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Can You Drink Softened Water?

por Dr. Jonathan Doyle - Updated May 17, 2024
Water softening systems are becoming increasingly common due to the problem of water hardness in many households. Even though softened water has advantages, there’s still the question of whether it’s drinkable or safe for household usage. In this guide, we’ll discuss the “good and bad” of softened water, how you can soften your water, and an overview of the various consumer-accessible water softening choices and alternatives you can choose from.

What Is Softened Water?

Literally, it’s just water that has been “softened.” For a broader explanation, it’s treated water processed to remove particular minerals, such as calcium and magnesium ions, that cause water to become “hard.” Hard water can cause several issues, including scaling in pipes and appliances, soap scum buildup, and decreased soap lathering.
getting water from a faucet
Softened water has many benefits, including minimizing the scale buildup in pipes and water-fed appliances. It can also help you improve the efficiency of your soaps and detergents and extend the life of water-fed appliances like water heaters and dishwashers. Technically, water softening will also result in cleaner dishes, softer clothes, and smoother skin and hair after a bath.

How Does Water Softening Work?

A water softener is a device that removes minerals and metals from hard water, which results in softened water. Hard water has high quantities of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and, in rare cases, iron, which can cause scale accumulation in pipes and appliances and soap scum in showers and sinks. It can also cause health complications for drinking and reduces the lathering function of your soap and detergent.
add salt to a water softener
Hence, the water softening process is usually an ion exchange procedure in which the calcium and magnesium ions in the water are exchanged and replaced with sodium ions. You can use a tank filled with resin beads coated in sodium ions. So, as hard water passes through the resin bed, calcium and magnesium ions are drawn to the resin beads and exchanged for sodium ions; you then get softened water as your end product.

Is Water from a Water Softener Safe to Drink?

Soft water is generally safe to consume, but there are a few things you should know and pay attention to if you want to switch to soft water permanently. Softened water has undergone a process that removes minerals like calcium and magnesium and replaces them with sodium ions. Although the replaced sodium is a helpful mineral for your body, excessive consumption can have its effect, especially if you risk being hypertensive or prone to heart disease, which requires you to limit your salt intake closely.
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Benefits of a Softened Water

Drinking softened water has pros than cons at the same time. Below are some advantages that might finally help you decide on getting a proper water-softening system.
  • It has a more refreshing taste than hard water.
  • It helps prevent the buildup of scale in pipes and appliances.
  • It extends the lifespan of waterusing appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines.
  • It allows your appliances to operate more efficiently, which can help you reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs.
  • It enhances the effectiveness of soaps and detergents so they can lather more easily and clean more effectively.
  • Softened water is gentler on the skin and hair compared to hard water.
  • Softened water reduces the need for plumbing maintenance and repairs by helping you prevent scale buildup in pipes and fixtures.
hard water stains in a kettle

Common Methods of Water Purification

Water purification is the best way to remove unwanted minerals, especially calcium and magnesium ions, which are the culprits behind hard water. You have many water purification options, below are the most popular methods of water purification.

Reverse osmosis (RO)

This method can purify your water effectively. In an RO system , water is pushed across a semi-permeable membrane that selectively permits water molecules to pass while rejecting dissolved particles such as calcium and magnesium ions.
The filtered water is collected on one side of the membrane, while the concentrated brine containing the rejected ions is flushed out. Reverse osmosis systems are highly effective at softening water and removing various impurities, but they can be costly at the beginning. But you can save your water bills in the long run.

Ion Exchange

It’s the most popular and widely accepted method for water softening. It involves the exchange of calcium and magnesium ions in water for sodium ions. This process occurs in a resin tank packed with microscopic resin beads coated with sodium ions. As hard water travels through the resin bed, calcium and magnesium ions are drawn to the resin beads and replaced by sodium ions, softening the water. Periodically, the resin must be regenerated by flushing it with a brine solution (sodium chloride) to supply the sodium ions.

Lime Softening

It’s also known as the Clark method and involves adding calcium hydroxide to hard water. Lime combines with calcium and magnesium ions, producing insoluble molecules that precipitate from the water. The precipitate formed can be removed using sedimentation or filtering, leaving the water soft. Lime softening is commonly employed in municipal water treatment plants because it removes hardness and other contaminants, including heavy metals and silica.
adding calcium hydroxide to water


Distillation involves heating water to its boiling point to produce steam, which is then condensed into liquid form. Since dissolved minerals have higher boiling points than water, they are left behind as the water evaporates, resulting in softened water. While distillation effectively removes hardness minerals and other impurities, it is energy-intensive and not commonly used for residential water softening.

Best Water Filtration Solution for Home

If you’re unsure which water filtration system is good for you, the best option might be to combine more than one method! A water softening system that combines a reverse osmosis water filter is pretty effective because it repeats these stages to increase the efficiency of the softening and purification process.
That’s why we recommend the Waterdrop X Series Undersink Reverse Osmosis System . Tested by an official third-party laboratory (SGS), this system employs an RO filtration process that purifies water and helps remove many contaminants. The RO membrane technology in the X Series system can efficiently remove harmful substances such as PFAS, fluoride, heavy metals like lead, chromium, radium, magnesium, calcium, and salts like nitrate and chloride.

Alternatives to Drinking Softened Water

While softened water has advantages, some people prefer alternatives owing to the growing concern for sodium intake or other personal preferences. Luckily, you have reliable and effective options to go for, which we’ve discussed below;
a woman and a girl drinking water

Filtered Water

Water can be purified while maintaining its mineral content using filtration devices like multi-stage or activated carbon filters. Certain contaminants, including silt, chlorine, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), may be eliminated by these filters without sacrificing essential minerals. Filtered water is a popular substitute for softened water because it provides a nice balance of purity and mineral content.

Mineral Water

Water from underground aquifers or natural springs is rich in sodium, magnesium, and potassium, among other essential minerals. Mineral water retains the minerals it originally contained, in contrast to softened water, which is treated to remove minerals. Mineral water is a healthier and more natural alternative to softened water since it gives you essential minerals and keeps you hydrated.

Boiling and Cooling

You can also reduce the hardness of minerals by boiling water and allowing it to cool naturally without additional equipment. Water becomes slightly softer due to calcium carbonate precipitating out of the solution when it boils. For those seeking an inexpensive option, this approach can provide a minor reduction in water hardness, even though it does not entirely remove hardness minerals.


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