Your Quality of Life and Water Can Be Elevated with a Softener

There are some unfortunate myths about water softeners, typically originating from miseducation or a sales strategy of an alternative product. You may be surprised to learn that water softening is a green technology. It allows appliances to operate more efficiently, reduces soap and detergents in our environment, and reduces the amount of failed appliances in our landfills.

Today’s water softeners are highly efficient and are a necessity for those who need it. Take a look at the following myths about water softeners and let us know what you think.


“Salt Free” or “Magnetic Conditioners” Will Soften My Water


Water is softened by physically removing calcium and magnesium from the water.

“Salt Free Water Softeners” are sold on the premise that they leave the healthy minerals in the water. They are referring to calcium and magnesium, which make up hard water. These systems should be described as a whole house filters or scale prevention, as they are not removing the calcium and magnesium that make up hard water.

Another misleading tactic for salt-free advertising is promoting the use of potassium instead of sodium. Potassium chloride will regenerate a water-softener-like sodium chloride, but is generally 30% less efficient and often 5x the cost of standard softening salt.

The bottom line: without removing dissolved calcium and magnesium, you will not achieve softened water. If you want to reduce salt use, consider a high efficiency water softener.


Water Softeners Waste Water, Salt, and Energy


There is a positive trade-off for the water and salt a water softener uses. Some observed environmental benefits of water softeners have included:

  • Gas water heaters maintained their original efficiency factor for over 15 years.
  • Water with 30 grains of hardness increased heating costs by 8% per 100 gallons of water on a gas water heater.
  • 2.4lbs of scale accumulates each year for 30 grains of hardness in an electric water heater.
  • Carbon footprint of gas water heaters increased 18% when operated on 26 grains of hardness for 15 years.
  • Detergent savings of 70% are found with soft water versus hard.
  • Depending on the soil, soft water was found to be 12 times more effective at soil removal than increasing detergent dose.
  • Soft water was found to be 6 times more effective at reducing spotting and twice as effective at reducing filming over increasing detergent dose.

In general, stain removal performance increases dramatically when soft water is used, even when temperature and detergent dosage are lowered. Soft water will allow the use of less detergent and will save energy by lowering temperatures while maintaining stain removal effectiveness.

The detergent studies were performed by the independent testing firm Scientific Services S/D Inc., and the softened water benefits were conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit international science and technologies enterprise.


Water softeners make the water salty


Water softeners indirectly add sodium to the water by replacing the scale-causing minerals calcium and magnesium. These are removed with a non-scale-forming mineral: sodium.

An 8-ounce (237-milliliter) glass of softened water generally contains less than 12.5 milligrams of sodium, which is well within the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of “very low sodium”, according to Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D. at the Mayo Health Clinic.

We typically have harder water in Minnesota, and the average sodium content would be around 10-30 milligrams in an 8 oz glass of water. In comparison, ocean water contains 1,035 milligrams of sodium in 8 oz of water.

Various sources, such as the National Research Council, have gone on the record indicating that drinking softened water does not pose any health risks. However, because a water softener is removing the calcium and magnesium from the water and replacing it with sodium, it may change the texture, taste or feel of the water and may be undesirable for some.

If you do not want to drink softened water, there are other options. Your kitchen cold water can be bypassed or can utilize a drinking water purification system such as reverse osmosis.


Water softeners make you feel slimy, and you can’t get all the soap off in the shower


You may have heard of this or experienced something similar while showering with soft water. Hard water contains calcium and magnesium that will bond with soap and chemical agents creating a “curd” like effect. This is often found plastered on shower doors or sinks, prevents soap from lathering and will also leave your skin feeling “squeaky” after showering. The absence of this soap curd on the skin leaves a much different feeling when showering and the perception that the soap cannot be rinsed away.

If bathing with softened water is a problem, switching to a potassium-based soap will greatly diminish this feeling.


Water Softeners are Bad for Septic Systems


Water softeners have long been unfairly blamed for septic problems or failures. This has prompted joint efforts between the WQA, NOWRA and the NSF to develop a controlled scientific study to get to the truth regarding softeners and septic systems.

The study concluded that properly operated water softeners actually benefit septic systems. It is recommended to make sure your water softener is operating properly, and not discharging unnecessarily due to incorrect settings, design or malfunction. It is also important to utilize a modern, on-demand system if you use a septic tank.


Water Softeners Remove the “Good Minerals” From Water


Water Softeners are designed to specifically target the hard water minerals calcium and magnesium. The removal of hard water minerals through softening is not done for the purposes of drinking or cooking – they are removed to prevent failure of water-using appliances, plumbing and fixtures.

Hard water can make water very unpleasant for bathing and washing clothing, and can cause water-using appliances like water heaters and dishwashers to operate much less efficiently. These issues increase energy use and expense to homeowners, and leads to replacing these appliances more often than needed. Those that are concerned about removing calcium and magnesium from drinking water are encouraged to have the kitchen cold water line branch off prior to the water softener, so that you can enjoy the calcium and magnesium, and still protect your home from the negative effects of hard water.

Would you like more information about a particular type of softener option or are you simply ready to make a purchase?