Water softeners are becoming more and more of an essential appliance in US homes. But some states have banned water softeners – so make sure you know your stuff before you spend your money.
In this guide, we’ve shared what you need to know about which US states have banned water softeners, and why – and whether there are any ways to get around these restrictions and prohibitions.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- California, Massachusetts, Texas, Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin all have bans or regulations on water softener use.
- Salt-based softeners using ion exchange water treatment are the types of softeners that are banned or restricted.
- If your state has banned or issued restrictions on softening systems, make sure to follow the regulations carefully, or consider using a salt-free softener.
Table of Contents
- 🗺️ Which States Restrict Or Ban Salt Water Softeners?
- 🔎 How Can I Find Out My State’s Restrictions On Water Softener Use?
- 📋 What Type Of Water Softeners Are Banned In Some States?
- 🚫 Why Are Water Softeners Banned In Some States?
- 🤔 What To Do If Your State Bans or Restricts Salt Softeners
- 📑 Final Thoughts
🗺️ Which States Restrict Or Ban Salt Water Softeners?
Salt-based water softeners are banned or restricted in the following states:
In California, there’s no state-wide ban on water softeners. However, local water districts in the state are allowed to impose bans on salt-based softeners (systems that use a process called ion exchange to soften water) due to local discharge regulations, in accordance with the 2005 Assembly Bill 1366.
The bill states that regional water districts can also choose to adopt several other cease and desist orders to control salt input in the environment, including requiring that potassium chloride is used in residential self-regenerating water softeners instead of sodium chloride, requiring that water softeners sold in the jurisdiction are the highest-efficiency available, and requiring that homeowners obtain plumbing permits before installing self-regenerating water softeners.
The bill also requires local water districts to hold public meetings and provide advance notice if a ban is to be issued.
Massachusetts prohibits the use of self-regenerating salt-based water softeners in homes with septic systems.
The state also bans the use of phosphate-containing water softener solutions that are used in dishwashers to produce soap suds for cleaning dishes.
This ban was implemented in an attempt to reduce phosphates in wastewater, which often makes it back into the environment and pollutes natural water sources like rivers and streams, threatening wildlife and habitats.
Texas originally had a statewide ban on water softeners, which was passed in 2001. According to this regulation, water softener discharge was prohibited to enter sewer lines and septic systems.
Lawmakers passed this regulation to prevent potential damage to septic systems caused by the high sodium concentrations in discharge water. However, there’s limited evidence to suggest that water softener effluent does damage septic systems or sewage pipes.
In 2003, the ban was amended to allow water softeners in Texas under specific conditions. Water softeners needed to be demand-based regeneration systems (which conserve water compared to time-based regeneration softeners).
Connecticut has similar restrictions on softener use as Massachusetts and Texas. Salt-based water softeners aren’t outright banned, but the state prohibits backwashing a water softener into a septic system under CT Public Health Code section 19-13-B103.
This restriction, which also applies to iron and manganese backwashing systems, is in place due to the potential effects of backwashing discharge, including groundwater contamination.
There’s no statewide ban on salt water softeners in Michigan, but many municipalities in the state have taken steps to reduce softener use due to their environmental discharge standards.
Some cities have issued regulations for salt softeners, while others have established water softener buy-back programs.
Wisconsin hasn’t made water softeners banned, but there are several regulations and restrictions that users must follow as part of the state’s efforts to reduce chloride in the environment.
Water softener owners must adhere to the requirements set out for salt-using softener systems in the Wisconsin State Legislative Plumbing code SPS 382. Some local authorities have their own regulations that limit salt discharge in their waterways and wastewater plants.
🔎 How Can I Find Out My State’s Restrictions On Water Softener Use?
Some states clearly outline their restrictions on water softener use, and states that have made water softeners banned will usually prohibit the selling of these softeners in the region.
However, it’s not always obvious whether or not your state or local authority has specific regulations for salt softener systems, including where and how the brine discharge can be drained.
The best way to find out your state’s regulations on softener use, if the information isn’t readily available online, is to contact your local authority. Prepare a list of questions that you’d like to be answered in advance.
Alternatively, contact a local plumber, who should be familiar with codes and regulations relating to water treatment in your region.
📋 What Type Of Water Softeners Are Banned In Some States?
When we talk about water softeners banned by some states, we’re referring to a single type of softening system: the salt-based softener.
Salt-based water softeners are the only softener type to use salt brine (a dissolved salt solution) in their water treatment process. The sodium chloride in these softeners is the reason why they’re restricted or banned in some states.
👨🔧 During the regeneration process, water with a high concentration of sodium molecules is sent down a drain line. Some states have rules on exactly how and where this wastewater can be drained – or ban salt-based softeners altogether.
🚫 Why Are Water Softeners Banned In Some States?
The most common reason why water softeners are banned in some states is that they don’t meet environmental discharge standards set by the state or local authorities within the state.
The discharge from a softener system has a high concentration of sodium ions and hard water minerals.
Some states ban salt-based softeners as part of a wider effort to prevent too much salt from getting into natural water sources, while others issue bans due to the potential effects of sodium on septic tanks.
🤔 What To Do If Your State Bans or Restricts Salt Softeners
If your state bans or restricts salt softener systems, you can do one of the following:
Adhere To The Restrictions
There’s not a lot you can do if salt-based water softener systems are banned outright in your state. But if there are just specific rules and restrictions to follow when installing salt softeners at your water supply, follow these rules, and you should be fine.
For instance, your state may prohibit salt drain water from entering private septic systems or from being discharged outside. Make sure you’re aware of these restrictions before you buy a softening system in your home.
Install A Salt-Free Water Softener
A safer alternative for folks living in states with lots of restrictions is to install a salt-free softener.
Unlike salt softeners, salt-free water softeners don’t physically remove calcium and magnesium molecules from hard water. They don’t have resin beads and they don’t use ion exchange, so they don’t need to regenerate.
Salt-free conditioners are single-tank units that prevent scale buildup by crystallizing calcium and magnesium minerals, preventing them from sticking to surfaces.
Because these systems aren’t salt-based and don’t waste water, they’re good alternative solutions to ion exchange softeners in states that don’t allow these systems.
Discover the best salt-free water softener options availble in 2024.
📑 Final Thoughts
Before you invest in a water softening system for your home, make sure you’re well aware of your state’s potential restrictions on softener use.
Remember, laws and regulations are known to change from time to time, so contact your local authority for the most up-to-date information.