Can Soft Water Relieve Eczema Symptoms?

by Brian L Published 11.21.2013

This past summer my cousin Cindy and her two young daughters visited us from southern Florida. One of the things we talked about was her daughter Sissy’s eczema. The itching at times is almost unbearable especially in the heat of the Florida summer. And to top it all off, some children are starting to pick on her about the appearance of her skin. I remembered reading recently about a study done by Kinetico and “talkeczema”, one of the UK’s largest eczema support groups. Some members of "talkeczema" received a Kinetico water softener for a three month trial. At the end of the study, a substantial majority of the participants reported less itching and reduced severity of their eczema. Since she mentioned that she was considering an extreme move to Alaska for relief from the eczema, I suggested to Cindy that it might be worth it to give a water softener a try. I know from my own travels to Florida that the water there has seemed quite hard, so I was sure there was room for some improvement in that area. I had no idea how dramatic the changes would be.

Cindy sums it up better than I ever could, "I cannot believe the change in Sissy's skin. About a week after installing the softener I stopped using [the antihistamine], a couple weeks later I stopped the steroid cream. Today her skin is absolutely beautiful. There are some spots still healing, but she no longer scratches." When Cindy had some problems with the installation and was told that there might be a lot of work involved in getting the system to work correctly in her older home, she had this to say, "The thought of not having the soft water was devastating to me as it would be like washing Sissy in battery acid." Fortunately, the installation issues were resolved without having to revert back to hard water.

Sissy's knees and hands before…

…and after

So there you have it. I’m no water expert, nor am I a doctor. All I know is the water softener helped to relieve my young cousin’s skin condition. I get the feeling that there is no way Cindy would ever choose to live in a house without soft water again. She had this to say, "I am extremely happy with the Kinetico product. Take a look at the attached pictures, the improvement in her skin is unbelievable. She is much more comfortable as well. The more the word gets out there about water softeners and eczema the more children and adults can be helped."

Contact Brian L.


What is hard water, and how does hardness affect my home?

by Cathy J Published 10.15.2013

Most homes have hard water, whether it is supplied by a private well or a municipality. Although hard water is comprised of naturally occurring minerals and is not known to be harmful to humans or animals, it has the potential to cause damage to skin, hair, water using appliances and plumbing.

Pure water is the universal solvent. It is tasteless, odorless and colorless but as it makes its way through soil and rock, it dissolves minerals and holds them in solution.  The two most common minerals that make water hard are calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). The higher the calcium and magnesium content of the water, the higher the hardness level.

Hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg). Water with a range of 1.0–3.5 gpg is slightly hard. Conversely, water that is more than 10.5 gpg is classified as very hard. However, even small amounts of hardness in a water supply can be detrimental.

Water Hardness Scale (grains per gallon)
Less than 1Soft
1.0–3.5Slightly Hard
3.5–7.0Moderately Hard
7.0–10.5Hard
Greater than 10.5Very Hard

A white film or spots on shower doors, glassware or fixtures may indicate hardness. The film may also be left on skin and hair after bathing, resulting in dryness and the use of extra hair products and lotions. Additionally, hard water can leave mineral deposits in pipes and water using appliances. This is apparent when the flow of water is decreased or when appliances become inefficient or need multiple repairs. According to the Water Quality Association, a consumer's water heating costs could increase as a result of hard water. When hard water is heated, the minerals can precipitate and form scale. This scale build-up forms an insulating barrier between the heating element and the water to heated.

Hardness also has an effect on soaps and detergents. The cleaning properties of detergents and the amount of suds produced are diminished. Calcium and magnesium ions actually react with soaps and detergents to create “soap curd”, sometimes called “soap scum”. Soap curd reduces the life of clothing and makes them look gray or faded.

Hard water is treated several ways. The most common household method involves ion exchange which occurs when the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged for sodium ions in a water softener. This process is explained in more detail in the video, How a Water Softener Works. One disadvantage of ion exchange is that sodium is introduced into the water supply. Consumers on a sodium restricted diet need to count this as part of their daily intake if drinking softened water.

Water may also be softened with chemical precipitation. This process involves imparting lime in the water supply to raise the pH. When the pH level is high enough some hardness compounds will precipitate and can be filtered out. With chemical precipitation, the amount of hardness in the water will be reduced but not completely removed. The water may also be cloudy and the precipitate can cause build up.


How do water softeners know when to regenerate? Time-initiated vs. Demand-initiated

by Stuart P Published 6.10.2013

Once people learn what water softeners can do to improve water quality, they often ask specific questions about the regeneration process. One of the most common topics is how the softener knows when to regenerate itself. Let’s examine two major categories of water softeners, time-initiated and demand-initiated.

