environment

Can Water Softeners Cause Any Side Effects?

Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

Many people use water softeners to avoid problems that come with hard water usage. But can water softeners also cause any side effects? Let’s answer that question in this article. 

How Water Softeners Work

Water softeners “soften” water supplies by removing impurities and soluble minerals like calcium and magnesium.

These minerals can cause various unwanted effects, such as: 

  • Dry skin and hair
  • Buildup of white scale on dishware
  • Clogged pipes
  • Damaged water heaters
  • Weaker effectiveness of detergents and soap

Most water softeners use sodium chloride, or salt-based solution, to facilitate ion exchange to soften the water. 

And here’s where the problems arise. 

Health Risk: Too Much Salt in the Water

It’s no secret that a high level of sodium in the body could cause health risks and problems. 

According to a study, one in ten cardiovascular deaths each year can be attributed to too much salt intake

Proper Adjustment is Key

But here’s the good news: as long as your water softener is properly functioning, you can control the level of salt in your water supply. 

If your system works properly and you adjust salt to appropriate levels, you’re most likely going to be okay. 

Using Potassium Chloride 

A popular alternative to salt-based water softeners are potassium chloride water softeners. But what do they do? 

It’s simple: it uses potassium instead of sodium. 

The result: your water will contain more potassium than sodium. 

And that’s good because of two reasons: 

  • Higher potassium intake can decrease the risks of cardiovascular diseases;
  • High amounts of sodium can increase chances of heart diseases and stroke. 

If you have special diet considerations, potassium-based water softeners are ideal for you. Potassium, in general, is good for the body. 

Side Effects to the Environment

Apart from health risks, water softeners also contribute to two environmental issues: 

  • Salt buildup –  water softeners dump sodium chlorides into the environment
  • Water supply overuse – water softeners use about 25 gallons a day, or 10,000 gallons per year 

Salt Buildup 

Salt buildup can cause adverse effects to rivers, streams, and other bodies of water. 

Changes in salt level can negatively affect some forms of aquatic life. And this then leads to ecological imbalance, which is never good for the environment. 

Water Supply Overuse 

Water softeners have systems that flush out water through a process called regeneration. 

Overusing water supplies in one area can limit the availability of clean water in other communities. It can also lead to food insecurity. 

Avoiding Environmental Side Effects

You can avoid these problems in different ways, such as: 

  • Checking if the equipment is working correctly
  • Replacing old equipment with more efficient and environment-friendly solutions
  • Checking for alternatives like potassium-based water softeners or anti-scale magnetic water treatment 
  • Assessing whether you really need water softening 

In many cases, it boils down to your awareness of your environmental impact and the efficiency of the water softener you use. 

Other Potential Side Effects

Apart from health and environmental side effects, water softeners might also cause other problems. Here are some of them: 

  • Water softeners do not disinfect water. Some people believe that softening their water can help them avoid all harmful contaminants. That’s simply not true. 
  • Water softeners do not address problems like unpleasant tastes and malodorous smell that comes from bacteria in the water. 
  • Water softening systems need regular maintenance and replenishment, which can be quite costly. 
  • Softened water dissolves lead faster. If the water goes through lead pipes, then water softening can result in lead poisoning.
  • Softened water doesn’t help in strengthening a person’s teeth and bones since it contains no calcium. 

Safe Use of Water Softeners

To sum it up, water softeners do have side effects, and they can get pretty serious. However, you can control and avoid them, and you should

You don’t necessarily need to quit your water softening system. If your system works properly, you’ve got less to worry about. 

So make sure to check your system regularly. Use just the right amount of salt to avoid too much sodium intake. If you want to, use potassium instead of salt.

Then, make sure you buy an environment-friendly equipment. You don’t want to damage nature since clean water, after all, comes from nature. 

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of Ways2GoGreen.com and Ways2GoGreenBlog.com. I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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