We all want to have high-quality drinking water in our home and at work, and we are familiar with how to achieve such desirable drinking water. Filters, bottled water, community water jugs, and more have been adequate alternatives to drinking straight tap water. But more recently, many people are asking about water softeners and how they influence the amount of contaminants in drinking water. The answer to this inquiry is simple: Water softeners are only meant to condition the water by removing the mineral ions that cause water to be hard, not contaminants. Contaminants in drinking water must be removed by another process.
Drinking water generally contains the usual fluoride, magnesium, calcium, and iron we know so well. These mineral ions (with the exception of fluoride) are the targets for water conditioning systems. As cold water passes through a water softener tank, the resin beads within the tank maintain a negative charge to attract all of the aforementioned positively-charged mineral ions that makes water hard. This process is called ion-exchange because the resin beads are coated in potassium ions (salt) which trades places with the hard mineral ions in the water to “soften” the water supply.
The hard mineral ions stick to the resin beads, while the potassium or salt takes their place in the water supply. Once the beads are saturated with hard ions, the water softener regenerates and the same process takes place, only this time, the resin beads swap the hard mineral content for potassium ions, and then the hard minerals are flushed away in a waste-water drain. So now you see why a water softener is not meant to remove contaminants from drinking water.
Many contaminants in drinking water are naturally-occurring and do not necessarily pose a health issue unless a person has a particular allergy, endures long-term exposure, or if the water contains extremely high traces of a particular contaminant. Some can actually be good for you, like potassium, calcium, and even fluoride. Common contaminants that are not too harmful in small or moderate doses include fluoride, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, selenium, sodium, silica, and chloride.
More dangerous and toxic contaminants, depending on levels of exposure, include sulfate, uranium, beryllium, silver, arsenic, lead, zinc, molybdenum, barium, aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, lithium, nitrates, nitrites, pesticides, herbicides, E. Coli (Escherichia coli), fecal coli-form bacteria, and much more depending on the region, country, state, town, city, or district.