Soft Water/Warter Softener Questions

jhnlngnSeptember 5, 2006

I really didn't want to start another water softener thread but I just couldn't really find any that answered my questions. Sorry.

We've just finished building a new house, that has a well, and were given a quote on a water softener. I'm a bit annoyed by the dealer because I never asked for a quote or my water to be tested. I guess my builder gave him access to my water and my contact info, now he calls all the time, twice so far this evening (whomever invented caller ID deserves an award). Anyway, my exposure to softened water is limited so I have a few questions re my experiences.

First, the only thing I know about our well water is what this dealer told me. He said the hardness was a 15 with a trace of iron. That's it. I think I'll call him and tell him to send me the results of his test. We aren't living there yet so I haven't tried showering or anything yet. If you try hard you can barely taste the iron in the aftertaste of a drink of water. You have to be searching for the taste to notice it. The water does leave a white residue in glasses and in water spots in the sink. I'm assuming this is due to the hardness and not something in our pipes due to new construction? Though I currently have hard city water and have never experienced this residue before.

Anyway, I'd like to eliminate this and save wear and tear on my appliances, so in comes the water softener idea. The draw back is that I've had miserable experiences with softened water. I wanted to see what everbody thought of my experience and see if it was due to soft water and if there are remedies to my concerns.

The first is obviously the "slimely" feel. I absolutly hate this. I don't even like to get dressed after I shower in this stuff. My hair feels heavy on my head and dirty and my face always breaks out. I've read that these are natural oils, so why do I breakout? The tubs are always slimey and slippery too. Why is this the case? I shave before I shower and the water just burns my face, it's very unpleasant! Is this from the salt getting into tiny nicks (not helped by this sudden acne outbreak that I get) and raw skin?

Currently we have city water and love it (I read that it has been named best muny water in Michigan). I "feel" clean and my hair has body, not flat and greasy feeling. I've never had any problems getting suds like I've read. Is it that it must not be too hard? I'd love to be able to replicate this water over at the new house.

So, do my soft water complaints sound typical or is something else also at work? Would going to potassium chloride over sodium chloride eliminate the "salt in the wound" feeling I get when I shower? I saw a thread about adding some hard water to the softened water that goes to a shower. Sounds like something I'd want to consider. Maybe I'd get used to the soft water but I'm skeptical because I nearly go nuts with it now. My grandfather has been using a water softener since 1980 and he still hates it, but my grandmother won't budge.

I was also wondering about softening water to be used outside. Will the trace of iron start to leave rust marks on the outside? Is water softened with sodium chloride safe for plants? And how much more does it cost to use potassium chloride (there's just the 2 of us)?

Thanks for reading my ramblings and thanks for any feedback.

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justalurker

If you don't like that dealer call a few others.

I don't like and my wife hates sodium softened water. We both like potassium chloride (KCL). Sodium softened water feels icky and tastes salty.

Potassium softened water won't kill plants.
Salt info here ... www.softeningsalt.com

There are two of us and our water is 26-28gpg. With a properly sized and setup softener we use one bag of KCl a month at a cost of $6.49 a bag. Cheap enough to favor the envirnment and our bodies.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 10:16PM
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jhnlngn

Thanks for the feedback. Could you describe "icky" and how potassium is different? Is it (icky) like what I described?

Are there any drawbacks to KCl other than cost? $7/mo seems reasonable enough.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 4:13PM
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justalurker

Sodium softened water kind of caught our attention and potassium softened water is more stealth soft. Both are hardness "0". We favor the KCl.

Many old timers and just plain stubborn water treatment people can't see spending any more than $3 a bag for softener salt. Kinda "that's what grandpa used and it's good enough for me" thinking.

As far as disadvantages, with ludicrously hard water over 25 or 30 grains or so and with a high efficency softener you'll use a little more KCl than NaCl because the specific gravity of KCl is lower than NaCl.

As I said, over a 10 year span with 26-28g hardness water we use a bag of KCl per month.

In fact, I believe Kinetico recommends the use of KCl in their softeners but don't quote me.

If I had 15g hardness water I'd have to have a softener and an RO under the kitchen sink. I wouldn't want to replace water heaters more often or expose my plumbing and fixtures and appliances to that abuse.

Get a good quality and properly sized softener, use KCl, and you'll get used to the water. And you won't be spoonin' that oil slick off the top of your coffee.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 5:20PM
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jhnlngn

Thanks again. That guy called me again this evening!

