Here are some frequently asked questions about water softeners:
Hard water is simply water that contains a higher than normal concentration of dissolved minerals. Rainwater is soft, but when it soaks into the ground it picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium. That hard groundwater eventually makes its way into your home as tap water.
The minerals in hard water can build up on your pipes, reducing water pressure and eventually clogging them completely. Hard water scale also builds up in appliances like washing machines and dishwashers, lowering their efficiency and ultimately reducing their lifespan. Finally, the positively charged ions in calcium and magnesium inhibit soap and detergent from dissolving, making it harder to get things clean.
Most people also think soft water feels better to the touch. If you’ve used hard water all your life, you probably won’t appreciate the difference until after you make the switch.
If you live in the United States and don’t own a water softener, you probably have hard water. Over 85% of the country does. Some regions have harder water than others.
If your dishes have spots on them or your colored clothes seem dull, you may have hard water. You can always have your water tested by a professional to find out for sure.
No, not unless there are additional contaminants. In fact, the minerals in hard water are good for people, plants, and pets. Conventional water softeners (the ones that use salt) remove these beneficial minerals. Saltless water softeners leave them in your water.
Water softeners that use salt add a small amount of sodium to your tap water. The amount is small, but if you’re on a low-sodium diet, you should talk to your doctor.
Many newer water softeners provide the option of using potassium pellets. Potassium water softeners have their own pros and cons, but they’re generally considered to be better for your health.
“Saltless water softener” is a pretty broad term that encompasses any water softener that doesn’t use salt. This includes some softeners that make sketchy claims about electromagnetic charges and so forth.
As always, it’s best to go with a reputable dealer who will make sure you’re satisfied. While saltless water softeners are relatively new, many of the companies that sell them are not. In fact, many of the companies that sell traditional salt-using softeners also offer salt-free alternatives.
For more information, see Are Salt Free Water Softeners a Scam?