Water hardness is indicated by its levels of calcium, magnesium and sometimes iron, according to Colorado State University. Because the presence of these minerals can be a nuisance, especially when it comes to using the water for cleaning, many people use a water softener on their water. Soft water is created using sodium and an ion exchange process, eliminating the minerals in the water while adding sodium and potentially other chemicals. Research has shown that the there are several health effects, both positive and negative, of using soft water instead of hard water.
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Increase in Sodium Intake
Because salt is used to remove minerals such as calcium and magnesium from soft water via the process of ion exchange, the sodium content in soft water is higher than that of hard water. This increase in sodium can have adverse effects for those who are restricting their sodium intake due to health concerns. The high levels of sodium in soft water can also dissolve potentially toxic metals such as cadmium and lead from pipes, adding them to the contents of the water. Colorado State University recommends that those using a water softener should either drink bottled water or install a separate faucet for unsoftened drinking water.
Reduced Mineral Intake
According to Lenntech, the removal of several essential minerals in soft water can have many adverse effects. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are essential elements needed by the body, and even though a large amount of their intake is provided through food, research suggests that even diets high in these minerals may not fully compensate for their absence in drinking water. According to Lenntech, the absence of these minerals throws the body's state of homeostasis into imbalance, leading to increased urination, a decrease in red blood cells and even an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Benefits to Personal Grooming
The minerals in hard water interfere with almost every cleaning task, says the University of Nebraska. When soap and hard water combine, a sticky substance known as soap curd is formed. This residue can be very difficult to get rid of and has adverse effects when bathing. This soap curd prevents the skin from returning to its normal condition, leading to possible irritation, and makes hair lifeless, dull and hard to manage. Soft water, on the other hand, contains none of the minerals that combine with soap to form soap curd.