Most people only soften the water going to their water heaters. Soft water
is primarily of benefit in washing skin, clothes, or dishes, not for cold
water uses (unless you only wash your clothes in cold water). Therefore the
water is normally diverted before it goes out to the sprinkler system,
(assuming you irrigate only with cold water), leaving your sprinkler system
water hard. However, depending on what minerals make the water in your area
hard, there might be other issues. For instance, some hard ground water in
some areas also can make the soil alkaline or otherwise inhospitable to
plants. Maybe you want to check how things were done in your installation.
There should still be a tap at the pressure tank before the water
softener where you could draw hard water (use this for watering your
lawn and garden too so you don't run so much water thru your softener
and have to recharge it as often.)
OTOH, the sodium will not build up as bad as the calcium it replaced, as
long as you water until it runs out the bottom of the pot. If your pots
do not have drainage holes, I think the sodium buildup from softened
water will be worse forthe plants than the calcium buildup from hard water.
I connected the outside faucets ahead of the water softener and sediment
filter. That way we have hard water outside and soft water inside. I
disagree that having softened cold water inside is unusual or undesirable.
Most people don't shower or bathe in 100% hot water; maybe 50-50, but not
all hot. If all your cold water is hard, your bath, shower, and laundry
water will be partially unconditioned. I find that having softened water in
the toilets eliminates mineral build-up and makes them easier to clean.
Soft water for laundry drastically reduces the amount of detergent needed.
I have switched to nearly all cold water washing, and of course, I always
use cold water rinse option.
Having softened water for irrigation is at best a waste of money and is not
recommended for the health of your plants. I don't know if it would kill
them since you will have some rain as a primary source of water unless you
live in a very dry climate. The rain should leach away some of the sodium.
You also have the option of using potassium chloride instead of sodium
chloride in the softener. Potassium chloride costs about twice as much as
salt, but over a year's time that would only add up to an additional $20-$30
if you use 4 pounds of salt each week. I have never seen any comments about
the use of potassium chloride softened water on plants, but my guess is that
it might actually be beneficial. If so, the addition expense might be lower
than paying a plumber to reconfigure you pipes. If you live in an area
where the winters are cold and you don't irrigate most of the year, you
could use lower cost salt in the cold months and potassium chloride in the
months that you irrigate.
If you have access to the plumbing ( like in a basement or crawlspace), you
should consider reconfiguring the lines so the outside taps bypass the
softener. If you can't do that, you can use a bypass valve at the softener
to manually bypass the system when you water. Most softeners come with a
bypass valve as part of the installation kit. If not, you can buy one.
And, as I mentioned, you can simply use potassium chloride instead of sodium
chloride in your softener.
YES! Softened water will harm your plants, to different degrees,
depending on what kind of chemical the softener uses. As for the
previous mention of potassium chloride being beneficial to plants, this
is not true. Anything you use in a softener will hurt your plants.
The chemicals used in them are all soluble salts, the same as
I have had softened water for nearly thirty years. I have two faucets
outside, one hard, one soft. The soft faucet is for the spot free car wash.
I occasionally water my plants with the soft water, and have never noticed a
I too, have all my inside plumbing connected to the softener...keeps
everything cleaner, easier.
Not all salts created by fertilizer are water soluble. And, what comes
out of a softener is not what you put in the softener. Water softeners
use ion exchange resins that take out calcium and magnesium ions and
replace them with sodium ions. The calcium and magnesium is combined
with the chlorine and discharged into a drain as calcium chloride and
1) Softened water is not recommended for watering house plants, lawns
and gardens due to its sodium content;
2) water used in recharging a water softener may over load or reduce the
effectiveness of small septic or sewer systems;
3) there may be health risks from sodium intake;
4) softened water is not recommended for steam irons or evaporative
coolers. The best choice for such appliances is distilled water or water
from a reverse osmosis unit.
In potted plants, this is a serious problem since the sodium ions build
up and form salts which are toxic to many plants. It is best to use
naturally soft water for plants in containers.
When watering potted plants it is best to water from the top and to
discard the water that comes out the bottom drain hole.
Pardon my spam deterrent; send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers, Steve Henning in Reading, PA USA
This is all true, but it ignores my point about using potassium chloride
instead of sodium chloride. As far as I can tell, potassium is a required
nutrient for people and plants. People who have sodium sensitivities can
use potassium chloride in their softeners. My question is if the potassium
used in a softener would be beneficial, harmful, or neutral in relation to
the health of your plants.
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