Although the minerals in drinking water are beneficial to good health, the aesthetic effects cause by hardness are the most common reasons to soften water. The typical equipment used for this purpose is the ion exchange softener. Softening is accomplished with synthetic resin media by exchanging ions of calcium and magnesium that attribute to hardness with ions of sodium. Although this method of softening produces water with zero hardness, it is important to understand the limitations of the process.
- Ion exchange softeners increase the sodium content of the treated water and may be potentially harmful to persons that are on sodium restricted diets or are just health conscious. People should limit or restrict the amount of softened water they consume for food preparation.
- The softening process removes the chlorine residual from the water and may accelerate bacteria growth within the plumbing system.
- The disposal of spent brine solution and rinse water from softener regeneration is becoming a major problem and can impact wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems. Softener byproducts are corrosive to material they contact and possess varying toxic levels in relationship with the environment.