I don't want to have problems with my appliances, which is really the sole reason we're looking into these. If I had the same city water there I wouldn't even think about it. We had this condo built 11 years ago and have had zero problems with anything. Time to move as I figure my water heater is now on borrowed time.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 7:22PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

If you don't like the feel of the hard water but want to save appliances, only soften the water going to your hot water tank. That way some hardness will be added back to your shower water and you will cook with non-softened water (who in their right mind would want coffee made with softened water?) and you really only need to have the hot water softened anyway. Hardness (calcium and magnesium) have a reverse solubility curve, meaning they fall out of solution when heated, rather than dissolving when heated like most things.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 2:05PM
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justalurker

"You really only need to have the hot water softened anyway". REALLY? Cold hard water doesn't leave calcium deposits in every pipe it travels? Doesn't leave calcium deposits at every faucet and valve and coupling?

If you only soften the water going into your water heater you have hard water. Not sorta hard or sorta soft ... just hard water again. That water will not "save" appliances.

Softened water is fine to cook with or drink. The only difference between hard water and soft water is that the calcium ions are removed and sodium or potassium replaces them.

I don't favor sodium softened water but potassium is good for you ... eat a banana and you're eating potassium.

If softened water really bugs you then get an RO. Used along with a water softener you'll have the equivalent of bottled water, and it makes GREAT coffee.

Either soften the water or don't but water is either hard or soft and that's the truth.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 2:38PM
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jdp38

I think Alice might wanna go back to wonderland.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 3:06PM
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jefflaura

I too have very hard water-20gpg. We had a Kenmore water softner that gave me nothing but trouble, so I knew when it wasn't working properly by the deposits on everything. The dishes were the worst. I guess I have just gotten used to the "slimey" feeling because I do not notice it anymore, although if the softner is not working I can tell. I replaced my softner so my current one is much more reliable.

As for weather or not this dealer who keeps calling is telling the truth, would take a sample to be tested my self. For a ballpark, sears will do a free test and that will tell you if your being given the truth. also under no circumstances would I use that guy. Any salesman who pushes that hard a sell, I would never trust. Sales is one thing, pushy is another.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 11:40PM
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jhnlngn

Yeah, appliances like my fridge's ice maker take cold water and I definetly don't want any problems with my fridge.

I too agree on this salesman. He's really gotten on my nerves.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 7:25PM
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justalurker

jhnlngn,

Just as a note, we have hardness between 26-28g and the usual life of a water heater around here is 2-3 years with some failing in 1.5 years.

Intalled a softener and a new 50g water heater when we moved in in late 1995. I have an RO under the kitchen sink supplying an extra faucet for drinking, cooking, AND an icemaker. The water heater is still in service and the fridge is 18 years old and I have the only icemaker around that works and the cubes are crystal clear ... is there any other kind?

IMO the softener paid for itself in NOT replacing water heaters and icemakers.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 7:39PM
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sshrivastava

I don't understand this "slimey" feeling people are talking about. My skin feels very soft and smooth after using soap, is this what people are referring to? If soap isn't involved, the soft water feels no different than regular water to me. I'm running a Clack-based 40k grain softener with a carbon layer on top.

My skin just feels silky smooth, not slimey.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 2:44AM
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nelzee

Do I need to have my softner serviced? Three of us use this water who are having problems with skin and hair. otherwise
normal skin on face and hands feels dry like dessert summer hands. Hair is becoming broom-like in texture... Hands have a white dried up chalky look. Coffee maker and electric tea kettle have heavy deposits that go away with a hot vinegar/ water treatment. Glasses have spots and dishwasher does not clean efficently..all food must be removed before washing. Any advice??

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 1:46PM
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aliceinwonderland_id

It sounds like your softener is no longer softening. This could be happening for a variety of reasons. Have your water tested to see how hard it is before and after the softener. YOu could have a valve problem, a salt bridge, damaged softener resin, a partially plugged/channelling bed, etc. Get your softener dealer out to take a look.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 2:16PM
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justalurker

Aliceinwonderland pretty much covered it but I'll ask...

If you are getting deposits that "go away" with vinegar then your softener is no longer softening your water.

What brand of softener?
How long has the softener been in service?
Been doing the routine maintenance?
Has this hardness problem just showed up recently?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 9:07PM
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corona_nick

Excuse my ignorance but what is a R/O???

