Is softened water safe to drink?
Water softeners are well known for unlocking benefits around the home. Converting hard water to soft via a water softener will make cleaning your home much easier, see you use fewer products, reduce limescale build-ups, extend the lifespan of appliances, and make your hot water system more efficient so you pay even less for your energy.
Softened water is kind to skin and hair too, with water softeners proven to treat childhood eczema according to this landmark study by the University of Nottingham.
With granular, tablet and block salt used to soften water, however, you may have concerns about whether drinking softened water is as beneficial to health as it is around the home…
Is softened water harmful to health?
Salt is of course bad news health-wise. High salt intake has been linked to high blood pressure, which can, in turn, increase your risk of more serious health issues, such as heart disease and strokes.
Eating a lower salt diet and no more than the recommended 6 grams of salt a day (it’s no more than 2 to 6 grams for children aged 1 to 11 years and over) is essential to health, but what about the salt you drink?
The water softening process uses sodium, not salt, to replace hard calcium and magnesium ions and soften water. Contrary to popular belief, sodium and table salt are very different.
Table salt is in fact made up of only 40% sodium. We need limited levels of sodium to stay healthy too as SFGATE details:
“Sodium helps you retain water. In moderation, that’s a good thing, because it helps keep your blood pressure up and in a healthy range. It also helps ensure you have fluid outside your cells (called extracellular fluid) which is crucial to their function. Small amounts of sodium also help your nerve cells communicate with each other, which means sodium is required for brain function.”
Can I drink softened water?
The sodium content of softened water is dictated by its hardness. If your water is particularly hard, a larger proportion of the calcium and magnesium ions will have to be replaced by sodium, and this will result in higher sodium levels.
For every 100mg of hardness minerals per litre, a water softener adds 46mg of sodium. Softened water is only considered unsafe to drink if there’s 400mg of hardness minerals per litre as these will be replaced by 184mg of additional sodium.
What if my water is very hard?
If the water you are looking to soften is particularly hard (in the 400mg per litre or above range), you will need to have a separate tap that dispenses water that hasn’t been softened. To unlock benefits, including better taste, you may wish to use a drinking water filter.
Can everyone drink softened water?
Whilst softened water with less than 400mg of hardness minerals per litre is safe to drink, it’s not necessarily safe for all.
Drinking softened water is not recommended for people on low sodium diets. Softened water also isn’t suitable for babies. It should not be used to prepare formula either, with even the smallest increase in sodium causing severe dehydration for their underdeveloped kidneys.
Softened water shouldn’t be used in fish tanks or self-descaling appliances. Many indoor and outdoor plant species also preferred hard water to soft.
If water softening is the best next step for you, you’re certainly in the right place! Find out more about our water softeners here.