If you are one of the millions of people in America that have water that is considered to be ‘hard’ coming into your home, then chances are you treat that water. Most often this is done by using a salt-based water softener.
These systems do put a trace amount of salt into the water that you drink and this may lead you to question whether or not your water is then safe to drink.
With very few exceptions, softened water is perfectly safe to drink and I am about to tell you why and cover some other aspects regarding hard versus soft water.
I will even go over with you how to ensure that your softened water is perfectly safe to drink and still tastes great.
Table of Contents
What Is Soft Water?
As water makes its way into the reservoirs, lakes, aquifers, and other sources where we get our drinking water supply from it tends to pick up trace minerals through both natural and man-made processes.
These hard water-causing minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, cause many problems around a home such as difficult to remove limescale buildup on bathroom fixtures, ugly spots on glasses and dishes, and clogged showerheads and pipes.
By using a water softener or other device to remove hard water minerals from household water or significantly reduce their impact, that water then becomes known as ‘softened water’.
Hard Vs Soft Water
To better understand if it’s healthy or not to drink softened water, it will help to know more about how a salt-based water softener works.
These devices change water from being what is considered hard (water that has a hardness rating of 60 ppm or mg/L – based on home water testing – see the chart below) into softened water.
This is done by a process called ion exchange. A water softener is composed of two tanks (see photo below).
One has resin beads that aid in the ion exchange process and the other is a brine tank that contains water softener salt.
The brine tank supplies a salty water mix (potassium chloride or sodium chloride) which coats the special resin beads in the main tank during the initial phase of the water softening process.
Sodium ions have a positive charge and this is what causes them to stick to the resin beads in your water softeners main tank.
When untreated water enters into the main tank, the calcium, magnesium, and other hard water ions, which have a stronger positive charge than sodium ions, ‘exchange’ themselves onto the resin beads and cause the sodium ions to go back into your home’s water supply.
This trace amount of sodium that is now in your drinking water is often what causes people to wonder whether softened water is safe to drink.
Is Soft Water Safe to Drink?
So, in what instances may your softened drinking water not be safe to drink? The only reason that I can think of is if your doctor has told you or another family member that you need to be on a low sodium diet in regards to your blood pressure.
Even in this most extreme of situations regarding a low sodium diet, it would be hard to imagine what little sodium the ion exchange water softening process adds to your tap water would ever cause you to worry.
The ion exchange process used in water softeners adds less sodium to your diet than using table salt on your food and should not severely impact your daily sodium intake. So there is usually no reason to be afraid to drink softened water.
Is It Healthy to Drink Soft Water?
This is a subject that is often up for debate. That debate mostly surrounds the fact that hard water contains calcium, magnesium, and some other minerals which are considered to be essential for your body.
Given the fact that these healthy minerals are removed during the water softening ion exchange process, many wonder if they are then getting enough of these important nutrients from other sources in their diet.
For calcium, it’s recommended that teens get 1300mg daily and adults 1000mg.
To be frank, those figures above for calcium are amounts that can easily be obtained from other food and drink sources or be gained through taking mineral supplements.
There are even some who caution that taking too much calcium into your body can lead to such health issues as an increased risk of heart disease.
Similar arguments can be made for magnesium and other hard water minerals that are removed by water softeners.
Is Soft Water Better Than Hard Water to Drink?
There is also the debate as to whether or not hard water tastes better than softened water. This certainly can be the case because the hard water-causing minerals that have been removed during the water softening process are what’s thought to give water a clean and crisp taste.
The salt that’s added from your water softeners ion exchange process can also slightly impact the taste of your drinking water. So as a general rule, most people would consider hard water to be slightly better tasting than drinking softened water.
There is a balance here that can be reached where you can still treat your water and leave it healthy and better tasting. The answer is to install a quality reverse osmosis filtration system (RO) that also has a remineralization stage after the RO membrane.
The reverse osmosis system will remove any salty taste that comes from drinking softened water and the remineralization cartridge will add a small number of healthy minerals back into your drinking water (not enough to cause you hard water-related problems).
This should eliminate any fears that you have from drinking softened water and it will once again leave your drinking water healthier and better-tasting.
Reverse osmosis filtration systems as a bonus will also remove a wide variety of other water contaminants that can impact you and your family’s health.
Some Last Thoughts on the Safety of Drinking Softened Water
The bottom line here is that softened water is indeed safe to drink. Not only that but what few drawbacks water softening systems have can easily be corrected by installing or obtaining low-cost water filtration devices.
So, there is no reason to ever justify putting up with the many problems that having hard water causes around your home and the associated expenses that often go along with that.
That means if you have water in your home that is considered to be hard and have not taken steps to change that, then you should seriously consider purchasing one of the best water softeners that are available.