softened water in the kitchen for cooking - Is this a bad thing?

lalitharFebruary 9, 2012

I would love some advice from folks who have a water softener and a water filtration system.

We are installing a kinetico water softener and are planning a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtration system just for the kitchen. I had assumed that in the kitchen, the soft water will go to the RO filtration and feed the prep sink and the pot filler. But my friend says it is bad for people to drink water that has been treated in a water softener as it has very high sodium content.. even after it has been treated in a RO system! My plumber thinks it should be perfectly OK to drink and cook in softened water but thinks that the flow from the Kinetico RO system may not be enough to supply both the prep sink and the pot filler. I am not sure what to do..

-- Do I feed the kitchen RO water filtration system softened water or unsoftened water?

-- Any feedback on if I should limit this water to the prep faucet or just a drinking water faucet or can it support the pot filler as well?


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I have a kinetico softener and we are having a RO installed in a few weeks. I am having it go to the sink and fridge for ice. I always cook with the faucet softened water, we don't drink it....we don't like the taste of it. Added sodium is nominal, I wouldn't worry about it, it's about taste!

Not sure if I'll cook with the RO after its in or not, but we will definately use to drink, RO, takes everything outif the water, it's pure.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:14AM
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Flow rate on our Culligan R/O is very slow. I think they (mostly?) all are. I imagine you could use your R/O faucet OR the pot filler at one time... but not both. The flow rate was never a concern for me, though. I just learned to wait longer to get the better-for-me water. No big deal. (Our water is well water in orchard country. The benefit of R/O is significantly lower nitrates in our drinking/cooking water.)

I agree that the sodium content is nominal. One piece of white bread has 135 mg of sodium. The article below says a glass of softened water would generally have less than 12.5 mg.

From a Mayo Clinic article,

"Question: Water softeners: How much sodium do they add?
I'm on a low-sodium diet and paying attention to my sodium intake. How much sodium does a water softener add to tap water?
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 remove calcium and magnesium ions and replace them with sodium ions. The higher the concentration of calcium and magnesium, the more sodium needed to soften the water. Even so, the added sodium doesn't add up to much.

An 8-ounce (237-milliliter) glass of softened water generally contains less than 12.5 milligrams of sodium, which is well within the Food and Drug Administration's definition of "very low sodium." The majority of sodium in the average diet comes from table salt and processed foods. Thus, the best way to decrease the sodium in your diet is by cutting back on table salt and processed foods.

If you're on a diet that calls for very little sodium and you're concerned about the amount of sodium in your softened water, talk with your doctor. He or she may suggest testing the sodium concentration of your water or switching to a type of water-purification system that doesn't replace magnesium and calcium with sodium. Another option is to soften only the hot water and use unsoftened cold water for drinking and cooking. "

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 10:23AM
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I'm confused by your plumber; I cannot imagine the potfiller is a large user of water. Perhaps a gallon a day or so?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 10:29AM
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To be honest, I have never tasted softened water.. Does the water taste different? Will it add a discernable taste to cooked food?

Angie --> My plumber was just worried about the concurrent use.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 3:04PM
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I'm all for conservative design specs, and adequate capacity, but, for a potfiller? I suppose once in a great while you would be actively washing veggies while simultaneously desiring to fill a pot for pasta, and would have to delay washing your veggies for 20 seconds. Doesn't seem like an issue to me, but YMMV.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 4:28PM
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Hi Lalitha,

We installed a Kinetico water softener a couple of months ago, and will have the RO system put in our new kitchen (now under construction). Our area has very hard water (25-40gpm depending on which well the municipality is using). I believe that the amount of sodium in our softened water may not be something a person on a "low sodium" diet would want to drink regularly, but it isn't enough to be harmful to the average person. One main purpose of RO is that it's the only kind of filtration that will remove the sodium from the softened water. Other types of filters don't.

One complaint about RO systems is that, with some of them, the flow is low. If you want to use the RO water for you ice-maker, water dispenser on the fridge - you need a system with a certain amount of power, and a big enough tank. I foget which model that is, but I'm sure the salesperson would know. I don't know about the potfiller question (we aren't getting one, so I never asked).

I have been cooking with the softened water, and using it for rinsing vegetables, etc... I don't think you need RO for a prep sink (you'd probably need such a big tank it wouldn't fit under the sink). Our softened water tastes o.k. (much better than our "un-softened" water was), but not as good as RO or the bottled water we've always bought.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 4:33PM
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When I installed a whole house water softener system years ago, I quickly decided I did not like the taste of the softened water....It does taste salty to me.....Not like sea water, but still has a salty taste. So I had a separate line for cold hard water run to the kitchen sink. Now I'm a happy camper...I have softened water for hot water, hard water for cold (and in Utah, it is quite hard), and when I use a moderate temperature, it's a combination of soft and hard water....It all works well.

