Question? Just ask us!
Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
InspectAPedia ® Home
PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRINKING WATER TESTING
EPA GUIDE to WATER QUALITY
FHA WATER TESTS REQUIRED
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPE USAGE GUIDE
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PRESSURE CONTROL SWITCH ADJUSTMENT
REVERSE OSMOSIS CONCENTRATE DISPOSAL
SEWER GAS ODORS
WATER HEATER SCALE REMOVAL
WATER HEATER SCALE PREVENTION
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Water Softener health risks & effect on drinking water: this article explains the health risks associated with water softeners or water conditioners: what are the effects of salt introduced into the water supply? How much salt does a water conditioner leave in the building's drinking water? We also discuss possible bacterial or pathogenic hazards that occur if a water softener drain is not properly connected with an air gap. Also see SALT OR WATER INTO SEPTIC.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
How Much Salt Does a Water Softener Put Into Drinking Water?
A properly-adjusted water softener puts about 8 mg of salt (sodium, or NaCl) in each liter of treated water for each grain of hardness removed. Water at 10 grains of hardness which has been processed by a water softener will have 80 mg of salt/L.
[Click to enlarge any image or table]
People on low-salt, low sodium, or no-salt diets, infants, and others who want to avoid salt may want to drink water from a tap that bypasses the water softener or that uses water that has had its salt removed after water softening such as water treated by reverse osmosis. -- , CMC, IBC and other sources.
If you are concerned about this salt level, also keep in mind that unless the drinking water supply has been tested and you have a detailed report, the level of various minerals (and other substances) that are in hard water which has not been processed by a water softener has an unknown level of minerals and other materials, possibly more significant than the 8 mg of sodium per liter of treated water.
A water softener which is improperly adjusted or malfunctioning may place higher levels of salt into the building water supply. The salt level in the backwash discharge from a water softener can contain high levels of salt but that discharge is not delivered to the building water supply but rather to a drain. See SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS for water softener adjustment advice.
In our water quality articles we suggest that people who need to avoid salt even at low levels may want to install a bypass water line to deliver water to one sink tap for drinking and cooking, or they can install a reverse osmosis system to remove salt from water (and other contaminants) at the point of use, typically in the kitchen.
A water softener removes minerals from the water supply, particularly calcium and magnesium, and perhaps a limited amount of un-wanted iron in the water supply. Keep in mind that a water softener is not a water sterilizer. If your water supply is contaminated with bacteria, chemicals, or sediment, the water softener is not designed to remove those substances and other treatment or filtration may be needed.
More details about water softeners and their salt contribution to the drinking water supply and thus to the septic system can be read at SALT OR WATER INTO SEPTIC.
How Much Salt is in Water that has Passed Through the Water Softener?
The answer is ... it depends. If a softener is working correctly and is adjusted correctly then the salt level in treated water should be quite low. Kenmore gives this interesting example of the effect of sofened water on salt consumption:
Also see REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER TREATMENT.
Watch out: if a water softener is not properly adjusted and maintained you may find that higher levels of salt are being placed into the building water supply.
Plumbing Cross Connections at the Water Softener - Bacterial Contamination Health Risks from Plumbing Cross Connections at the Water Softener
A "cross connection" is a direct physical connection between a building water supply pipe and a drain pipe.
This may sound like an unlikely event in buildings but in fact it is common in a few instances: installers often make a tight connection between the water softener backwash/discharge drain (usually a small diameter plastic tube) and a building drain.
While it is not unique to water softener installations, this plumbing error is often made when these devices are installed. It is unsanitary and is a health risk.
Watch out: never connect a water softener drain tube or pipe directly to a building drain (as shown in our photographs above. Doing so risks back-siphonage of sewage into the water softener and thus risks dangerous contamination of the building water supply.
For bacteria contamination or other water contaminant test guidelines see WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES. Also see CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING for details about cross connections and various places where they occur in building plumbing systems.
Cross connections are defined with further examples at Home Inspection Definitions & Terms.
Environmental Impact of Salt in Wastewater
The build-up of salt in wastewater, wastewater disposal soils are undesirable. The effects of salt (Na or Sodium) ultimately reaching ocean waters are of no consequence and in bodies of fresh water are of little consequence - at least at the level of residential wastewater disposal. More details about salt in wastewater are at WASTEWATER BIOCOMPATIBILITY
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Is there a hazard drinking liquid brine?
Is there a hazzard drinking liquid brine - email@example.com 8/26/2012
Certainly, no one would, should, nor could (without getting sick or vomiting) drink the salty brine found in a water conditioner salt tank.
If you were actually asking if there is a hazard drinking water that has been conditioned by a water softener and that might contain low levels of salt, start reading our answer at Health Risks of Water Softeners: Water Softener Salt in Drinking Water & Other Risks in the article above. If questions remain, just ask.
Questions & answers or comments about problems with the operation of aerobic septic systems
Try the search box just below or if you prefer, post a question or a comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
Search the InspectApedia website
HTML Comment Box is loading comments...
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.