Water Softeners, good or bad??

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You'll get many opinions on this. Here's mine...
When we moved to central AZ where the water is very hard, we bought a new home which had a water softener installed. The entire water system within the house was fed from the softener, the only exceptions being the outdoor taps. From this experience we determined that we really didn't like the feel or taste of soft water. It wasn't a matter of getting used to it, as we spent nearly five years in that house.
We are currently in a rental with no softener and I'm glad.
Having said that, when we build another home I will specify a water softener to feed a separate water heater that provides hot water only to the dishwasher and to the clothes washer, as well as a cold water line to the clothes washer. We do not like or want softened water both bathing, cooking, or drinking. I will also specify an RO unit to feed a tap at the kitchen sink and to the icemaker in the freezer.
The benefits of soft water for dishwashering and clothes washing are amazing. Our comfort level for any other purpose is -0-.
--
Wayne in Phoenix

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Many people, including myself, much prefer the clean you get on yourself with softened water as well as the cleaner tub, shower or sink. When my water heater was drained after several years use with no draining, the water was almost completely clear and crud free. Toilets work much better than ones supplied by hard water.
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While i don't dispute that some people dislike softened water, i think there are many comfort level benefits other than for your appliances.
As you say, many opinions... so here's another. I know the OP said he already read about the pros and was just looking for cons but it makes more sence to re-iterate them all. And remember that hard/soft water is a scale. So one person's hard water won't be as bad/good as another person's.
Pros: - Saves your appliances, pipes, showeheads, and faucets. Anything that has water running through it, and especially if it involves heating, will end up with that hard water buildup over time. Sometimes it's visible but sometimes it's in the internal piping and you won't know about it until it completely blockes waterflow or bursts a pipe. I don't think any one disputes that softened water is better for your appliances. But this extends to your taps, and even the inside of your bathtub and toilet. You know the CLR commercials that advertize how CLR will remove that calcium buildup from your bathtub faucet. Well with a water softener you won't get the buildup. Same goes for toilets. So any pipe, cold or hot, benefits from a water softener. Just doing the hot water isn't a full solution.
- Much easier on the skin. I don't know the technical reasons for this but softened water is much 'softer' on your skin. I guess it has something to do with what minerals are left as the water evaporates. Hard water tends to leave a dry and itchy sensation on some people. Softened water doesn't.
- Easier to use with soap. Soft water allows soap/detergent/shampoo to lather. In hard water you will have a hell of a time getting a good lather with shampoo or a bar of soap. And if you do dishes in the sink you'll really notice the difficulty. I've been told that soft water is much easier on the clothes, meaning they won't wear out or fade as fast in the washer. I don't know if this is because of the soft water itself or because you can use less detergent than you would have to with hard water.
- Makes better tea/coffee. I haven't tested this but it's usually in the literature for softeners. OR maybe it's just because with hard water the inside of your coffee/tea maker is already filled with deposits which flake off when you make your next cup.
Cons: - Cost, maintenance. Water softeners can be expensive. A more expensive unit will regenerate less often usually due both to having more resin and being more sophisticated in determining when it needs to, instead of just doing it regardless every X days . Better ones also use less water to regenerate, and use less salt to regenerate. Other than the inital cost I've had no problems. I buy three 35KG bags of salt a year at $7Canadian a bag. No other mainteance required so far.
- Possible sodium intake. Some people think water softeners soften the water by adding salt. That's not true. The resin removes the minerals and when the unit 'recharges' it washes the resin with the salt brine. Some, but not a lot, of salt is left in the resin and therefore filters it's way into the softened water. As some peopel said you can use potassium chloride if you are on a low sodium diet. Or just get a separate hard water tap sent to the kitchen sink for drinking water. That's what I do. My entire house is softened except for the kitchen drinking tap and the outside taps.
- Washing soap OFF! Softened water makes soap lather much better. BUt it also makes it nearly impossible to get the last of that slick soapy feeling off your hands. It's not horrendously bad but after doing dishes and rinsing my hands off i usually run them under the hard drinking water tap for the final rince. I can notice the difference. Some shampo brands are worse than others when in the shower too.
Gad that's a long post. The only unavoidable con is if you really really dislike how hard it is to completely rinse the soap off while in the shower. But the itchy dry skin feeling from hard water is, IMHO, much worse so i live with it. Just start using Zest if it annoys you. Because 'Zest rinses you fully clean" :-)
Kevin
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That's what I recall from having only rainwater on the farm in my youth.
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On 07/13/04 02:02 pm kevins_news2 put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:
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