The best water softeners prevent minerals and lime scale from building up in pipes, hot water heaters, and other appliances. Repairing the damage caused by this type of buildup can be very expensive, and it is much less costly to invest in the bast water softener than deal with the repercussions of hard water later.
Water in different locations has varying amounts of minerals, salts, and chemicals that occur naturally. Left untreated, water with high mineral content can cause a variety of problems.
Hard water affects our bodies, too. While the minerals in natural water can be good for us, constant consumption of very hard water is suspected to contribute to the formation of kidney stones and gallstones.
If you have long hair, hard water can make it unmanageable – there are plenty of shampoos and conditioners that can help to neutralize the effects of hard water, but they can be expensive. Hard water can build up on your skin as well, making it dry and preventing moisturizers from being absorbed effectively.
Types of Water Softeners
There are various types of water softening systems that can be installed to take care of all the water in your home. The best water softeners are:
• Salt-Based – Salt based water softeners work on the principal of ion exchange. While water that has been softened using a salt based system is not recommended for drinking or watering houseplants and gardens, it does extend the life of appliances like dishwashers and washing machines and make the water used for showering and bathing feel better. Many people who prefer salt-based water softening systems leave at least one kitchen tap unsoftened so that they can use it for drinking water, or they use an additional filter on taps used for drinking.
Salt based softening systems are sometimes banned because of the amounts of sodium that they release back into groundwater and public systems. There are greener options available.
• Salt-Free – Salt-Free water softeners do not require the same type of maintenance that salt-based do – there are no additives to buy, and water does not contain added sodium so it can be used for drinking and watering. This type of softening offers the same longevity benefits to appliances, and the same soft-feel to water used for personal care.
In addition, they do not fall under the same type of bans that salt-based water softening systems do, since they do not release any sodium or other chemicals into the environment. Salt-free softeners are a good green choice.
• Reverse Osmosis – Expensive reverse osmosis systems can waste water, and can be hard to maintain. There are different types of reverse osmosis systems – but, in general reverse osmosis softeners are not beneficial. They strip all essential elements from water, so it is not as healthy to drink and it is not good for lawns, gardens, or pets.
Be sure to check your local ordinances, before you decide best water softener to purchase – laws vary, just as water does.