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Softened water has many benefits but some people find the taste of soft water unpleasant and unpalatable. This is partly because of the increased levels of sodium in the water, which is typically safe to drink, but can impact the taste and feel of the water.
Here’s a look at how to make softened water drinkable.
Hard Water vs. Softened Water
To understand what softened water is, we need to take a look at its opposite – hard water. Hard water is water with a high mineral content, typically calcium and magnesium. This process occurs naturally as groundwater percolates through sediment and rocks. Hard water is seen as potentially beneficial for health and contributes (albeit minimally) to our daily required mineral intake. The majority of American homes have hard water coming out of their taps.
The trouble with hard water is that it can be hard on your body and home. Water that’s very hard can result in dry skin and hair, leaves spots and stains on faucets, cutlery and showers, fade your laundry, clog pipes, build up in lime scale and on and on. Because of these many downsides of hard water, many people prefer to have it treated.
What’s Wrong with Softened Water?
Water can be softened by running it through a softening process, most notably a reverse osmosis system or a water softener, which removes the mineral content in the water. Essentially, the calcium and magnesium ions in the water get exchanged with sodium ions. This gets rid of the minerals but brings in a new problem – a spike in sodium in your water.
What Does Softened Water Taste Like?
Note that the amount of sodium in softened water depends on the amount of minerals there were originally. In general, the higher the mineral content, the higher the sodium.
Very high sodium content in softened water can give the water a slightly salty, flat taste but this is rare. In most cases, you won’t notice any salty taste, however mild. You may notice a difference in the texture of the water, as softened water feels slicker and smoother.
Some people prefer the taste of softened water because they find it more neutral and natural. However, others find it flat, flavorless and downright disgusting. You only have to do an internet search to see how many people bemoan softened water on forums, seeking for a solution.
Is Softened Water Safe to Drink?
Softened water is generally safe to drink. It complies with water quality standards and isn’t
known to cause any major health issues. There are caveats to this though.
There is some debate on whether softened water is good for babies, because the sodium levels is said to interfere with babies’ nutritional balance. In general, if the sodium level is lower than 200ppm, it’s considered safe for all, including babies. This is something you may wish to discuss with your doctor before using.
Another thing to note is that softened water may not be ideal if you’re on a low sodium diet. A gallon of softened water has the same amount of salt (or thereabouts) as a slice of bread or ham. If you’re trying to avoid or reduce salt, then softened water may not be right for you.
How to Make Softened Water Drinkable
Before you install your water softening system, consider having a separate line for cooking and drinking that bypasses the softening system. This would mean that you still have all the benefits of soft water in your home, while enjoying hard water in your kitchen. You could use an under-sink water filter or a countertop water filter to make your drinking water safer.
If bypassing the system isn’t possible, here are some other ways to tackle the taste of softened water by removing the sodium.
- Reverse Osmosis Filter System
One of the best ways to get rid of this sodium from your drinking water is to use a reverse osmosis system. RO works by pushing water through a semi-permeable membrane, sending clean water through and keeping back the contaminants, including sodium and minerals. It’s one of the methods used in the desalination process (i.e. removing salt from sea water).
Read more about RO systems here.
Water distillers are popular devices today, offering among the purest water available by distilling it. Distilling water takes some energy but results in water free of almost every contaminant, including sodium. There can be some negative effects of drinking distilled water long term and some people find the taste of distilled water just as unpalatable as softened water. This is for you to decide.
- Deionizing System
With this system, salt ions are separate from the water using resin. This is one of the most effective ways to remove contaminants from the water, but it results in water with no nutrients as the process strips it off everything within it. This is sometimes called demineralized water.
While soft water combats the negative effects of hard water and effectively treats it, it can have a distinct taste that most people tend not to like. Softened water is typically safe to drink (except in certain situations) but you might want to consider bypassing the softener with a separate line for your drinking and cooking. If not, consider a reverse osmosis system to remove the sodium in softened water, as it’s the most effective and efficient way.