Softening Your Water

Softening Water

Soft water is not for everyone. Softening household water supplies is not a decision to be made lightly. Factors to consider are family composition, stage in the family life cycle, lifestyle, health, maintenance of the equipment, and cost. The obvious disadvantage to soft water is the level of sodium (salt) deposited in the water. Potassium chloride used in place of sodium chloride can reduce the levels of sodium in softened water. Anyone who has heart or circulatory problems, or on a low sodium diet should discuss the installation of a water softener with a physician.

Advantages of Using Soft Water

  • Hardness minerals may cause unwanted taste in cooked foods such as vegetables and cause cloudy ice cubes
  • Heating hard water in the water heater, forms hardness scale; this scale plugs plumbing and builds up on the inside of water heaters, it can cause increased electric or gas bills, and may lead to early failure of the appliance with costly replacement necessary
  • Reduce the difficult to clean "soap scum" and 'bathtub ring'
  • Soap scum is difficult to remove and stays on your skin after bathing or showering; it clogs skin pores and coats hair; this residue may be a breeding ground for bacteria, and could cause diaper rash, rough, red hands, skin irritation and skin discomfort
  • Soap Scum stays on surfaces leaving unsightly spots on dishes, glass ware and flat ware
  • You will use less soap and other cleaning products

Disadvantages of Softening Water

According to a report by the University of Kentucky, softened water also increases the potential for leaching heavy metal from pipes, solder, and plumbing fixtures. When left to stand overnight in a plumbing system, softened water shows increased levels of:
  • copper
  • lead
  • zinc
Heavy metal concentrations can exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) primary drinking water standards, particularly for water standing overnight in brass plumbing fixtures and faucets.

Alternatives for Softening Water

There are three alternative methods are available to reduce sodium in softened water:
  1. Deionization
  2. Distillation
  3. Reverse osmosis
Discuss these alternatives with your plumbing contractor. Researchers have found conflicting results relating the mineral content of water to the risk of cardiovascular disease. The risk appears lowest when the drinking water contains lots of minerals and highest when the water is soft. Consumers may want to consider installing a bypass to the kitchen water supply for cooking and drinking.