water softener myths vs facts

    Published: August 6, 2012

    Water Softener Myths and Facts

    Myth: Ion Exchange softeners are the only way to soften water.

    Fact: The term “water softener” is a marketing term used to describe a group of products that can help soften water. To grasp the complexity of the issue there are the two definitions of soft water, and both definitions need to be considered.

    If you want soft water defined as water devoid of bivalent mineral (<1 grain per gallon of hardness), reverse osmosis systems, nano filtration systems and similar systems may be expensive alternatives, but they do a much better job than a salt-based whole house water softener. If you want your drinking water to retain healthful minerals, but also want a  softer feel to water and the ability to prevent scaling, you can do so naturally with template induced / assisted crystallization processes as performed by Pelican NaturSoft® Water Softener Alternative.

    Some salt companies claim ion exchange is the only way, but salt-based water softeners deprive you of beneficial minerals while adding sodium to water, which can be a problem for people who need to eat low-sodium diets. Click here to learn about the available technologies for dealing with hard water.

    Myth: All truly softened water feels slick and “soft” on your skin, which is said to be the result of the natural oils in your skin freely interacting with perfectly soft water.

    Fact: Soft water describes water containing low levels of hardness ions, which people claim provides water with a slick, soft feel. Distilled water, reverse osmosis water, deionized water, and rain water do not produce a slippery effect on your skin, even though all those types of water contain virtually zero hardness minerals.

    Water that has been chemically softened by the ion exchange process used by a salt based whole house water softener removes so-called “nuisance minerals” (often defined as calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese) because they can be associated with staining and scale formation. These minerals occur dissolved in water as bivalent ions. During the “softening” process one (1) of these nuisance mineral ions gets replaced by two (2) sodium ions (or potassium ions depending on the type of salt used during regeneration). The by-product of this process it the creation of a proportionate amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in the water. The harder the raw water, the slicker the softened water. Sodium bicarbonate is a surfactant, which imparts a soft or slick feel to the water. Experience this yourself by adding baking soda to water with virtually any hardness –the water will feel softer.

    Myth: Soft water leaves a film on your skin.

    Fact: when people first shower in softened water, they often experience a slick feeling on their skin. This isn’t a film left by soap or softened water–it’s actually your body’s natural oils, which have been covered by soap film from showering in hard water. What you’re experiencing on your skin is true cleanness, not the sticky soap film you’ve come to associate with showering.

    Myth: Ion exchange (salt) softeners don’t introduce any sodium to the water.

    Fact: The definition of ion exchange is exchanging one ion for one or more other ions. Ions are the electrically charged dissolved form of an element. Calcium and magnesium ions carry a double positive charge (++). Sodium carries a single (+) electric charge. Thus, for every calcium ion removed by a whole house water softener, two sodium ions are introduced to the water. For this reason some companies sell reverse osmosis systems for under the sink to remove the newly introduced sodium whether or not this purpose is listed on the packaging.

    Myth: The amount of sodium in softened water is unhealthy.
    According to the Mayo Clinic, the amount of sodium introduced into water by a salt-based whole house water softener is negligible. F you drink a quart of sodium-softened water a day, you’ll ingest 7.4 milligrams of sodium. In comparison, an egg with no salt added includes 59 milligrams of sodium, and three ounces of sliced ham has 1,114 milligrams of sodium.

    While most people can safely drink and cook with water from a salt-based water softener, people on low sodium diets or who live with high blood pressure should consider a whole house water softener alternative with salt free technology.

    Myth: All Water softeners put salt in your water.

    Fact:  while it’s true all salt-based water softeners leave residual amounts of sodium in your water, you have alternatives. A whole house water softener alternative with salt free technology uses no salt. Instead it changes the composition of hard water minerals to prevent the minerals from adhering to plumbing and appliance surfaces or your skin.

    Myth: Softened water tastes better.

    Fact: Taste is highly subjective. However, if the taste of softened water is superior, why do people pay good money to drink bottled water? Bottled spring water is purchased precisely for it’s taste (which is due to its mineral content) and the benefits that consuming mineral water (like Evian) is said to provide.

    Myth: Water softening takes away beneficial minerals.