Time-Initiated

Regenerating a water softener based on time was one of the first methods developed for automatic operation. Timed units put an end to the days when the softener operator had to start the softener by hand. Many of these control valve designs incorporate either a motorized or digital clock which has selection options for both the start time and number of days between regenerations. When this type of softener is regenerating, the control valve opens a path for untreated water to go directly to the taps. The clock is often set to start regeneration in the middle of the night to minimize the amount of untreated water going to the faucets or into the water heater. The regeneration interval must be a number of whole days and can be as often as every night, or as infrequent as one week or more. Careful thought must be given to selecting this interval to prevent either salt waste or hard water going to the taps.

Consider this analogy of refilling your car’s gas tank by using a clock. After estimating how many miles you usually drive, and taking into account the size of your gas tank, you may decide to add 12 gallons every four days at noon no matter what. If you drive less than usual, you will overflow your gas tank at the pump. If you drive more than usual, you’ll run out and be stranded in the middle of a trip. 

Time-initiated softeners must be set based on estimates of water usage. If you have extra people visit, do extra loads of laundry, bathe your dog, wash your car or fill your kiddie pool more than what was planned, the softener will deplete and begin delivering hard water to the taps. Likewise, if you go on vacation and use no water at all, the time-controlled softener will regenerate needlessly and give you no value for the salt and water used each cycle. What is often done in practice is to be somewhat generous with the regeneration schedule, and plan for the worst case. This prevents hard water breakthrough for some cases of unplanned over-use, but is more costly to operate than a perfectly adjusted system. 

Some softeners have sensors that can detect when regeneration is needed. These override the clock to some extent, but the unit still has to regenerate itself in the middle of the night in whole-day increments. This still the leaves the possibility for unexpectedly high or low water use in that one-day period to make a softener regenerate too late or too early. Still further sophistication to the time-based system adds an automatic adjustment of the salt to increase efficiency.

Demand-Initiated

Demand-initiated water softeners start their regenerations when the capacity is depleted, which could happen at any time. It’s like filling your car’s gas tank when the gauge says it’s empty. A meter integral to the control valve totalizes water passing through the system. Based on how hard the water is, the meter is adjusted to start regeneration when the softening resin reaches the end of its usefulness. When the meter gives the signal, the control valve begins a sequence of regeneration steps, which typically include drawing in brine, rinsing and backwashing. Afterwards, the tank is ready to put back into the service stream and soften again.

Some systems using demand initiation have small tanks and short regeneration times. That’s how they limit the passage of hard water going to the end user. Other demand systems have a second softening tank which goes into use as the other tank begins its regeneration. This system allows virtually no untreated water to escape to the end user. Both types of demand systems get consistently good salt efficiency since the resin beds are fully depleted and “hungry” for the salt being used every single time they regenerate. More softening capacity is captured in a fully depleted bed than a partially depleted bed just like a hungry person is more likely to finish their dinner than one who just ate.

Comparison / Conclusion

We’ve explored some basic differences between softeners using timers and those using demand-initiated regeneration. Perhaps knowing these differences will be useful to you if you ever seek water treatment for your own home or business.

Contact Stuart P.


Sodium in the water supply from a water softener: how much is in there and what it means to your diet.

by Diana M Published 7.25.2012

Drinking and thinking… It’s not as maudlin as it sounds.  I sat down with a cool glass of water and my thoughts drifted backwards.  It hit me that I’ve been talking about water for 20 years!  Immediately my thoughts went to how boring I must sound to my friends and I quickly decided to go back to pondering the depth of the water topics rather than a lot of self analysis (much safer ground!).

How can there be enough about water to talk about it for 20 years? Some subjects are frequent, common topics and of course there are always new concerns cropping up regarding water quality.  One of them is sodium. 

Many conversations have revolved around the amount of sodium in the water supply from a water softener.  The fact is that most of the sodium is sent to the drain, not to the house.  Regardless of the water softener brand being used, there’s an easy calculation (see infographic to the right) to let a homeowner know how much sodium ends up in their water. There are also easy solutions for removing it, such as filtration.

So yes, I’m aware that there’s concern about sodium in softened water. But what about the sodium that occurs naturally in ground water or the sodium we take in from the foods we eat?  As an example, an apple contains one or two milligrams of sodium.  That’s pretty insignificant in the overall plan of less than 1500 mg per day. But the thought of trying to find all the sources of sodium makes my blood pressure go up even higher. Who knew apples had any sodium at all!?  On the other hand, sodium is required by the human body, so much so we have taste buds to detect it.  Ever crave potato chips?  I have found that peanut butter cups are the perfect blend of salt and sweet. Smile

I live in a rural area of northern Ohio.  Salt is commonly used as a de-icer for the roads in the winter.  How much of this salt makes it to my well water supply?  Lake Erie is famous for the salt mine under the lake.  How much salt is naturally in the ground around my home?  I do have a water softener contributing some salt to my water supply and I like apples. When I stop to think about how much sodium is all around me, I guess it’s a good thing I’ve learned to cook using herbs as replacements for salt.

