In the United States, roughly 85 percent of homes depend on a hard water supply, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension. This type of water can be defined as “any water supply that consists of excess metals or minerals”. Hard water is often times safe to consume or use; however, it can create an assortment of problems associated with appliances and cleaning.
Hard water contains two types of compounds that make – up “hard water”. Calcium ions and magnesium ions represent the two elements that are found in this type of water. These elements originate from limestone, which primarily consists of calcium carbonate and a small amount of calcium that dissolves into water, subsequently creating calcium ions. To combat hard water, there is a solution known as “water softener”.
The process of transferring hard water to soft water is completed through a household water-softener system that allows an ion exchange, which results in the removal of the two substances, calcium and magnesium. The softener system allows water to pass through cartridges, which then replaces the unwanted elements with sodium ions, creating soft water. Soft water makes many household processes easier and more achievable as opposed to using hard water.
For example, soft water is well-known for its easy lather capabilities. If you were to shower or bath with hard water, the soap and shampoo would lather less effectively than water that has been treated with softener. This is due to the chemical elements and exchanges between the water and water softener. Water treated with softener tends to require less time spent on cleaning and removing soap scum. Many studies also present that large doses of salt water may inhibit aerobic breakdown of bacteria in septic systems, meaning bacteria will become abundant in septic systems, thus creating health concerns.
There are many concerns raised when the topic of drinking soft water is mentioned. Soft water is easy on home appliances and gentle on skin, however drinking soft water can become a heated subject due to the minerals that are removed. Calcium and magnesium ions are replaced with sodium ions during the water softening process. To counteract the removal of these essential minerals, people can eat diets rich in calcium and magnesium and take mineral supplements. Generally, the overall amount of calcium and magnesium lost during the water softening process is not high enough to cause a health concern.
The health concern associated with soft water that scares people the most is the added salt. People that suffer with hypertension are advised from physicians to steer clear of sodium containing foods and beverages. When water is extremely hard, the amount of sodium added is significantly higher than normal. Although, according to Mayo Clinic hypertension specialist Dr. Sheldon Shep, the amount of sodium in softened water shouldn’t be a major concern for hypertension patients. If people are still concerned with the idea of sodium added to their water, there are other alternatives such as using water purifying systems, purchasing demineralized water, or using hard water for drinking and cooking only.
Water softener can produce scary scenarios for the home, and can potentially affect one’s health. For instance, pipes that are found in homes contain metals such as lead and cadmium. These types of metals are extremely toxic if ingested by people. The problem with this scenario is that soft water can dissolve metals, like the pipes in your home. Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency notes that lead levels in your drinking water are likely to be higher if you have soft water and faucets or fittings of brass, lead pipes, or copper pipes with solder.
With the few concerns associated with water softener, there are many advantages and benefits to adding water softener to the home. Reducing one’s utility bill is always a priority, which is why adding water softener to hard water is vital for achieving a lower utility bill. It has been proven that hot water heaters can heat softened water quicker than hard water, which then reduces the amount of energy consumed for heating, resulting in a lower utility bill for the homeowner.
Another great benefit of water softening systems is that it can save you on unwanted repairs and costs on your plumbing systems. Hard water can cause a buildup of crusty mineral deposits on plumbing fixtures and pipes over a period of time. According to the Water Quality Association, shower heads can become so clogged with these minerals over time that within two years, the shower head is useless and will require replacement.
In addition to mineral deposits on shower heads, there are other visible signs to determine if you have hard water present in your home or if you need to refill or replace your household water softener system. Some of these signs include spots on dishes and pans, soapy film residue on glass shower doors and bathtubs, and scratchy clothing material with trapped soap particles. To learn more about water softener systems or how to prevent mineral deposits, you can also visit the USGS’s Water Quality Information Page for more information.