Soften or not soften? Softened water is useful or harmful? There are many legends about it – from the harmless to the damaging. Let’s find out what’s true and what’s fiction.
Myth No. 1: there is actually nothing harmful in hard water. Plaque that forms on the walls of appliances can be removed with special products and is not dangerous for people. There is no need to soften the water.
The truth: water is a natural solvent. Its composition depends on its origin. However, there are obligatory elements in water, among them salts of magnesium and calcium. They are also called “hardness salts” because they are responsible for this property in water. The more of these elements, the harder the water.
In America, according to SanPiN 126.96.36.1994-01 and GN 188.8.131.525-03, the hardness of drinking water is measured in degrees. One degree of hardness equals 20.04 mg of calcium and 12.15 mg of magnesium per cubic decimeter of water. According to health regulations the hardness should not exceed 7 °J, i.e. contain no more than 140.28 mg of calcium and 85.05 mg of magnesium. However, in some regions of our country, this figure is more than 10 °J. It is because of the water hardness that limescale is formed in kettles, washing machines, heating boilers. Precipitated on the heat exchanging surfaces in the form of sediment, hardness salts create additional thermal resistance – this leads to an increase in power consumption of household appliances by 10%, local overheating of their heating elements with subsequent failure. Appliances break down before they are supposed to work.
Powders, soaps and shampoos foam worse in hard water: studies show that the cost of detergents and cleaners when using it increases by 60%. Such water leaves stains on the surfaces, and no matter how much you wash them off they appear again and again. In hard water used by a family of four during a year there can be up to 70 kg of scale.
“Water is considered potable if its hardness is no more than 7 mg-eq/l,” explains Vera Kuzik, a Category 2 engineer at the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology SB RAS. – But the deposition of hardness salts on heating surfaces is already quite active at 3 mg-eq/l. Therefore, a comfortable value for both human and technical water is in the range of 1 to 3 mg-eq/L.
Conclusion: Hard water has a negative effect on household appliances and human comfort level, so it is better to soften it.
Myth #2: Softened water has no calcium and magnesium. Therefore, its consumption can lead to bone and cardiovascular dysfunction.
In fact: the daily rate of magnesium consumption for men is 300 mg, for women 270 mg. As for calcium, its daily allowance for children is 1200 mg, for adults – 1000 mg, for pregnant and lactating women – 1500-2000 mg. American standards limit the magnesium content in water to a threshold of 50 mg l, the calcium standard is not set. The World Health Organization WHO considers water containing 20-80 mg/l calcium and 10-30 mg/l magnesium to be suitable for drinking.
A simple calculation shows that even at maximum values, one liter of water contains from 2 to 8 % of the daily requirement of calcium. Magnesium – at best 10%. Thus, to obtain the daily norm of these elements need to drink from 10 to 30 liters of water per day to ensure the body with magnesium, and from 12.5 to 80 liters to provide calcium. Obviously, that’s impossible. Consequently, drinking water is not a source of calcium and magnesium for humans. It is necessary to get these elements with food: 100 g of pine nuts contains 63% of the daily requirement of the human body in magnesium. The main sources of calcium are dairy products, cheese, green vegetables. For example, 100 g of Dutch cheese will provide the body with a daily norm of this trace element. By the way, experts say that for a healthy person, magnesium deficiency is unusual. It develops only as a result of taking certain medications or drinking too much alcohol.
Conclusion: Water is not the main source of calcium and magnesium for the body, therefore, by this criterion it is impossible to judge whether it is harmful or useful.
Myth no. 3: softened water has a lot of sodium. And it is part of the salt, which is harmful and leads to the formation of kidney stones. Consequently, the less sodium in the body, the better.
The truth: sodium is a key element that plays a major role in maintaining normal cellular hydrosaline balance and regulating fluid volume in the body. It is necessary for the kidneys, the nervous and digestive systems, the regulation of vascular tone and muscle contraction. Without sodium it is impossible to transport amino acids and glucose into the cells. Deficiency of this element leads to hypertension, tachycardia, muscle weakness, problems with the nervous system.
Even on a no-salt diet, sodium must be introduced into the body with foods such as carrots, tomatoes, celery, legumes, and water. The recommended average daily norm of salt for an adult is 15 grams. This amount already includes sodium chloride, which is found in food and water.
If a modern water softening station is used in the house, it is possible to calculate exactly how much sodium will be ingested with the liquid,” says Igor Klykovsky, development engineer of Vitoset at Viessmann. – For example, drinking 1.5 liters of water softened with the Aquahome station by one German degree which is equal to 2.8 American degrees , a person consumes 172.2 mg of sodium. It is 0.435 g of table salt equivalent, i.e. less than 0.5% of the daily rate.
Conclusion: softened water does not upset the salt balance in the body, it can be drunk even by those who are on a no-salt diet.
Myth #4: Water makes 80% of the human body, which means that water is the main source of human health nutrients. And softened drinking water does not contain any minerals and trace elements. Accordingly, the one who drinks it, forms an irreplaceable deficiency.
In fact: softened water should not be confused with distilled. “Nothing is in the second one, and softened water mostly retains its chemical composition.
In addition, a significant proportion of useful macro-and micronutrients a person receives not with water, and with food. According to the WHO, the human body gets only 6-8 % of the daily norm with water. So, for example, to get the daily norm of iron, which is “responsible” for enriching the blood with oxygen and prevents anemia, you need to drink more than 33 liters of water, which contains the maximum allowable concentration of this element.
Conclusion: To maintain a balance of essential vitamins, micro- and macronutrients in the body, it is necessary to eat a balanced diet. If the body lacks any element, certain foods should be consumed. For example, to increase iron levels, experts recommend including cereals, beef, oysters, white beans, chickpeas, beans, lentils and spinach in your diet.
Myth #5: Water treatment plants soften water with chemicals, so it is impossible to drink it.
In fact: “Water is originally “chemistry” it consists of chemical elements, the quantity of separate elements can be regulated, and this happens everywhere. And tap water, and even technical water that is used for centralized
heating systems, is always softened before it is supplied to consumers,” says Inessa Shulgina, shift supervisor of the chemical shop at Krasnoyarsk CHPP-1. – But the composition of the water in each region is different, and quite often tap water is still too hard and not up to standard.
Installed in this case household water softening systems lead it to the norms in a fairly simple way – with a completely harmless substitution reaction: calcium and magnesium ions are “replaced” with sodium ions.
“The processes are regulated automatically, with a controller,” explains Igor Klykovsky, Viessmann. – Modern water treatment stations use the optimal amount of salt and water for regeneration. These are high-tech devices. For example, the Aquahome station uses a special, patented controller protocol that allows the unit to run until the tank and resin are exhausted, increasing its cost-effectiveness. Aquahome’s regeneration protocol is set up in such a way as to minimize salt and water consumption and the possibility of salt bridges”.
In service of modern water treatment plants is simple enough: once a week to look inside the body to make sure there are no salt bridges if necessary to destroy them , and periodically add salt. Once a year a specialist should be called in for maintenance.
The conclusion: modern water treatment plants treat water in a safe and effective way.
Today the Internet is full of ridiculous pseudoscientific myths about softened water. But after a detailed consideration they turn out to be no more than a fairy tale, which can be easily and reasonably refuted by experts.