May 232012
 

Glass of bubbly waterThis is a common question, and the answer you get can vary a lot depending on who’s doing the answering. Companies selling salt free water conditioners emphatically state that drinking softened water is bad for your health. Traditional water softener companies point out that there’s nothing wrong with it. So what’s the real answer? Can you drink water softener water?

The truth is probably somewhere between the two extremes, though there’s still some uncertainty involved. Here’s what we can say with some certainty:

1. Softened water is not as good for you as hard water.

2. Softened water contains sodium, but probably not enough of it to seriously impact your health.

3. In all likelihood, you wouldn’t want to drink heavily softened water (that is, water with a lot of sodium in it) because it doesn’t taste very good.

Why There’s a Debate Over Softened Water

Conventional water softeners use salt to extract the problematic minerals from hard water. Unfortunately, the process leaves behind sodium in place of those hard water minerals. The harder your water is, the more sodium is added to it through the softening process.

Adding to that, those hard water minerals that are “problematic” for your home are actually good for you when consumed in tap water. For example, calcium and magnesium are actually essential nutrients. While we don’t want them forming scale deposits in our plumbing or appliances, we do want them in our diet.

This might seem like damning evidence against drinking softened water, but there’s a big but. The amounts of sodium and beneficial nutrients we’re talking about here are generally extremely small. You would have to drink a lot of heavily softened water before anyone could definitively say that you were doing yourself ill. As for the beneficial minerals, you can can easily get them from food.

That Said…

Having said all that, it’s probably best to not to drink softened water on a regular basis. It doesn’t positively affect your health, and it could have a negative impact if you drink enough of it. Besides, the “brine-y” flavor of softened water doesn’t appeal to most people – and the more softened it is, the less appealing it gets.

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to avoid drinking softened water. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Have your water softener bypass the water supply that goes to your kitchen tap (or wherever you normally get your drinking water).
  • Try a salt free water conditioner to address your hard water problems rather than a traditional salt-using system.
  • Buy bottled water from the store (in a reusable container, please).
  • Get an RO filter for your drinking water.

Finally, there’s one more little-used option that avoids the issue entirely. You can use potassium chloride pellets in your water softener instead of the more common sodium chloride. Most newer softeners can use either type of salt, and the potassium pellets replace the hard water minerals in your water with something that’s actually good for you. Of course, potassium pellets are more expensive and harder to find, but if you can deal with those inconveniences, the payoff is potassium-spiked soft water that’s healthy for people, plants, and pets.