A reader recently asked:
“Have you guys ever tested how much salt is actually put into the water supply with a salt-based water softener?
How do salt-free conditioners prevent calcium and other minerals from coming out of solution? Does this prevent the body from absorbing such minerals?
There are so many videos out there that say one thing or the other, but they’re all sales pitches which leaves me not wanting either a softener or a conditioner. Your videos do seem fairly honest though.
I’d rather see the science and the numbers and make my own decision. If the science is right then the company earns a buyer. If it’s all a sales pitch and “this one does that, which is bad and ours does this, which is good” then both products are horseshit and just competing with each other to get my wasted money.”
Let me address your first question: Yes, a water softener adds sodium to the water. Mayo Clinic says this:
Regular tap water contains very little sodium. The amount of sodium a water softener adds to tap water depends on the “hardness” of the water. Hard water contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium. Some water-softening systems replace calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. The higher the concentration of calcium and magnesium, the more sodium needed to soften the water. Even so, the added sodium doesn’t add up to much.
An 8-ounce (237-milliliter) glass of softened water generally contains less than 12.5 milligrams of sodium, which is well within the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of “very low sodium.” Thus, it’s unlikely that sodium in softened water would pose a risk for most healthy people.
However, if you’re on a very low-sodium diet and you’re concerned about the amount of sodium in softened water, you may want to consider a water-purification system that uses potassium chloride instead. Another option is to soften only the hot water and use unsoftened cold water for drinking and cooking.
In any case, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of sodium in an average person’s diet comes from table salt and processed foods. Thus, the best way to decrease sodium in your diet is by putting away the saltshaker and cutting back on processed foods.
The University of Massachusetts writes:
There is no standard set for sodium in water. However, EPA has recommended that sodium levels in water not exceed 20 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for individuals on “no salt diets.”
Sodium is really not an issue, but remember that unless you have a salt-based water softener you will likely use 50% more soap and cleaning agents, lime removers and other things like that and those things get dumped back into the environment.
Your next question was: “How do salt-free conditioners prevent calcium and other minerals from coming out of solution?”
Some do it by dropping the pH with citric acid. Some say they cause the calcium and magnesium to form crystals that will not stick to surfaces, but we have found that to be a dubious claim. Our Green Wave system puts a one molecule thick coating of a food-grade polyphosphate on all surfaces (hot water side only) which causes the limescale formed in the heating process to pass on through.
Your next question was: “Does this prevent the body from absorbing such minerals?”
My answer is that I doubt it, although I am not a doctor. Here’s what I do know: Water is not a significant source of minerals! Think about that for a minute. Most people get less than 5% of their minerals from the water, but what about a lot worse things in your water? I am of the opinion that you should not drink soft or hard water, but it’s not because of the sodium or calcium and magnesium – it’s because of the taste (I don’t like the taste) and mainly it’s because of many other things that can be in the water such as: lead, arsenic, nitrates, pesticides, chloramines, chlorine, THM, cryptosporidium, Chromium 6, pharmaceuticals and any one of 38,000 other chemicals. Reverse Osmosis removes nearly all of these contaminants as well as sodium.
Get your minerals from food, milk and supplements – you can’t get enough from water to make a difference. The villain is the chemicals, not the sodium. Sacrifice the minerals for the Health of it!