Last updated - November 19th, 2021
If you are like most, then alkaline, distilled, purified, and tap water all sounds the same. What matters to you is water quality meaning that it is clean, fresh, and drinkable. You might have not even heard of softened water.
Here, we will be discussing softened water as a drinking water alternative.
What Is Softened Water?
Softened water is the opposite of hard water. Water softening is a water filtration process that removes hard minerals and chemicals such as calcium and magnesium from water. Keep in mind that water softening is not the same as water purification and will not remove all contaminants.
The most important thing to understand about softened water is that water softening is a filtration process, not a purification process. If you intend to drink this kind of water, make sure you use an external filtration or purification system with it.
The History of Softened Water
In the 1800s, Harry Stephen Meysey Thompson and Thomas Way discovered a calcium sulfate solution when ammonium sulfate passed through a specific form of soil, and they found the concept of water softening.
In the 1900s Russia developed the first zeolite softening system. After this, a company in New York called Pfaudler Permutit New York introduced a better zeolite system. This system could remove hardness from water better than any other system at the time. Water softeners at this time were expensive, large, and heavy.
As technology progressed, water systems became more accessible to the public and easier to maintain.
Different Water Softening Methods
There are many methods to soften water. The most common is through reverse osmosis or an ion-exchange resin.
Reverse osmosis is a method that demineralizes or deionizes water by applying pressure through semi-permeable osmosis membranes. A semipermeable membrane is a filtering material that allows only certain ions and molecules to pass through.
An example would be the roots of plants absorbing the nutrients and water it needs.
Ion-exchange swaps hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium, for sodium minerals. The resin in modern softeners consists of negatively charged tiny beads.
Ion exchange works by traveling hard water over the resin beads in a pressure vessel tank. Adding a brine solution to the resin bed allows the absorption of sodium from the brine, removing magnesium and calcium.
The ions calcium, sodium and magnesium are all positively charged. The ion-exchange method can also remove many other contaminants such as radium, arsenic, and mercury.
The Washing-Soda Method
Sodium carbonate can temporarily or permanently remove hardness from water. Adding sodium carbonate to the water transforms the sulfates and chlorides of both the chemicals magnesium and sodium into their carbonates and will eventually get precipitated.
Lime Softening Method
Lime softening is a water treatment that involves calcium hydroxide limewater to remove the hardness of water for water softening. The precipitated solids must be removed after lime has been added to the water before it is safe for human consumption.
Softened Water vs. Distilled Water
We have ever made a comparison between distilled vs purified Water. And Softened water and distilled water are both purified forms of water. Yet, they are very different. While both are clean and safe for human consumption, it is best to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both water types.
Distilled Water: Pros and Cons
Water distillation uses heat to vaporize water to get rid of any contaminants. Let’s take a look at the benefits of distilled water with the table of advantages vs disadvantages:
Softened Water: Pros and Cons
While we have already discussed what softened water is and the different processes there are, there are many additional benefits and downsides to this kind of water. it is great not only for drinking but also for household use.
Some of the advantages vs disadvantages include:
According to an industry statistic, the market size for water softeners is about 7 billion dollars as of 2017 and continues to grow.