Frequently Asked Questions

Will my family be deprived of minerals necessary to good health in drinking water softened by the Ion Exchange process?

No. The human body gains the minerals necessary to good health primarily through eating foods, not through drinking water. The body may absorb or use the minerals in water but, in most cases, the amount would not be significant. In order for a person to obtain sufficient minerals from water, it would be necessary to drink many gallons daily. In general, neither a water with a high mineral content, nor a fully softened water, could be considered a significant source of minerals. In contrast, one glass of milk provides the mineral equivalent of multiple gallons of ordinary well water. (Cow’s milk contains about 8,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved minerals.)

Note: Certain trace elements, such as fluoride, iodine, etc., may be obtained from water. However, these would not be removed through common household water softening.

Does softened water affect the operation of a humidifier?

Yes. Softened water provides for easier maintenance of a humidifier. When hard water is evaporated, the mineral residue consists of a hard scale which normally requires some drastic treatment (such as chipping or acid) for its removal. When softened water is used, any residue can usually be removed by flushing the unit with water or going over the surface with a brush.

Dealing with mineral deposits in humidifiers
A point to remember: Softening water does not reduce the total amount of minerals present; ion exchange softening merely converts the calcium and magnesium minerals to sodium minerals. The humidifier most common in homes has an open pan, a small tube connected to a water source, and float valve. When water evaporates, the float valve opens to permit make-up water to flow into the pan. Sooner or later this type of unit fills with minerals deposited by the inflowing water.
Many humidifiers today automatically accomplish periodic flushing with fresh softened water to keep the mineral concentration down, and the unit operating satisfactorily. Softened water minerals will flush or rinse away much easier than will hard water mineral deposits.

Note: A modification of the pan-type humidifier uses wicks to increase the surface of water exposed to the air and thus increase the evaporation rate. The wicks in such humidifiers are particularly susceptible to clogging due to scale. When this occurs, the wicks must be replaced. When softened water is used, however, the mineral deposit can be redissolved by soaking the wicks in fresh softened water.

There is also another type of humidifier that physically sprays a fine mist of water into the air. If minerals are present in the water, they settle out of the air as a fine powder. Depending on the mineral concentration, the amount of water evaporated, and the use of the humidified air, a wide variety of problems may be encountered.
In homes, a few grains of minerals per gallon of water may be tolerated, but higher concentrations may lead to large quantities of fine dust throughout the home. Again, the severity of the problem depends upon the amount of water evaporated. In industries, where the fine dust may act as an abrasive in machinery and equipment, the problem may be much more severe. Thus, the best water for such humidifiers is water which is free of all dissolved minerals, such as demineralized water.

Should softened water be used for watering house plants or sprinkling the garden or lawn?

Where the amount of hardness minerals in the water is only moderate (less than 10 gpg), it is doubtful that the sodium concentration from softening would be sufficient to be a serious hazard to most plants. Most houseplants require specific soil conditions for healthy growth. Many thrive best in slightly acid soils. If there is a high hardness concentration in the water being softened, the higher sodium concentration of the softened water may be harmful to some plants.

For outside sprinkling purposes, the use of softened water, for economy reasons, is not recommended unless necessary to prevent iron stains on buildings and concrete. Again, where the concentration of hardness minerals is heavy, the sodium salts replacing them might retard growth and might be sufficient to kill the grass.

Note: Where rainfall is rare, sodium accumulation is apt to be greatest. Heavy rain “rinses”the earth.

Will softened water produce clearer ice cubes?

Actually removing calcium and magnesium from the water has little effect on the quality of ice prepared in the home. The reason is that softening the water does not reduce the total mineral concentration. To the extent that a softener removes sediment iron and manganese, for example, from water, this would help to produce at least cleaner ice. Filters can be helpful in removing iron, turbidity, tastes, and odors from water used for ice making. Demineralized water such as product water from reverse osmosis, distillation, or deionization is most ideal for ice making of all types.

The use of polyphosphates is an economical method of treating water used in typical restaurant ice making units. The polyphosphates keep the minerals in the water dispersed and, in this way, minimize the cloudy appearance of ice cubes.

Considerations for softened water ice cubes
If fed in proper concentrations, polyphosphates also control scale formations and corrosion in the ice cube machine. Approximately 5 ppm is recommended for scale prevention and 10 ppm for both scale prevention and corrosion control.\

Note: Total minerals must be below 10 grains per gallon for first quality ice. Large commercial ice producers have found that water containing more than 20 gpg of minerals causes difficulties in the freezing process. Further, water with such a mineral content may make a brittle ice of poor quality.

