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Home » Water Softeners » Do Water Softeners Remove Lead?

Do Water Softeners Remove Lead?

By: Craig Smith
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Do Water Softeners Remove Lead?

If you have a water softener or are thinking about purchasing one, you may be wondering if this type of water filter can remove lead.

It may be the case where there is a known lead problem in your area, or you just want to be proactive and make sure that your family is not exposed to this illness-causing mineral that is found in many types of water supplies.

The short answer is, yes, water softeners do remove lead up to a certain level.

I will give you more details about that here and talk about some other aspects of lead in water such as how it gets into a water source and why lead is a health concern.

Do Water Softeners Remove Lead?

In most cases a quality water softener will remove at least some lead. Keep in mind here I am talking about a dual-tank salt-based water softener like the one pictured below.


Salt-free water softeners (also called water conditioners) do not actually remove any hard water-causing minerals at all, they just inhibit the formation of limescale to eliminate residue buildup.

How do water softeners work to remove lead?

They use what is known as an ion-exchange process.

This is a process that not only removes lead but other problematic hard water-causing minerals the most problematic of which are calcium and magnesium. Other common hard water minerals include manganese, copper, iron, and brass.

How does the ion-exchange process remove them? 

This process is complex to understand but actually very simple in how it works. I will try to describe it in Layman’s terms to you.

In the photo above you will see the two tanks that make up a typical salt-based water softening system.

The taller and more cylindrical tank on the left is the main tank where the ion-exchange process takes place. The smaller, wider tank is called a brine tank and contains a salt solution.

To start the process to remove lead and other hard water minerals, salt is transferred from the brine tank into the main tank.

This main tank has many resin beads in it that are negatively charged. When the positively charged ions in the salt solution pass over these resin beads their positive charge causes them to stick to them.

Calcium, magnesium, lead, and other hard water minerals have a much stronger positive charge than the salt ions.

So, when your household water passes through the resin beads that are coated with the salt ions, any lead, calcium, and other hard water minerals present in that water will ‘exchange’ themselves for the salt ions and become trapped.

It’s a very impactful way to remove most of the lead and the other minerals that cause hard water-related problems and can negatively impact your health.    

Does Boiling Water Remove Lead?

The answer to whether boiling water removes lead may actually surprise you. 

While it’s true that boiling water is a time-tested means of purifying it, lead is one of the contaminants that are not removed during this process.

That’s because the boiling point needed to vaporize and remove the lead in water is higher than the boiling point of water.

Boiling water is in reality thought to increase the amount of lead in water. This is attributed to the fact that as more water is removed the lead concentrations in the remaining water become higher.

Does Bottled Water Contain Lead?

This is a question that I will have a hard time giving you a simple answer for. Why is that? It’s because bottled water is obtained from so many different sources it’s hard to say what impurities such as lead are present in it.

The answer is probably no for such types of bottled water as purified water. That’s because this type of water usually passes through a reverse osmosis filter (see photo below) which effectively removes lead.     

Other types of bottled water that come from natural sources such as springs are much more likely to have trace amounts of lead in them. That’s because this form of bottled water does not always go through a quality water filter.

So, you really won’t know how much lead is in the bottled water that you drink unless you have it tested, or you request a water report from the bottling company.

How Can You Remove Lead from Water?

Here are some of the most impactful devices for reducing the lead levels in your household water:

Water Softeners

If you have a small amount of lead in your drinking water and have a water softener on your incoming water line, then chances are very little lead if any will reach the taps in your home.

I went over the ion-exchange process above and described how these systems remove or reduce lead in the water that passes through them.

However, these are not the right choice for removing lead from water for cases where lead levels that have been detected in your water are very high.    

Check Out Water Softeners

Lead Filters

There are no more impactful means of reducing lead in city water or well water than by placing a dedicated lead filter on your incoming water line.

A good example of this is our top-rated lead filter Springwell’s Whole House Lead & Cyst Removal System. It will remove just short of 100% percent of the lead in your water.

Lead filters work well even when the amount of lead in your water is considered to be very high.

Check Out Lead Filters

Reverse Osmosis Filters

These types of filters contain membranes inside of them that are often 1-micron or smaller in size.

That’s small enough to capture lead and other hard water-causing ions. The drawback with using these systems for lead removal is that it will quickly clog them up.

Test your water as discussed above to determine to what extent you need to go to reduce the risk of exposure to the levels of lead that are in your tap water.

Check Out RO Filters

How To Test for Lead in Water

Testing the water in your home for the presence of lead is very simple. One of the easiest ways to do this is to purchase a home test kit that can detect the presence of lead in your water.

These will not give you the most accurate results though. That’s why I recommend purchasing a test kit where you fill water sample bottles and then send them to a professional lab for analysis.  


My favorite of those is an online ordered test kit that’s made by a company called Tap Score.

As was previously mentioned, once you determine the lead level present in your tap water, then you can come up with an impactful plan to remove it from your drinking water.

How Does Lead Get Into Our Water Supplies


Although led is found to be naturally occurring, most often it gets into water sources by being present in soil. This happens as a byproduct of many industrial processes.

It’s rainwater traveling through the ground or over it that eventually leads to our main water sources such as underground aquifers and ground level bodies of water being contaminated.      

Lead pipes used in the 1990s in many municipal water sources and home’s can also significantly contribute to an increased presence of lead in your household water. That’s because these naturally break down over time.

Why Lead Is A Health Concern

Lead exposure is of the most concern to children in their developmental stages. This is because lead is thought to impact their cognitive and nervous system processes. Children are much more sensitive to lead exposure than adults.

Excessive lead exposure in adults can lead to:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulties with memories and/or concentration
  • Abdominal pains
  • Mood swings
  • Low sperm count and abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriages, stillbirths, or premature births

Lead exposure is thought by some studies such as this one by Lancet Public Health to contribute to over 400,000 deaths each year.  

Reducing Your Chances of Lead Exposure

Here are some of the best ways to reduce the risk of you and your family being exposed to lead and the health concerns that it causes:

  • Always drink water that passes through a filtration device that can remove lead
  • Replace older lead pipes in your home with new PVC piping that contains no metals
  • Test your home’s water regularly for the presence of lead
  • Listen to alerts from your local water supplier that indicates they are experiencing higher than normal amounts of lead in their water
  • Have your older home’s paint tested for the presence of lead and if it does contain this mineral, strip old paint off the walls and replace it with non-lead paint
  • Take air and soil samples around your home and take corrective action if lead is found in higher amounts in either of them. 
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Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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