We are all looking for easier, more convenient, less expensive, and environmentally friendly ways to do things around our homes and one of the commonly marketed products to help do this are “salt free water softeners.” The question that begs an answer is how effective are these systems at providing soft water, or the benefits that water softeners provide.
An internet search for salt free water softeners can sometimes create more questions than answers. There are multiple listings of companies selling these products making all sorts of claims about their product capabilities and other listings from various entities that repudiate these claims.
Over the past 20 years or so I that have been involved with the water industry I have come across information from various sources that may be helpful if you are considering one of these products. In the mid 90’s there was a surge of interest in “salt free water softeners” and at that time several respected organizations did research and published their conclusions.
A leading consumer publication tested magnetic water treatment devices to see how effective they are at protecting water heaters from scale build up. They installed new water heaters in homes and ran one on soft water, provided by a conventional water softener, and others had water from a salt free water softener coming into it. After a couple of years the water heaters were removed, cut open, and examined for scale build up. The water heater that had the salt free water softener providing water to it had no measurable difference in scale build up than if it had had no water treatment at all. In fact the scale build up in the water heater was no different in any way, in quantity or chemistry, as compared to the water heaters that had untreated water flowing through them.
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection also published a Consumer Alert titled “Magnetic Water Treatment Devices Do Not Work.” They quote a water chemist as saying “We could find no measurable water quality benefit that the units provided. If the devices really worked, every public and private water supply in the state would be using one by now; but the fact is – they are not.”
In another study commissioned by the Water Quality Association the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was selected to determine the effectiveness of salt free water softeners. In the executive summary of their report Dr. Dan Carda states: “The study found that there is no change in the physical and/or chemical properties of the water treated with permanent magnetic devices.”
Recently I discovered a website that lists many of these products that are sold to treat water but make claims about being able to do so without filters or salt and it provides analysis on the science behind them. This may also prove helpful as you seek to sort fact from fiction.