One of the most controversial additives for water treatment is fluoride. Some laud the way that it has been added to water for decades for people to gain its many dental benefits.
Others see it as a potentially harmful element that raises health concerns when ingested over time. If you are among the latter, then you may be interested to get rid of it from your household water.
You may even be wondering if water softeners eliminate fluoride if you have one set up and working in your home.
That’s something that I would like to discuss with you a little more along with how water softeners work, what they are best used for, and the best water filtration means for removing fluoride from your drinking water.
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Are Water Softeners an Effective Means of Fluoride Removal?
Although fluoride is a mineral and water softening systems do a great job at removing such hardness minerals as calcium and magnesium from water, these water treatment devices have little impact on fluoride.
It simply is not an effective way to remove fluoride ions. You will understand that a little more as I discuss how these filter systems work.
How Does Water Softening Work?
Water softeners are not a water filter as they use a process called ion exchange to remove minerals that cause such hard water problems as difficult to clean limescale and clogged pipes.
If you look at the diagram above, you will see that a salt-based water softener, the most common and effective means of producing soft water, has a two-tank setup.
One is a resin tank where the ion exchange process takes place and the other is a brine tank (salt tank) that produces a salt solution that is essential for making that process work.
The brine solution when transferred to the resin tank coats that tanks resin bead bed with many positively charged sodium ions.
Once hard water minerals enter into a water softener and come into contact with these same resin beads, their stronger positive ion charge causes them to be ‘exchanged’ for the sodium ions that are coating the resin beads.
The hard water minerals then stay attached to the resin beads until they are flushed out of the system during what is called a water softener regeneration (cleaning and salt replenishment) cycle.
The best water softeners provide a very impactful way to eliminate the many problems that hard water minerals cause and produce the soft water that most of us prefer.
What Do Water Softeners Remove?
As I mentioned, a water softening system is mainly designed to target and remove the most problematic hard water minerals which are calcium and magnesium.
They will also eliminate some iron although they can’t handle this task when iron is found in higher concentrations in your tap water.
A water softening system will also remove some of the radium, copper, and manganese that are found in your water supply.
Which Water Filters Remove Fluoride
Don’t be too sad because you just found out that your water softener will not remove fluoride because there are many ways to effectively get rid of it from your water supply.
As a matter of fact, water softeners were designed to be used in conjunction with the best water filters. Here are some of the most effective water filters when it comes to removing fluoride from your tap water:
Reverse Osmosis Systems
A reverse osmosis system is my preferred choice for fluoride removal from your tap water.
That’s because not only does a reverse osmosis filter do a great job of reducing fluoride levels in drinking water, most will also remove a significant amount of the harmful contaminants that are typically found in water in homes.
Point of use and whole house reverse osmosis systems can do this because they contain filtration membranes that have an extremely small pore size (usually around 1-micron).
When a reverse osmosis system is used along with additional granular activated carbon water filters, that RO system forms a very effective means of removing fluoride and purifying tap water.
Activated carbon filters are necessary because an RO semipermeable membrane does not remove chlorine and a few other harmful contaminants.
Although distillation is a very impactful way to remove fluoride and other impurities that are found in drinking water, it is also a very time-consuming and costly way to purify water that is not practical for large-scale use.
There are some small systems of these effective water filters that are designed for home use that will help you to make quality tap water if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
Activated Alumina (AA)
This porous and highly adsorptive water filter media that’s made from bauxite and is very impactful when it comes to removing fluoride from water. It reduces fluoride down to as little as 1 ppm (parts per million) ona drinking water system that uses it.
This water filter media will also remove harmful selenium and arsenic from the water that you drink.
Bone Char Filters
This is another water filter media that removes impurities from tap water through the use of an ionic exchange process. They are very effective when it comes to the removal of fluoride, radioactive elements, and heavy metals.
How Does Fluoride Get into Our Water?
Fluoride is an element that occurs naturally. As such, it’s easily transferred into water sources such as reservoirs and aquifers as water flows over the ground.
It’s also used in some industrial processes and ends up in water through the wastes that these produce.
These are not the biggest sources of fluoride being found in household water by any means.
The main way that fluoride ends up in tap water is because of the many municipal water systems that have been adding it for decades. They add this mineral salt because it is known to be an aid in preventing tooth decay and cavities.
It is one of the most common water treatment methods and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 3 out of every 4 Americans routinely drink water that has had water fluoridation done to it.
Now even they believe that this mineral that’s used in many water supplies, it may be a good idea to remove fluoride from water.
Remove Fluoride Whenever Possible
Given my almost 3 decades in the water filtration business, over that time I have not become a big fan of adding fluoride to water.
Especially since studies have proved that it’s linked to such ailments as fluorosis (a tooth cosmetic problem), reproductive & cardiovascular problems, along with weakened bone structure and how it is thought to negatively impact children’s cognitive development.
Not only this, but most people get more than enough fluoride by simply brushing their teeth three times a day with toothpaste that has added fluoride.
So, I recommend that you remove fluoride from water to avoid some of its potential health risks.