We’ve covered how Water Softeners remove minerals which are harmful to your plumbing. What about things that are harmful to you? Water softeners are only effective against minerals. Bacteria, chlorine, even sediments will go through a water softener as if it were never there in the first place. With or without a softener, you’re on equal footing with everyone else: your water may be dangerous.
Testing the Water Supply
It’s a good idea to test your water supply every few years or after major changes such as construction in your area. We recommend testing because in most cases, it’s affordable, harmless, and it’s near impossible to notice subtle changes like lead leeching into the water supply without testing. This is an ounce of prevention to avoid a pound of pain.
There are generally two ways to test your water: Over the Counter Kits and Mail-In Services. The kits can be found online and in your local plumbing and hardware stores. These kits will generally use testing strips and chemicals you mix with some water in a bowl. They start at around $20 for a basic test and it goes up from there for broad-spectrum tests that will cover everything you can find without ten tons of lab equipment. In some cases though, that ten tons of equipment might make sense. There are commercial labs and even universities that will test water samples for a premium. These tests will indicate specific contaminants, how much is present, and give your plumbing specialist a good idea of what filters to use, if any.
Can the Water Really Be That Bad?
Unfortunately, safe water is not a given, even in the US. Your city may use lead pipes to pump water in. Local construction, farming run off, or even some less than responsible factories may contaminate a well. There’s even cases of people unknowingly poisoning themselves from their own leaking fuel or sewage tanks. Stupid things happen all the time.
The range of things that can get into the water is pretty staggering. E Coli for example, can easily contaminate water if it washes into the aquifer from grazing fields. This particularly nasty little germ will cause extreme stomach illnesses, capable of leading to severe dehydration, hospitalization, and death. Heavy Metal poisoning can lead to organ damage, organ failure, brain damage, and more; worse still is that there aren’t always treatments except to minimize the symptoms after exposure.
What If There IS a Problem?
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to handle water contamination. Regardless of whether you’re using well water or city water, there’s filtration options for basically every contamination imaginable. For everything else, there’s additives to neutralize and counteract those contaminants.
Carbon Filters are one of the main go-tos for filtration. They’re generally able to filter anything from 50-0.5 micrometers in size. This is enough to tackle chlorine, radon and some large bacteria. It’s a good general-purpose filtration system.
Ultra Violet Light Sterilizers are often used where viruses and bacteria are the bigger problem. UV Light is one of the main factors behind skin cancer and sunburns. It’s a higher energy than we can see, it’s able to penetrate and damage skin cells, and it’s amazing at killing bacteria. Bacteria and viruses have just their cell walls and shells to block the light, it’s not enough. They get cooked and destroyed rather than burned.
Viruses, Bacteria, and Heavy Metals can require something more complicated when you need to remove both. In these cases, there is Reverse Osmosis. Osmosis is the chemical process of water moving through a membrane. This is on the heavy-duty side of purification. It’s used for the final stages of sewage treatment and for desalination. Take a look at the desalination applications in the video below.