Magnetic water softener systems have been around for awhile, but there’s been renewed interest in them recently as people increasingly look for alternatives to conventional water softeners. In some cities, particularly in California, salt water softeners have been banned due to their environmental impact, and people have turned to magnetic softeners as a salt free (and legal) substitute. What makes magnetic water softeners particularly attractive when compared to other salt free systems is their low cost and ease of installation.
How Does Magnetic Water Treatment Work?
Different sources may offer different explanations of how magnetic water treatment works. But basically, the method involves creating a magnetic field that changes the form or behavior of the mineral ions that cause scaling and other issues. In other words, the magnets effectively soften the water, reducing or eliminating hard water problems without actually removing any of the dissolved mineral content.
Because these systems don’t technically soften the water as measured by water hardness tests, some of them go by the name water conditioners. In fact, some people who are sticklers for proper terminology say it’s misleading for any of these systems to call itself a water softener.
One thing is for sure: magnetic systems are the cheapest products that actually call themselves water softeners. You can find them on Amazon.com for as little as $50. They generally don’t require professional installation, either. In most cases, you simply clip magnets around your pipes at the point where your water supply enters the house.
The Controversy Over Magnetic Water Softeners
Magnetic water softeners have a spotty record when it comes to scientific reviews. Many studies suggest they don’t perform as well as salt water softeners, if they perform at all. You’ll find many people on the internet and elsewhere who argue that magnetic systems are nothing more than scams. In fact, as of this writing, even the user-created Wikipedia page on magnetic water treatment calls it “pseudoscience” (however, the neutrality of the article has been disputed).
But the truth is that the scientific record is mixed. Magnetic softeners may not be as effective as salt -using systems, but they haven’t been completely debunked, either. There are plenty of people who are happy with their systems. Magnetic water treatment is also being used in large-scale industrial settings, where there’s a lot at stake when it comes to hard water problems.
The Bottom Line on Magnetic Water Softener Systems
The truth about magnetic water softeners probably lies somewhere between the claims of their manufacturers and the criticisms of their skeptics. For a more balanced look at magnetic water softening, we recommend this article from the Skeptical Inquirer. But the bottom line is that magnetic water softener systems are going to continue to be popular as long as consumers need affordable alternatives to salt water softeners.
If you are in the market for a magnetic softener, be sure to do your homework and find a trustworthy brand with good customer reviews. As always, find a system with a comprehensive warranty and, if possible, a money back guarantee.