Soft Water – Is it Safe to Drink?
As opposed to hard water that is high in calcium and magnesium, soft water is low in water hardness causing minerals. Neither calcium nor magnesium are unhealthy for you, however, high levels of these minerals can cause trouble when it comes to the health of your home appliances. Not only that hard water is not gentle on your appliances, it can also dry your skin and hair.
Water in the United Kingdom is predominantly hard, which is why a water softener is often found in the households of most homeowners. Water softeners treat hard water to produce soft water. So, how is soft water better than hard water, and should you be drinking soft water?
What is Soft Water?
Water softeners work through a principle called ion exchange whereby hardness causing minerals like calcium and magnesium are exchanged for sodium ions.
Water hardness is measured in parts per million (ppm), milligrams per litre (mg/l), and most commonly in grains per gallon (GPG). If your water is below 3.5 GPG, it can be considered soft, values over 3.5 GPG are medium hard, while values above 10.5 GPG are indicative of extremely hard water, and investing in a water softener becomes a pressing matter.
In areas with hard water, household appliances tend to break down more easily and energy inefficiencies arise. Washing your clothes with hard water requires more detergent, white clothes lose their whiteness, coloured clothes lose their brightness. With the efficiency of your detergent reduced, soap scum formation is also an issue. Staining can appear on your clothes, but also on kitchen and bathroom taps and sanitary ware.
Besides the harmful effects on home appliances and clothes, hard water is also problematic for your skin and hair. Dryness, itching skin, lifeless hair are some of the disadvantages that come with bathing in hard water.
Soft water on the other hand comes with none of the disadvantages of hard water, but has its own disadvantages that we will discuss in this article.
Should You be Drinking Soft Water?
In otherwise healthy individuals, soft water, on its own, is unlikely to cause an immediate health issue. However, just like hard water is not the tastiest, neither soft water is pleasant to the taste, so it’s unlikely that anyone will be willing to consume it on a regular basis anyway.
Problems appear when soft water gets into contact with metals, for example, metals in your pipes or taps. Soft water may leech metals from your pipes and faucets, which could potentially lead to these types of contaminants getting into your drinking water. This is all the more dangerous if you’re using hot water from the tap, and if your tap or pipes have any lead content. To be on the safe side, we don’t recommend that you use soft water for drinking or cooking, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing an infant.
Those on a low-sodium diet must also avoid consuming softened water and strictly monitor their sodium intake.
All things considered, you should not be drinking soft water, especially that soft water was not designed for human consumption, but for the protection of your washing machine, water heater, coffee maker, clothes, and skin.
Also Read: What is the Best Water to Drink?
Hard Water vs Soft Water – Which is Better?
If you’re concerned about the lifespan of your home appliances, eliminating lime-scale deposits and staining in your bathroom, then soft water is the better option when it comes to choosing between soft and hard water.
Soft water is also better when it comes to having softer clothes after washing and softer hair and skin after bathing.
Neither soft water, not hard water are particularly good tasting, but perhaps most will have a preference for hard water over soft water when it comes to taste alone.
But what about for drinking purposes? Which one is better? Since soft water is devoid of minerals, hard water is considered to be the better choice of the two when it comes to drinking water. Still, neither water is free from contaminants, which brings us to our next point:
Also read: How to get rid of lime-scale – permanently!
Should You Filter Soft Water?
Turning hard water into soft water does not eliminate contaminants. Despite it being soft, tap water may still contain contaminants such as bacteria, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride, volatile organic compounds, and many other contaminants.
It is recommended to use a water softener and a water filter that can also remove sodium produced by the water softening process. In this way, you will have both soft water and contaminant-free water that is safe to drink.
Alternatively, if a water softener-water filter combination does not sound good to you, you could opt for a water filter system with scale inhibiting capabilities. This type of water filter will not soften water; however, it will prevent lime-scale formation, but without the added benefits of soft water (e.g. less detergent usage, softer skin and hair).
What Water Softener to Buy?
In your search for a water softener, you’ll most likely to come across two options – salt water softeners and non-salt softeners.
Salt-based water softeners work based on the process described above and use salt in the process of turning hard water into soft water. Salt-free water softeners don’t use salt, instead they reorganise the structure of hardness causing minerals to stop them from sticking to surfaces, but they don’t come with the advantages of soft water, since they don’t actually produce soft water.
For more on this read: Salt-based vs Non-Salt Water Softener – Which Is Better?
Conclusion: Is Soft Water Safe to Drink?
Soft water’s sodium content and possible metallic contaminants make it undesirable for drinking purposes. Consuming soft water on the long run is not a good idea, therefore, we recommend filtering it to remove contaminants that make it unappealing or unfit for consumption. Unfortunately, in areas with severe hard water issues, water softeners are a must in order to protect expensive home appliances from breaking down and to eliminate energy inefficiencies.