I'm trying to watch the sodium in my diet. Should I be concerned about sodium from water softeners?
Answer From Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.
Regular tap water contains very little sodium. The amount of sodium a water softener adds to tap water depends on the "hardness" of the water.
Hard water contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium. Some water-softening systems replace calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. The higher the concentration of calcium and magnesium, the more sodium needed to soften the water. Even so, the added sodium shouldn't be an issue for most healthy adults.
Levels of sodium in drinking water are very low in most water systems. In an Environmental Protection Agency survey, the majority of water systems tested had less than 50 milligrams (mg) of sodium per liter. Based on this data, a fourth of a liter (about an 8-ounce glass) of water would contain less than 12.5 mg of sodium, which falls within the Food and Drug Administration's definition of "very low sodium."
However, if you're on a very low-sodium diet and you're concerned about the amount of sodium in softened water, you may want to consider a water-purification system that uses potassium chloride instead. Another option is to soften only the hot water and use unsoftened cold water for drinking and cooking.
In any case, it's important to keep in mind that the majority of sodium in an average person's diet comes from table salt and processed foods. Thus, the best way to decrease sodium in your diet is by putting away the saltshaker and cutting back on processed foods.
April 08, 2016
See more Expert Answers
- Drinking water advisory: Consumer acceptability advice and health effects analysis on sodium. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/ccl/regulatory-determination-1-contaminants-first-drinking-water-contaminant-candidate-list. Accessed Feb. 9, 2016.
- Yarows SA, et al. Sodium concentration of water from softeners. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1997;157:218.
- Guidance for industry: A food labeling guide. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/labelingnutrition/ucm064911.htm. Accessed Feb. 9, 2016.
- What you need to know about water softeners. Consumer Reports. http://news.consumerreports.org/appliances/2012/01/what-you-need-to-know-about-water-softeners.html. Accessed Jan. 9, 2016.
- Sheps SG (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 9, 2016.
- Kaplan NM, et al. Patient information: Low-sodium diet. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 29, 2015.