    Fact: the human body requires a certain amount of calcium and manganese, two hard water minerals removed by salt-based water conditions. Most people get sufficient minerals in their diet, so the removal of them from drinking and cooking water is not usually a problem. In contrast to salt-based systems, a whole house water softener alternative with salt free technology retains the amount of calcium and manganese in water, only in a crystalized form that prevents scaling.

    Myth: Water softeners purify water.

    Fact: “Water Softeners” refers to a group of water treatment products that reduce or eliminate hard water conditions in water with high levels of calcium and manganese. These products only remove multivalent mineral or metals from the water. Any microorganisms, chemicals and most sediment present in the raw water will still be present after softening. If you are interested in removing things like chlorine and other chemicals, you would want to look into a whole house carbon filter system.

    Myth: Hard water fades clothing and dries my skin and hair.

    Fact: Let’s start with fading clothing. Consumer Reports recently conducted a test of three different brand name laundry detergents and found that the detergent you use has a drastic effect on how long your clothing will last and resist fading. Don’t be fooled, hard water isn’t fading your clothing, your detergent is. Consumer Reports recommends switching to cold water, and use only as much detergent as needed. In addition to your detergent, chlorine in your municipal tap water is a factor on fading, or more accurately bleaching, your laundry.

    As for your skin and hair, typical dry skin and hair is the result of chlorine in the water, which will dry out your skin and hair. Remember how your skin and hair are affected after swimming in a chlorinated pool? Get a whole house water filter to prevent skin drying due to chlorine. .

    Myth: Salt softeners are accepted in any state.

    Fact: Beginning with California, many states have chosen to ban salt-based water softeners outright because of their negative ecological effects. Depending on where you live, salt-based softeners might be illegal. In order to meet environmental discharge standards, California decreed a ban of salt-based softeners so communities could cut down on harmful brine discharge. More than 25 municipalities and communities in California have since banned the installation of salt-based softeners. Many states have followed suit, including Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Connecticut. If you live in an area that banned salt-based softeners, a whole house water softener alternative with salt free technology may be your best–indeed only–choice.

    Myth: Ion exchange (salt) softeners are eco-friendly.

    Fact: The existence of salt-based water softeners around the country creates hazardous conditions in our water systems. Groundwater basins and wastewater become oversaturated with sodium in areas where salt softeners regularly discharge brine back into drains. Water treatment costs can skyrocket, and salt-filled water may be unusable for recycled purposes like agriculture. In addition, high levels of brine discharge make it more difficult for water utilities to comply with standards of total dissolved solids (TDS) in treated water. When high levels of minerals exist in wastewater and are diffused into the waste stream the surrounded ecosystem is adversely affected.

    Myth: Water softeners waste water and energy.

    Fact: Salt softeners are extremely wasteful and do not conserve resources or make great use of water. When water is passed through the various stages of a salt softener the system creates briny wastewater full of chloride and sodium. The amount of  unusable salt-filled wastewater flushed down the drain each week totals over 150 gallons in an average home. That’s in addition to the useable water the softener creates. Many salt-based softeners systems require a substantial amount of electricity to perform their basic functions. This wastes valuable energy and racks up your power bill.

    While salt-based water softeners waste water and energy, a whole house water softener alternative with salt free technology produces no wastewater and requires no electricity to operate, making salt-free water softener alternatives an ecologically viable alternative to salt-based systems.

    Myth: Hardness is a contaminate that should be removed.

    Fact: You are probably laughing a little bit at this one, but  many salt salesmen use this line to make you want to get a softener. Calcium and other minerals are essential to life and are no more harmful than hydrogen and nitrogen are in our air. The only real downside to higher amounts of calcium is the scale damage that can occur to your appliances. That’s where a water softener alternative like the Pelican NaturSoft® can be a huge money saver while keeping the natural minerals in your water.

    Myth: You don’t need a water softener if you have city water

    Fact: Over 85 percent of US water supplies are considered hard water, and this includes municipal water. Water utilities do not soften water, as the hardness of water has adverse physical effects on the human body. It’s up to the individual to take steps to prevent appliance-damaging scale buildup and unpleasant tastes caused by hard water minerals. A whole house water softener will do what your water utility won’t–provide you with softer, tastier water.