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Is soft water safe to drink? Consider the source of your answer…

So Michele and I have been having a debate lately. One of us wants to start up the water softener but the other says that softened water is unsafe to drink… so what’s the correct answer?

Finding the answer wasn’t as easy as it seems. Everyone has an answer and they are sometimes radically different, depending on where you get your answer. Rather than give you what I found to be the quick-and-dirty answer upfront, I’ll show you why it’s important to consider the  source.

Here’s one answer from Lenntech (they sell water softeners):

That is why in most cases, softened water is perfectly safe to drink. It is advisable that softened water contains only up to 300mg/L of sodium.
In areas with very high hardness the softened water must not be used for the preparation of baby-milk, due to the high sodium contant after the softening process has been carried out.

Source: http://www.lenntech.com/processes/softening/faq/water-softener-faq.htm

Here’s one from Budget Water (they sell reverse-osmosis systems)

If someone tells you it is ok to drink the water from their softener they are either ignorant of the science of water softening or they don’t care that they may be subjecting you to a very poor quality of drinking water. In many cases where the water is really hard going into the softener you will find MASSIVE amounts of sodium coming out of the water softener. This water is completely unhealthy to drink. You should be wary of any company that does not at least warn you to drink bottled water or offers a reverse osmosis drinking water system for the kitchen to purify all of your cooking and drinking water.

Source: http://www.budgetwater.com/drink_soft_water.htm

So let’s check another water treatment source: Morton (they sell softener salt)

Yes, softened water is safe to drink for people that are not on sodium or potassium restricted diets.

http://www.mortonsalt.com/faqs/water_soft_faq.html#q11

If you take a look at these opinions, you will see each company takes a stance in favor of their own equipment, sometimes with a disclaimer. So what we need is an opinion from someone who isn’t trying to sell something, otherwise known as an impartial source… Let’s try Mayo Clinic:

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 remove calcium and magnesium ions and replace them 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.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/AN00317

Let’s take one more source…

The amount of sodium added to water from the water softening process depends on the hardness of the water supply. When very hard water (greater than 10 grains of hardness per gallon) is softened, only 20 to 40 mg of sodium is added to every 8 ounces of water. For comparison, an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk contains about 120 mg of sodium, a 12-ounce can of diet soda contains from 20 to 70 mg, and an 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 25 mg.

http://www.doityourself.com/stry/softwater

My takeaway from all of this is that softened water is generally safe to drink, as long as you don’t have any health conditions that would warrant watching your sodium level. Even so, you can get potassium-based softener “salt”, which could help that.

Do you have an opinion on whether softened water is safe to drink? Please feel free to sare it in the comments below!

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