If you live in a small community or rural area, you are probably familiar with water softeners. Water softeners are devices attached to home plumbing system that are designed to eliminate certain problems that come from having “hard” water - problems like discoloration of tubs and sinks, unpleasant odors/tastes, or stiff, scratchy clothes (after laundering).
Hard water comes from certain types of wells, and the term “hard” refers to the fact that well water tends to have a rather large amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium. Water softeners work by removing these substances, but to do so they have to add a replacement. Commonly, that replacement is sodium.
In areas with very hard water, the softened water coming from your tap can actually add a significant amount of sodium to your diet. The harder the water, the more sodium the softening system must add to replace the dissolved calcium and magnesium.
In order to figure out how much sodium your softener is adding, you’ll need to contact your local health department, who will be able to tell you the mineral content of your well. You want to ask for the hardness of your water in “grains per gallon.”
You can multiply this number by 8 to find out how much sodium (expressed in milligrams per liter) is added to your water by your water softener. In general, typical softened water contains about 12.5mg of sodium per 8oz glass. If this water were graded according to the same scale the Food and Drug Administration uses for foods, it would be considered “very low sodium.”
If you live in an area with very hard water, or tend to drink a lot of tap water, this extra sodium can start to add up. Studies have shown that significantly decreasing sodium intake can lower your blood pressure by up to 8mmHg.
Some things you can do to combat sodium in your water include:
- Switching to a non-salt based softening system
- Using bottled or filtered water (a simple pitcher filter will work) for cooking and drinking
- Having a plumber disconnect the cold water system from your softener, so that only hot water (used for bathing and laundry) is softened