The Hard Facts on Soft Water

A droplet with water.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 85 percent of the United States geography has hard water. While many consumers use a water softener so they can enjoy the benefits of soft water, there is some confusion about whether softened water is safe to drink.

Some consumers are concerned that drinking softened water will increase the level of sodium in their diet. Despite the myth, softening your water will not result in salty-tasting water. Sodium bicarbonate, which is different from sodium chloride (table salt), is formed through the water softening process.

The amount of sodium added to water from the water softening process depends on the hardness of the water supply. When very hard water (greater than 10 grains of hardness per gallon) is softened, only 20 to 40 mg of sodium is added to every 8 ounces of water. For comparison, an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk contains about 120 mg of sodium, a 12-ounce can of diet soda contains from 20 to 70 mg, and an 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 25 mg.

The majority of the sodium in consumers' diets — more than 90 percent — comes from sources such as processed foods and table salt. The recommended daily allowance for sodium consumption is 2,400 mg. Drinking two quarts of softened water would only add approximately 240 mg of sodium to your diet. Individuals concerned about sodium in their diet should consult their physician about effective means of reducing overall sodium consumption.

An Easy Solution to Hard Water Problems

Hard water forms when naturally occurring minerals enter water sources. Over time these minerals are absorbed by groundwater. The two most common types of minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium compounds. These minerals' presence can make cleaning more difficult and can reduce the lifespan of household appliances.

Luckily, there's a simple, safe solution to hard water. Installing a water softener is quick, easy, and greatly reduces the natural hard minerals found in water, making it easier to get clothes clean, leaving skin less dry and irritated, and making showering more pleasant.

During the water softening process, water softening salt charges thousands of tiny resin beads inside the water softener with sodium ions. As hard water moves over the resin beads, the calcium and magnesium minerals are attracted to the beads and replaced with sodium ions, creating soft water. Over time, the resin beads will become full of minerals and need to be recharged. This process is known as the water softener's regeneration cycle. The frequency of regeneration varies depending on the water usage of each home and the source water's hardness.

Soft Water Can Save You Hard Cash

The term "hard water" was originally coined to refer to water that was difficult or hard to work with. Hard water requires much more soap, shampoo, or detergent than soft water, so your soap products don't stretch nearly as far. The effects of hard water are felt most often in daily household activities such as cleaning. The minerals present in hard water inhibit soap's lathering and cleaning capabilities.

According to New Mexico State University's Water Heater-Energy Savings Study, the lifespan of appliances such as water heaters, washing machines and dishwashers can be reduced by as much as 30 percent when hard water is used in the home. Also, when hard water is heated, the minerals in the water can precipitate out and form scales in the bottom of the water heater. These scales may build up and result in increased water heating costs.

Another factor to consider is the high costs associated with repairing major appliances. How much would you be willing to pay to repair a 5-year-old washing machine? Due to the high cost of repairs, replacement is often the best option once hard water has wreaked havoc on an appliance. By using soft water you can add more than three years to the longevity of most of your appliances — and save yourself the expense of replacing them much sooner than you expected.

The first step in solving hard water problems is determining the hardness of your water. One simple way to find out is to call for a free hard water test kit from the makers of Diamond Crystal water softening products. You can call (800) 428-4244 for the free kit, which includes an easy-to-use test strip, a coupon for a free bag of water softening salt, and other helpful information.

Courtesy of ARA Content