aware of the problem because your water would most likely have a salty taste. It’s easy to avoid this issue – just make sure to program the softener with accurate hardness settings.
🩺 Are There Health Concerns With Drinking Softened Water?
There are two possible categories of health concerns related to drinking softened water:
Health Concerns Of Sodium In Water
You might be concerned about the health effects of adding low levels of sodium chloride to your water.
However, our bodies rely on sodium to survive. Sodium is used to control blood pressure and to maintain the proper functioning of our muscles and nerves.
The key is to make sure we’re not consuming too much sodium. Most salt in the American diet comes from table salt and processed foods – not from salt-softened water.
There’s one exception: if you’re on a low-sodium diet to prevent serious conditions like heart failure, talk to your doctor to discuss the safety of drinking water that has been softened with sodium.
Health Concerns Of Reduced Calcium/Magnesium
You may also be concerned about drinking water with little to no magnesium and calcium.
Again, we need these nutrients to survive – they strengthen the bones and teeth, support muscle and nerve function, and regulate blood sugar levels.
But it’s safe to drink softened water that doesn’t contain these nutrients, as we get the large majority of them from fruits, veggies, dairy products, and whole grains. There aren’t enough of these minerals in our water supply for us to miss them when they’re removed by a water softener.
⚖️ Alternatives to Drinking Softened Water
If you’re still not keen on drinking water from a conventional softener, there are a few alternative methods of water treatment that you might find preferable.
Use Potassium Chloride Instead of Sodium
An alternative to using sodium in a softener is potassium chloride. This option is considered a better approach to water softening as it doesn’t add any additional salt to your diet through water consumption.
Potassium chloride is becoming more popular by the day, but it’s less available and more expensive than sodium.
Install a Bypass Valve and Hard Water Tap
If you want to drink hard water but still benefit from soft water throughout your home, one solution is to install a bypass valve that sends hard water to a specific faucet in your home.
That way, the water flowing around your home is soft, while you can still enjoy hard water from a dedicated tap.
Use A Salt-Free Conditioner
Unlike conventional water softener systems, salt-free conditioners don’t remove hardness minerals with sodium. Instead, they use a conditioning method to crystallize these minerals, preventing them from forming limescale.
Salt-free water conditioners are a great way to prevent scale formation without affecting your water quality.
📑 Final Word
Softened water is just as safe to drink as unsoftened water in most scenarios, as long as your water softener hardness settings are correct, and you haven’t been advised by a doctor to limit your sodium intake as much as possible.
If you’re unsure, speak to a medical professional or considered one of the alternatives to softened water mentioned in this guide.