Large commercial ice plants use such processes as reverse osmosis, lime softening, alkalinity reduction, filtration and/or deaeration to produce the high quality of water needed for quickly freezing quality ice with a minimum of labor and expense. Reverse osmosis filter units are available in sizes small enough to be used in restaurants, homes, and other small installations, but the other processes are too large for these applications.

Is the sodium in softened water harmful to people on restrictive salt diets?

The amounts of sodium in softened water are minuscule compared to other normal dietary sources of sodium. In fact, ion exchange softening of water with very high levels of hardness such as 75 grains per gallon of total water hardness would add less sodium to the drinking water than is allowed in beverages meeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations for “Low Sodium” labeling.

Sodium content in softened water

In establishing a salt-free diet for patients, physicians should not overlook the fact that even hard water may contain appreciable amounts of sodium. To determine the amount, a complete analysis of the water is necessary.

How can the sodium content of a softened water be determined in terms of milligrams of sodium?

  1. First, determine the sodium content of the natural water. Multiply the water’s sodium content in grains per gallon expressed as calcium carbonate, by 7.86. This will give you the sodium content of the water in milligrams per liter of water ( gpg CaCO 3 × 17.118 mg/L/gpg × 22.99 Na/50.0436 CaCO 3 = 7.86 ).

  2. Next, determine the additional sodium content of water as the result of ion exchange softening. Here, multiply the total hardness of the water in grains per gallon, expressed as calcium carbonate, by 7.86.

  3. A simple addition of the results of both steps No. 1 and 2 will give the sodium content of the softened water in milligrams of sodium per liter. One to two liters (1 liter equals 1.057 quarts) is commonly accepted as normal daily water consumption.

Actually, the amount of sodium present in softened water is small when compared to the sodium present in foods.

It is important to note that about 2⁄3 of the daily water intake of the individual is through food and only about 1⁄3 from water itself.

Can softened water be used for a steam iron?

Neither hard nor softened water should be used with a steam iron. Distilled water, or water treated by reverse osmosis, is acceptable for use over a period of time. Bear in mind that the softening of water does not remove the minerals, but that softened water minerals can be more easily rinsed from the iron.

How much soap or detergent should be used in softened water?

When first using softened water for household cleaning chores, it is best to use as little soap as possible. If necessary, the homeowner can gradually increase the quantity t o produce the results desired.

Does a water softener have any harmful effect on a septic tank?

Several studies have been conducted to determine the exact nature of water softener recharge waste effluents and their effects on private sewage disposal systems. These studies evaluated three major areas, all dealing with

the effect of effluents developed during the recharge of household water softeners. The studies found that a properly sized and operated Demand Initiated Regeneration (DIR) water softener on an efficient salt setting of 3,500 grains per pound of salt or better will not have harmful effects on a septic tank, including the Advanced Treatment Unit (ATU) type.

Is softened water corrosive?

No, softening does not change the corrosive nature of water. The removal of hardness with an ion exchange water softener does not affect the factors which cause corrosion. Softening does not change corrosion factors such as pH or carbon dioxide concentration, dissolved oxygen concentration, or total chemical concentration of minerals. A softener may reduce the amounts of solid particles in the water, but cannot change other physical factors such as temperature, flow rates through pipes, or volumes of water used. Thus, ion exchange softening neither causes nor controls corrosion.

Is softened water safe for tropical fish?

Yes, softened water is satisfactory for most tropical fish. According to several authorities, both fully softened water and municipally softened water should not have an undesirable or toxic effect for use in an aquarium.

Considerations when using softened water in a tropical fish aquarium
When making the change from hard to softened water, it is necessary to make the substitution on a gradual stepwise basis of new water for old. This follows the basic pattern in regard to any change in the environment for tropical fish. This applies to temperature, pH of water, food, as well as to hardness. Drastic changes, of course, would constitute a shock to the delicate systems of such fish and could result in fatalities. Preferably replace about one-fourth of the aquarium water at weekly intervals with softened water. Eventually, the aquarium will have a supply consisting of essentially softened water, and the fish will suffer no ill effects as a result of the change.

Note: While softened water is an improvement in that it reduces the clouding and scaling of the glass panels of an aquarium, it does not, of itself, necessarily provide a suitable environment for the breeding of tropical fish. Authorities indicate that water of low dissolved solids and pH control may be more desirable for breeding, though this depends on the species. Since total dissolved solids content of a softened water is the same as that of the untreated raw water, a supply with a lower dissolved solids content must be gained in some other way. Blending of softened water with reverse osmosis or distilled water may produce the conditions conducive to breeding.