By Rehan Iqbal
Salt-based water softeners are the most cost-effective way to remove hard minerals from your water. However, softened water will contain some sodium. While this is not a health risk and does not affect the taste of the water, you may want to remove the salt from softened water.
For people following a low-sodium diet, salt is at the top of your list of items to avoid. Naturally, you’ll be concerned about salt in your water if you’re using a water softener. You may be wondering why salt is used is used to remove hard minerals. More importantly, you will probably want to know how to get rid of the salt in your water.
In this article, I’ll be discussing everything you need to know about water softeners and how to remove salt from softened water.
Removing Salt from Softened Water
While the sodium in softened water is negligible, you may want to remove it to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.
I suggest using one of three different methods for removing salt from softened water:
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is one of the most common methods of water desalination. It is often used to remove salt from sea water in areas where fresh water is scarce.
RO filters utilize a dense semipermeable membrane, known as reverse osmosis membrane. Pressurized water is forced through the membrane. Up to 99% of dissolved salts are trapped by the membrane, along with many other contaminants.
The benefits of using an RO filtration system to remove salt from water are numerous. This is because RO filters are effective at removing over 90% of all contaminants found in city and well water, these include:
While an RO membrane removes just about all salts and many other unwanted toxins from water, they are not 100% effective for highly contaminated water. Most RO filtration systems use additional filters to remove contaminants that are not filtered by the RO membrane.
The downside to using an RO water filtration system is that they can be quite expensive and require fairly complicated installation.
RO filters also use water to flush the membrane to remove trapped contaminants. While this improves the efficacy and life span of the filter, it increases water consumption.
Distillation is another common way to remove salt from water and is also used for seawater desalination in some countries.
A water distiller works by heating the water until it boils. As the water evaporates, steam passes through a condenser which reverts it back into a liquid. Salts and other solids do not evaporate with the water and remain behind.
Distilled water is almost 100% pure and is perfectly safe to drink. It also has other uses, like as a coolant for lead acid batteries and several industrial applications.
There are several advantages to using a water distiller to purify water:
Although water distillation is a great way to remove salt and other contaminants from your water, it has its disadvantages. A water distiller uses electricity and will increase your electricity bill. Furthermore, many of the minerals that are removed by distillation are good for you and improve the taste of the water. Distilled water is tasteless and bland.
Although not commonly used, electrodialysis is a reasonably effective way to remove salt from your water.
Electrodialysis desalination works by using electromagnetic energy. Using an electrically positive charge, sodium and other negative elements are removed from the water.
These devices are relatively easy to install. While an electrical outlet is required, they don’t use a lot of electricity.
The downside of using electrodialysis is that many common contaminants are not removed from the water. You may require additional filtration to ensure that your water is safe to drink and tastes good.
Whole House Water Softener and Filter Combos
About 85% of the US is a hard water area. This means that most homes should be using a water softener to protect pipes, plumbing fixtures, and appliances. It also improves the quality of your clothing and dishes will not appear cloudy after washing.
However, a water softener does not remove common contaminants from your water. Chemicals, like chlorine and fluoride, are common in city water. Chlorine tastes bad and has an unpleasant odor, whereas too much fluoride can be harmful to your health.
Apart from these commonly used chemicals, many other (possibly harmful) chemicals can be found in water. These can include:
Not all harmful chemicals are removed by municipal water treatment facilities.
Dangerous heavy metals, like lead and arsenic, are also a risk in both city and well water supplies. While not too common in municipal water, pathogens can cause diseases. This is a more prevalent risk when using water supplied from a well.
Given all the risks of water contamination, a whole house water filtration system is the best solution if you want high-quality, safe water in your home. Not only will the filters remove sodium from your softened water, they will also improve the taste, odor, and appearance of your water. Not to mention remove harmful contaminants.
A whole house water filtration system generally utilizes a prefilter and activated carbon filters. The system can also include a water softener (water softener/filter combo) and additional filters depending on your requirements.
Why Do Water Softeners Use Salt?
As water passes through soil, it bonds with minerals in the ground. In areas where hard minerals, like calcium and magnesium are abundant, the water becomes hard. This means that the water has a lot of hard minerals.
Anyone who lives in a hard water area will concur that this is not desirable. Hard minerals cause limescale which may block your water pipes. Appliances like water heaters, coffee machines, and washing machines may not function properly and can even be damaged by hard mineral buildup.
Hard minerals will leave a white residue on sinks, bathtubs, and showers. It also accumulates on your faucets and other plumbing fixtures. Clothes washed in hard water can have white spots and feel hard. Your dishes will appear cloudy.
Given all the negative effects of hard water, it’s understandable why water softeners are so popular. The big question is why do you need salt to soften water?
While salt-free water conditioners are effective, water softeners that use salt cost less to operate and many believe them to be better. Water softeners are also banned in some states for that exact reason. Salt-free water softeners don’t actually remove hard minerals, they merely prevent the minerals from clinging to surfaces.
As a result, most water softeners use salt to remove hard minerals in an ion-exchange process.
A water softener works on a basic principle of ion exchange. This is when elements are attracted to an opposite charge.
A whole house water softening system usually has two tanks. One tank is filled with positively charged resin beads. The other (brine) tank contains a solution of sodium chloride (salt) and water. Water is transferred from the brine tank and negatively charged sodium covers the resin beads.
When water passes through the ion-exchange tank, positively charged hard mineral are attracted by the sodium and bond with the beads. The water leaving the tank will contain little or no hard minerals. It does, however, contain small amounts of sodium.
When the resin beads become saturated with hard minerals, they are regenerated by flushing the tank with brine. The beads are covered with fresh sodium, ready to continue softening the water.
It should be made clear that softened water does contain salt. Only sodium remains in the water. This means that the water will not taste salty but the sodium in water, albeit very little, can be of concern for people following a low sodium diet.
Very hard water, with about 10 grains per gallon of calcium, contains approximately 298 mg of sodium per gallon once softened. This is roughly the same amount of sodium found in 2 slices of white bread.
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