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 11:40PM
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justalurker

RO = Reverse Osmosis as in "RO" unit for under the kitchen sink.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 12:09AM
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matthysone

The in laws water tastes VERY salty. I might be able to chug a glass on a dare. The obvious reason is that the resin beads are not being flushed properly after the brine wash. It's a Kenmore, 10yrs old? maybe with an LCD display, and I've verified all the steps are working: fill; brine wash; resin flush; resin back flush; service. Since the problem likely is in the flush the only way I have of checking this step is verifying the flow of water down the drain and the change in water noise coming from the softener as it cycles through the steps. Things check out okay. Any ideas?
Please no dares.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 2:16AM
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aliceinwonderland_id

Does the water always taste salty, or just after a regen cycle? If it's only salty right after a regen, then you are likely correct and perhaps the slow rinse time needs to be increased. However, if it's always salty, there is likely a problem with the valve and brine is being siphoned into the water during normal operation. How does the unsoftened water taste?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 9:35AM
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matthysone

It is always salty and especially salty after the unscheduled regen I performed to test the system. Also some complaints of "slimyness" when washing hair. The unsoftened water tastes fine. We actually did the blindfold Pepsi test and the salty one was picked 100% of the time. It appears then the brine may be being siphoned back in as you suggest. The solution then would be to rebuild the valve assembly or replace the valve assembly, right? Thanks for your response.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 2:17AM
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blll

Not sure that this posted the first time; sorry if it's duplicated.
I've heard of someone "de-tuning" a salt softner to eliminate the slimy water feel. Does anyone know if that's possible, and if so, how do you do it?
Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 10:53AM
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justalurker

bill,

Always best to start a new thread for a new question rather than resurrect a two year old thread.

I've seen people use a "mixing valve" or modify a three ball bypass to feed hard water (from before the softener) into the soft water (after the softener) to temper the soft water. They end getting slightly hard (1-3g hardness) if they do it right and harder water if they do it wrong.

Doing that might satisfy their objection to that "slimy feeling" but at the cost of retreating back to hardness in their water.

IMO, if you have hard water then you want soft water... for all it's benefits. People I know who were initially 100% against the slimy feeling of soft water acclimated after a month or so and never gave it another thought. They especially liked the way their laundry and hair felt after washing with soft water. No one seemed to mind using far less detergent and soap or not having to repair faucet leaks and replace water heaters as often.

It takes a while to get used to anything new. A vacation to a motel or visiting family that has soft water is a short term exposure and often a very apparent change from what you're used to.

click here for info on "slimy" feeling soft water

Another consideration, if hardness in the water is considerable then the amount of sodium or potassium ions exchanged are greater so a "taste" becomes more apparent. 5g hardness water will taste different from 30g hardness water simply due to the additional ions being exchanged in the softening process... all other things being equal.

An under (kitchen) sink POU Reverse Osmosis unit works wonders providing pure water for drinking, cooking, and the ice maker or water spout in the fridge.

Regardless, there is no "salt" of any kind added to soft water. Adding "salt" would be adding NaCl or KCl and that is not done. The Na or K ions are exchanged but the Cl (chloride) ions are flushed down the drain during regeneration.

Softened water can and will taste different than hard water to a discriminating palette (my wife can nail it every time) but if the softened water does indeed taste "salty" and not simply different then the softener is not operating correctly and should be checked.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 12:33PM
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andy_c

A couple of issues there. First of all you can't have a glass that is 'extremely' empty; either it's emprty or it is not. Just the same mixing hard water with soft water will not produce soft water. Iron and calcium will come through and the problems caused by hard water will match the amount of hardness and iron staining you let through.

Secondly, I have noticed here and other forums that you are seeking free advertising and this is not permitted. Please stop sending posters and viewers to your private web site. If you had read forum rules you will understand that.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 6:07AM
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alterit

How much does a high end water softner and reverse osmosis unit cost?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 3:00PM
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dan_j_snyder_gmail_com

I am a first time home owner. I have an older waterboss model. Ben in the house for a year with no water problems. We are on a well, and it has taste great, and no staining. All of the sudden it has been going through salt like crazy, as well as the water really is starting to taste like iron.

Any idea's? Do I need a new one? If so, thoughts on the GE 30,000 grain from home depot?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 9:07PM
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justalurker

Dan,

Always best to start a new thread for a new question so you get the answers you're looking for.

Start a new thread and you'll get the help you're looking for.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 9:11PM
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