The Debate Continues: Is Drinking Softened Water Safe?
Whenever you mention softened water in an online discussion, the same question gets thrown around: “Is softened water safe to drink?”
Let’s begin with a quick reminder in case you don’t know what softened water is. With the help of water softeners, water goes through a process that eliminates its minerals – including calcium and magnesium – and replaces them with sodium from a salt source.
Because of this, you’ll no longer experience the problems caused by hard water. No more chalk deposits on the insides of your washing machine. No more soap scum on your skin and hair. And no more white-ish stains on your dishes, clothes, or faucet.
It all sounds good until you start hearing about the disadvantages. The sodium in softened water stops plants from growing and can even kill them. Soft water can also cause severe problems for people with diabetes or high blood pressure. It also exceeds the recommended sodium intake of babies and pets by a significant amount. It can also lead to serious complications.
Drinking Softened Water: How it Affects You
Healthy adults can drink softened water in small doses without many problems. But keep in mind the keyword – small. Water softeners work by exchanging mineral ions with sodium ions. The harder your water is, the more salt (sodium) gets added by the softener. If you use a water softener in an area where water hardness is more than 400 ppm, you might want to avoid drinking it entirely.
A high intake of sodium leads to elevated blood pressure that can damage your eyes, kidneys, and heart.
- Pregnant and nursing women have a strict sodium intake limit of 1500 milligrams a day. By drinking softened water, you risk exceeding this limit with ease, which could lead to miscarriage.
- Kidneys of newborn babies are too undeveloped to withstand high intakes of sodium. They can get easily dehydrated, form kidney stones, and suffer hormonal imbalances.
- Dogs and cats generally have little tolerance for sodium, and their stomachs are used to hard water. The sudden change can cause diarrhea and problems with their cardiovascular system.
Instead of taking such risks, we recommend looking for alternatives.
There are a few ways to make water less hard without worrying that you’ll end up at the hospital if you drink it.
Salt-Free Alternatives to Drinking Softened Water
Several soft water substitutes will give you the same benefits without any of the nasty downsides. The primary factor that makes softened water undrinkable is sodium. So we will be looking at salt-free solutions for your home or small business.
The first device that comes to mind is an electronic water descaler. This piece of equipment reshapes calcium and magnesium crystals to make them less sticky. It does so by sending electromagnetic signals throughout your main water pipe. And because it doesn’t use any salt, it won’t leave sodium in your water.
And unlike water softeners, water descalers are eco-friendly. They don’t waste any water, and they don’t infect your septic system. This aspect is important to note, especially if you live in California or Texas. The two states have imposed bans and substantial regulations regarding water softeners.
Is softened water safe to drink through other means?
If you already have a water softener and don’t want to throw it away, you can try using it in tandem with a reverse osmosis system. The RO system can remove up to 99% of salts, particles, and bacteria found in drinking water. That means it can also filter out the excess sodium found in softened water.
But choosing this option brings yet another set of disadvantages. An RO system works by pushing tap water through its membrane using your plumbing’s water pressure.
- This process is time-consuming, and if you use a lot of water at once, you’ll have to wait sometime before it refills.
- Maintaining it is also time consuming and painstaking. If you don’t keep it correctly, the tiny pores on its membrane get clogged.
- Replacing its filters will add a lot to the cost over time.
Overall, an RO system just adds more problems for every benefit. Unless you really need a good water filter, you’re better off sticking to a water descaler.
Why should you choose a water descaler instead of drinking softened water?
The benefits of a water descaler outweigh those of a softener. Not to mention that it also has far fewer disadvantages than a reverse osmosis system. To reiterate, it doesn’t eliminate the beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium. It reshapes their crystals to allow them to travel easier down your pipes and make them less sticky overall. That way, the minerals no longer stick to your appliances, dishes, skin, and hair.
The same thing happens with limescale and chalk. By reducing these deposits, your pipes will no longer get clogged. And even if they do eventually, they’ll be far easier to clean. The same goes for your washing machine and other appliances.
And yes, descaled water is 100% safe to drink for anyone. It doesn’t have any added sodium, and the precious minerals are still present for your nutritional needs. You can water your plants without worrying about stopping their growth or killing them. You can give it to babies, children, and pets. And you can even fill an entire aquarium with descaled water because unlike softened water, descaled water’s pH is stable; therefore, it won’t kill or hurt your fish.
How can I install a water descaler? Is it hard?
Check if your plumbing system is vented or unvented. For unvented systems, you can just install the descaler on your main water pipe. For vented systems, you are going to need two descalers because it only works if there’s no break on the stream. So install one anywhere on your cold mains, and one on the cold down service to your hot water cylinder.
Then, all you need to do from this point forward is as simple as following the instructions in the manual. They will tell you exactly how to wrap the two wires on the pipe, how to plug it in and how to make sure it works properly. You will most likely find the entire process extremely simple. With a descaler, you don’t have to measure your sodium intake and you still get the benefits of softened water. You can read everything about it here.
Bottom line: is drinking softened water safe?
In conclusion, for healthy adults, it’s safe to drink softened water only in small quantities. For others, not so much. Since the recommended daily water intake is 2 liters (around half a gallon), soft water is not at all recommended as a replacement.
Moreover, buying bottled water daily is too painstaking and costly, not to mention environmentally dangerous. So the best alternative is getting a water descaler.