Popular Water Myths and Misconceptions

Soft Water

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    Soft Water is Corrosive

In a study published March 1997 the WQA and EPA have concluded that softening water does not make the water corrosive. Their report explains some of the reasons that this misconception was so wide-spread. An earlier study done on naturally soft water, which is usually found with a very low pH, indicated that the soft water really was corrosive. Yes, any water with a low pH is corrosive, whether it's naturally soft or hard water. Softened water does not have a low pH unless it was low before it was softened.

I've found that many people I talk to, including far too many misinformed plumbers, believe that soft water is corrosive because it's salty. If it was salty it would be corrosive. Soft water is not salty unless your water softener isn't backwashing properly.

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    Soft Water is Salty

Since so many people think that their water passes through the salt in a water softener, I can understand the confusion; it would be terribly salty if that was true. The salt in the softener never comes in contact with your water, it's only used for cleaning the resin beads. A small amount of sodium (or potassium) is added to your water. Only in extreme hardness situations is the amount of sodium high enough to give the water a salty taste. In most homes the sodium level is so low that it's not detectable by taste.

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    Sodium is Salt

Morton's SaltSodium (Na) is an element. By itself it is a metal. When it's combined with another element, Chloride (Cl), it forms a salt, NaCl or sodium chloride. Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg) are also common metals that combine with chloride to form salts.

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    Softeners Add Sodium to the Water

That's true unless you regenerate your softener with potassium chloride, then it adds potassium to the water. The sodium that a softener adds is usually in the form of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate, while technically a salt, is baking soda.

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    Potassium is Healthier Than Sodium

It's hard to say if that's true or false, it depends on the person ingesting it. It is true that most of us take in too much sodium in the foods we eat; and it's rare that someone gets too much potassium in their diet. So the common thinking is that the mineral added by a softener is healthier if it's potassium instead of sodium. In reality, there is so little of either added that it would only be significant for people drinking five gallons of water a day.

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    You Can't Rinse the Soap Off

This is one of my favorites, it has come up in more soft water conversations than anything else. It deserves it's own page.

I Can't Get the Soap Off!

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    Soft Water Causes Cancer

Ok, I made that one up. I've heard so many ridiculous excuses that people have used to deny themselves the benefits of soft water, I'm a little surprised I'd never heard that one. I suppose if it really doesn't cause cancer then it's on the short list of things that don't.

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    You Can Use a Filter to Soften Your Water

Technically, there is an ion exchange filter available that will soften water, but if you wanted to do your whole house you'd need to replace the filter daily. So aside from that small capacity filter, you can't remove water hardness with a filter. The hardness minerals, calcium, magnesium, and iron are so small that the pores of the filter would have to be so small that it would plug up almost instantly. That's why softeners attract the minerals out of the water as opposed to "straining" them out. Many people waste money on filters only to discover that they still have the same mineral buildup and spotting in their homes.

Reverse Osmosis

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    RO Removes the Good Minerals

Yes it does, along with the bad minerals. Not everyone needs RO water but let's say that you have a dangerous level of arsenic in your water. RO is one of the most recommended methods of removing arsenic. Since an RO system will typically reduce all of the minerals in the water by about 95% to 98%, that means the arsenic problem is solved but the good minerals are gone too. That's ok with me, as long as the arsenic (and probably a few other bad minerals) is removed. I'll get my minerals from food. The amount of minerals that the average person gets from their water is insignificant. In most cases, drinking a gallon of water a day can provide around 5% of the minerals that your body requires. You're already getting your minerals from food unless your fasting.

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    ROs Waste Too Much Water

It's true that all ROs put water down the drain; some a lot more than others. The efficiency of RO membranes is improving all the time. Five to ten gallons of wasted water for every gallon of good water wasn't uncommon a few years ago. Now most units can operate on as little as two to four gallons down the drain, for one gallon of drinking water. No matter what the ratio is, the water down the drain isn't really wasted water. That water was used to flush all of the rejected minerals away from the membrane, allowing the membrane to continue making good water without plugging up. Without a stream of water rinsing the membrane you'd have to replace the membrane very frequently at a much higher expense than a few gallons of water.

Drain water from an RO is just as essential as the drain water from your washing machine, dishwasher, and toilets. Most people don't consider the gallons used in appliances and toilets as wasted water, neither is the RO rinse water.

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    ROs Make Water Very Acidic

Not always true. The RO process will lower the pH of water by a significant amount but it doesn't always make it acidic. The water in my area is known for a high pH of about 8. The pH of my RO water is about 7 which is neutral. It's true that if you start with a neutral pH then RO will make your water somewhat acidic which may or may not be bad for you but that's a another matter of debate.

To be continued.....

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