4 Drawbacks Of Water Softeners You Must Know About

Are you thinking about installing a water softener? Water softeners are a popular modern convenience, but what about the disadvantages? Considering how the entire family will use this water, it’s important to be aware of any problems related to these systems. This way, you can make an informed decision that’s best for your family and home. 

The primary disadvantages of water softeners are that they are very expensive to install and maintain, and they may be dangerous due to the elements they add to your drinking water. These elements can include lead, which is poisonous, and salt, which is harmful to those with certain health conditions.

To help you decide whether a water softener is a good choice for you, here are some disadvantages to consider. Cost is always a major factor in these decisions, but the safety and health of your family will always take priority over any advantages offered by modern home improvement.

Disadvantages to Consider Before Installing a Water Softener

Water Softeners are Expensive to Install and Maintain

You can expect to spend anywhere from $800 and $2,000 for a water softener, depending on which type of system you go with. The system should last up to 15 years, but there are other costs to factor in. Depending on your water source, you might also need a pre-filter to remove heavy particles or a purifier to remove bacteria before it reaches the water softener.

Installation of a water softener will likely set you back around $500, and that’s assuming no other modifications to your current system are necessary. To give you an idea of what to expect, the water softener needs to be installed near a drain and an electrical outlet, which could lead to additional work.

Water Softeners cost

To keep your system running efficiently, a yearly inspection is recommended. This yearly inspection plus regular scheduled maintenance runs between $150 and $300, and unfortunately there’s no getting around it. If you want to keep the water softener running, it needs salt refills and regular cleaning. 

Down the road, the water softener will need repairs just like any other system in the home. Lines become clogged, valves fail, and switches break over time. Fixing these problems will cost you anywhere between $40 and $500, depending on the root of the problem.

Another cost that a lot of people are unaware of is the extra water it takes to run a water softener system. If your water is metered, you can expect the monthly bill to go up as soon as your system is installed. On average, you can expect a 10% to 12% increase in your water usage with a water softener.

Possible Health Risks of Soft Water

Possible Health Risks For Those Who Need to Be On a Low-Sodium Diet

Salt plays a major part in the water softening process. Most systems work by exchanging sodium for calcium and magnesium in the water, so your softened water actually has salt added to it. The amount of salt added depends on how much calcium and magnesium was in the water to begin with.

Depending on the hardness of the water in your area, there should only be trace amounts of sodium in your softened water. Even so, this added bit of daily salt consumption can pose a health risk for those who require a diet low in sodium. 

Disadvantage of Water Softeners

While the amount of added sodium in softened water seems miniscule, it’s a good idea to bear this in mind before installing a system. Some health conditions are just too serious to take this lightly. In this case, the risks might outweigh the benefits of a water softener.

Possible Health Risks of Removing Minerals from Hard Water

In the same way that added salt can be harmful to some, the removal of calcium and magnesium can pose health risks as well. The medical community has long since established the importance of these minerals in our diet, and some studies have shown a link between calcium and magnesium in drinking water and increased health and longevity. 

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While we can always add calcium and magnesium supplements to compensate what is lost by a water softener, it’s an additional hassle and chore to work into our daily lives. Plus, there is the added cost of supplements to consider, which will add up to the thousands for the family over the years.

The exchange of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sodium might not seem like a big deal initially, but there’s definitely potential for long-term impacts on health. Like we mentioned before, there are other water systems to consider if you are uncomfortable with these risks.

The Taste of Soft Water

Soft water is supposed to be neutral and without taste, but most people can detect a difference between hard and soft water. Interestingly, this difference in taste goes back to the exchange of minerals we discussed.

Calcium and magnesium, even in trace amounts, do add a mineral taste to water that a lot of people enjoy. Like we talked about before, a water softener takes calcium and magnesium out of hard water and replaces it with sodium. The more calcium and magnesium your hard water has, the more salt your soft water will have. This salt does give a detectable taste to the water, even making it difficult to drink for some. 

The Environmental Waste

The operation of water softener systems do pose problems in regards to sustainability and environmental waste, both of which are areas of growing concern. These problems are caused by the additional wastewater produced and the mineral exchange that happens in the softening process.

As we talked about before, you can expect to use 10% to 12% more water with a water softener system. The extra water usage is problematic in itself, especially if you live in an area that’s heavily populated or suffering from drought conditions. Even if the extra cost of the water usage isn’t an issue for you, you might want to consider the impact you’ll have on water conservation efforts.

We talked about how water is softened by removing calcium and magnesium and replacing them with sodium, but how does that impact the environment? Just like we do, aquatic systems and crops rely on minerals in water and can be negatively impacted if nutrients are removed as they are in the water softening process.

Added Salt can Leach Poisonous Elements from Pipes 

A water softener does effectively remove heavy minerals that can lead to scaling and buildup in pipes, but there’s a cost involved. The calcium and magnesium that’s removed is relatively benign, but the added salt is volatile and much worse for the plumbing system, and possibly even your health.

The addition of salt is a very important part of the water softening process, and unfortunately this mineral can leach harmful elements from pipes, namely lead and copper. Lead consumption is known to cause a lot of serious health problems and poses a serious risk to children. Even a small amount of lead is harmful, and it accumulates in the body over time.

Regular water analysis is recommended in order to catch dangerous levels of lead, and this can be done during your yearly inspection and maintenance. Unfortunately, by the time lead has been detected, it’s possible that damage has already been done. 

Hard Water Vs. Soft Water

A way around lead contamination is the installation of water filters on taps. While this eliminates the concern of your family being exposed to lead poisoning, there is the additional cost and maintenance to consider. A good carbon filter can cost as little as $20, but it don’t last very long and needs to be replaced several times a year.  

While there are ways to protect your family from lead poisoning, it might be a good idea to consider the cost versus benefit of constantly having to monitor and filter the water. Like we talked about before, lead poisoning is very serious.


Water softener systems are a wonderful modern convenience, but as we can see, they are not without their downfalls. 

Upfront cost of a new system, regular maintenance, and repairs will cost several thousands over the years, making this a big investment. That doesn’t even include any additional installations, like carbon filters to remove lead contamination.

There are also possible health risks to consider before installing a water softener. The added sodium in soft water can exacerbate some health conditions, while the calcium and magnesium removed from hard water are shown to be beneficial to health.

All of these are important factors to consider before making such a big purchase for your home. For you, the risks might outweigh the benefits, and an alternative might be a better option. 

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