So, you might want to consider this as a possible, permanent solution to whatever type of soft water system you put in your house today, or in future years.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 5:13PM
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To answer a statement, The pot filler might be 1 gallon, but so is the RO tank. And you'll empty it in about 5 seconds. Well, maybe 15.

If it were me, I would connect the PF to unsoftened water (but I might put in a filter if water quality is a concern). The RO would go to the ice maker and a separate spigot on the sink/prep-sink.

BTW: the outside faucets don't need treatment.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:10PM
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Lalitha, I prefer to use unsoftened water for cooking and drinking because of taste and higher sodium content of soft water. The potfiller and the refrigerator in the new kitchen have hard water. All the other water sources, used mainly for cleaning veggies and dishes, have soft water. It works well for us.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:12PM
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The cold water to the kitchen sink is not softened (neither is the water to the exterior of the house). The cold to everything else and all the hot water is softened. The water to the fridge comes off the cold water at the sink, so it also is not softened.

And there is a noticeable difference in the taste - I sometimes will get a drink out of the bathroom cold instead of going to the kitchen. I would not say it tastes salty, but it does taste different.

I don't worry about using the hot water for cooking. But I always have the option of heating up the unsoftened water if I want to.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:25PM
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I have a whole house softener system with RO filtered water for drinking water and the ice maker in the fridge.

The softened water feeds the RO filter. The RO filter tap takes about 10-15 minutes to fill a stock pot so I'm guessing it is probably not the best choice for the pot filler.

I'd just use the regular, whole-house treated water for that.

Best wishes,

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:34PM
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I fill our pots with our R/O faucet. It has a five gallon tank, not one like someone mentioned above. That has always been adequate for cooking pots (it has never gone dry.) Thus, it would also be adequate for a pot filler application.

RE: fill time.... it takes a couple minutes to fill a large pot. I'm not sure how large of a pot Doc is referring to.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 8:39PM
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I bought a water softener a couple years ago, and it can use either sodium or potassium. I use potassium - it's more expensive, but really doesn't add up to much a year, and I don't have to worry about sodium. Also, I avoided having to have additional piping to bypass sodium-softened water for watering my outside plants.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 11:19PM
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In my current house:

-Whole house water is softened except outside garden taps
-i have a Watts 5 stage RO filter for drinking water which also feeds the ice maker in the fridge

I use RO for all cooking/drinking. You want to supply RO with softened water because very hard water wil clog the RO filters/membrane in no time. RO WILL remove the sodium. I fill large pots with softened water. I will be adding salt to the water usually water anyways. I could use Potassium, but be careful if you are going to drink Potassium softened water, I hear too much isn't good for you.

In my new house, I will have:

-whole house water is softened, except garden taps and 1 cold water line to main kitchen sink
-RO filter off cold prep sink softened water
-RO will supply fridge's icemaker and hot water instatap

I now have a choice to use either unsoftened water, softened water or RO water for pots and drinking. I will most likely use unsoftened for pots, softened for washing, RO for drinking. :)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 12:07AM
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We have similar setup with whole house softener and single RO tap at sink for drinking. Comments above pretty much summarize our experience.

I must admit though that I laugh a bit at the notion of not using softened water for a pot filler. When I learned how to cook pasta, I was told that the water should be "salted as if for soup." Another friend's benchmark was "salty as sea water!" No question that for quality pasta, or veggies, or about anything else you'd cook in a pot full of water, you'd be adding tons more salt than your softener would ever add!

And on't get me started on the sodium police!!! One of the most ridiculous things in the public health/nutrition community is the universal condemnation of salt, in the absence of any rational reason to do so. Salt is bad for a small percentage of people who are hypertensive. That is the only known link between sodium and heart disease. If your blood pressure is normal, there is no reason to worry excessively about sodium--certainly not obsessing over 12.5 mg! Watch any chef in a restaurant season food and you'll see how critical salt is to good cooking. Fortunately most of us can consume it without worry.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Hi Clinresga,

I agree that the salt one would add to typical cooking would be more than the softener. In my case however, we have family members who take medicatio for high BP and are on low sodium diet. I have to find out if our particular softner adds sodium and if the RO system would remove it like twgg explains.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 12:23PM
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My RO filter (unfortunately not Kinetico) uses softened water, and hard water clogs the membrane pretty fast. The Kinetico does not clog as easily as mine does (according to testing at Consumer Reports), but I would still use softened water. The RO will remove the sodium so I wouldn't worry about that.

The Kinetico RO filter claims to have a high enough production rate that it would be great for a pot filler. I used to use my RO water all the time for boiling pasta, but now it doesn't produce enough. My new house will have Kinetico, though, going to the refrigerator and a separate faucet at the prep sink (we won't have a pot filler or I would use it there).

If you live in an area with very hard water like I do, it would be crazy to soften only the hot water. Everyone here bypasses the water softener only for irrigation water.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 2:20PM
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