The idea of gulping down a glass of hard water, what with its high concentration of calcium, magnesium, and more dubious minerals like sulfates, is enough to make health-conscious homeowners shudder.
That’s why more and more people have begun using water softeners to reduce the mineral content of the water they rely on for daily tasks. So-called “soft” water is simply water that’s been purged of all foreign minerals, save for sodium.
The consensus among water researchers and other scientists seems to be that soft water is perfectly safe for drinking, at least in most cases.
Related Article: Hard vs Soft Water
Yes, softened water is safe for drinking.
It’s a common misconception that soft water contains salt. In reality, sodium chloride, or salt, never comes into direct contact with water as part of the softening process. Rather, softened water sometimes retains varying amounts of sodium ions as a natural side effect of chemical purification.
Ion exchange treatment, the most common form of water softening, isolates the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water and swaps them out for sodium ions. That means that the harder your water is to start with, the more sodium it will have in it once it’s successfully been softened.
But sodium and salt aren’t the same thing, and chemists and dieticians alike agree that negligible quantities of sodium generally aren’t a big deal.
Based on stats provided by the not-for-profit Water Quality Association, ion exchange softening procedures leave behind roughly 8 milligrams of sodium per liter for every grain of hardness removed during treatment. That’s not nearly enough for most people to worry about.
Furthermore, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, a UK-based research group that investigates the contents and potential health impacts of treated drinking water, says that the sodium in soft water doesn’t become a problem until it surpasses 200ppm (parts-per-million).
Depending on the source and the exact type and degree of treatment, soft water can have a slightly salty taste. However, this doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or unhealthy in any way. The biggest downside of drinking soft water is that it’s devoid of health-promoting minerals.
The bottom line is that if you enjoy the taste, feel, or sense of comfort that comes with softening your water, you can continue doing so without fear of adverse effects.
As mentioned, there may be circumstances in which drinking soft water isn’t advisable.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart problems or hypertension, for example, it’s probably best to stick with water from harder sources.
When consumed regularly, the additional sodium present in softened water could contribute to a detrimental rise in blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less.
Similarly, sipping soft water could have undesirable consequences for pregnant women, as the underdeveloped organs of fetuses and premature babies often have a hard time filtering sodium out of the bloodstream.
Those on special low-sodium diets should also think twice before making soft water their primary source of hydration. In this case, a little extra sodium can make a big difference. The last thing you want is to fall short of your wellness goals because you were trying to follow your doctor’s suggestion to get more water.
Lastly, if you have a green thumb, you may be interested to learn that soft water may be killing your plants. Sodium is poisonous to most botanicals, so if you want your greenery to flourish, you’d be better off going with ordinary tap water or water that’s been filtered and purified through other means.
Soft water’s most useful applications lie outside drinking and cooking. More specifically, soft water can provide much better results for essential tasks like bathing, cleaning clothes, and doing the dishes.
Due to its abundant mineral profile, especially hard water tends to produce a chalky residue known as “scale.”
For this reason, home improvement specialists sometimes advise homeowners to use water softening solutions to prevent harmful scale buildup inside water heaters, dishwashers, coffee makers, and other important appliances.
Making the switch to soft water therefore promises to extend the lifespan of your most relied-on gadgets.
People with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea that are characterized by persistent irritation may find that the relative gentleness of soft water feels far better on their extremities than hard water. It’s not uncommon for dermatologists to prescribe water softeners for patients with these afflictions.
The fact that soft water is free of minerals also means that it won’t cause noticeable buildup or interfere with the active ingredients in soaps, cleansers, shampoos, and other products. As such, scrubbing up with soft water can leave your skin and hair looking and feeling cleaner, smoother, and healthier.
Hard water has been shown to decrease the sanitizing power of certain soaps and detergents. While most detergents today are formulated with special additives designed to counteract the effects of hard water, soft water still has the potential to get clothes and dishes cleaner while also allowing you to use less soap.
So what does the evidence say? Can you drink soft water? Can you drink water from a water softener?
Most experts answer in the affirmative, though conditionally—they acknowledge that there are circumstances in which one might benefit from using harder water. Such circumstances include a recent diagnosis of heart disease or hypertension, pregnancy, or nutritional guidelines that call for reduced sodium. Hard water may also be the way to go if you’ve been meaning to get more minerals in your diet.
When it comes right down to it, though, it’s probably worse for you to drink too little water than it is for you to drink soft water in moderate quantities.