The Mayo Clinic has an excellent Q&A regarding the amount of sodium water softeners add. They state, “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.”

Here’s a recipe for an herbal salt replacement that you can mix up and use on most anything.  Mix it up and keep it stored in an empty spice jar:

• 1 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper
• 1 Tbsp garlic powder
• 1 Tbsp onion powder
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
• 1 tsp dried savory
• 1 tsp ground mace
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tsp dried sage

This can be altered to your taste.  I leave out the mace, cayenne pepper and onion on chicken.  For beef, I usually leave out the sage and thyme.  Cloves and/or caraway go well with pork. These are all great to use in soups and stews in place of salt, as well. Play with it and make it your own. It's a fun way to eliminate sodium, that is, if you like to work in the kitchen.  I’m getting hungry...

 

Contact Diana M.


It wasn't the soap, it was my water!

by Guest Bloggers Published 6.22.2012

L. Heiden has been in the water treatment business for more than 25 years. Currently, she is a National Account Executive for UL and is an active member of the Water Quality Association.

Before my 25 years working in the water treatment industry, all I knew about water was that it was wet and I liked to swim in it. As a child I lived several different places but the one I called home was my grandparent’s house in a small village in Northeastern Ohio. This was the home that my father and his siblings grew up in and eventually where I spent my teenage years.

As a teenage girl I took lots of showers. I remember we always used a beauty bar soap which was supposed to be made with “¼ moisturizing cream.”  Funny, but I also remember my skin feeling tight and dry and because of that, I always felt that this was bogus advertising.

As a young adult with a husband and new baby, I lived in the same house in the small village that I grew up in.  I finally got to choose which soaps I wanted to buy and use. I knew one thing; it would not be that bogus soap with the cream in it.  Well, it turned out that no matter what soap I bought, I always had that dry tight feeling after showering. To try and combat this, I’d pour on the lotions and goop up my baby girl with baby oil. This was only a temporary fix.

Eventually, my husband and I bought a house in the country, about fifteen miles away from the house in the village where I grew up. The water in the country was very different. Instead of that dry tight feeling, I was left with a sticky, filmy residue after showering.  It was at this time in my life when I was first introduced to water treatment.  It was like a light clicked on in my head when I started working at Kinetico. I finally learned why there was such a difference in my water when I lived in the small village versus the water in my home in the country. The house in the village was on a city water supply which took water from seven different wells (not always the same ones) every day and chlorinated it to make it safe to drink and use.  This chlorine was the source of my dry tight skin when I lived in my family home; the same feeling you get after swimming in a pool! The water in the country was supplied by a private well on our property. This water was not chlorinated so I did not get that dry tight feeling. However, it was loaded with iron and had a lot of hardness made up of calcium, magnesium and other minerals. The hardness in the well water, along with the iron, I learned, was binding with the soaps and creating a soap curd which clung to my skin and created that nasty sticky feeling after showering. A water softener to get rid of the hardness along with a prefilter ahead of it to trap the red iron and sediment was the cure. I was now able to enjoy my showers and guess what, I could even use that moisturizing soap and realized that the advertisement was not what was bogus it was my water quality!

Now as a mature adult, I’ve come full circle and once again live in the old family home in the village which is now considered a “city” as the population has grown to a whopping 5,000 people! When I first moved back there was an issue with the water meter. The city water department sent a technician to check it out. While he was working on the meter I told him how disgusting I found the water in our village to be. He was surprised and a little shocked.  He informed me that most people felt the water in our village was great.  I am not sure he understood the difference between people thinking the water was great and people not realizing how much better it could be. I’ll admit it …. I am now a water snob after becoming accustomed to dechlorinated - iron free - soft water thanks to my Kinetico equipment. It happens to the best of us. Once you have water without chlorine, minerals, iron and odor, it is difficult to go back to what you previously thought was “great” water.

 

Contact L Heiden


How a water softener works – mystery solved!

by Stuart P Published 6.13.2012

In the world of home appliances, there are few more mysterious than the water softener. Most other appliances give blatant clues as to what they do. A blender puts its handiwork out there for us to detect with loud noises, swirling liquid visions, and conversation-worthy tastes. The furnace heats you up, the A/C cools you down, the leaf blower, well, it moves things around. Softeners are much more subtle as they serve silently in some inconspicuous location.

Why would you ever want to buy a mysterious silent appliance that lives on a diet of salt nuggets? Many people never make the connection and so they endure the effects of hard water without ever really knowing there was a solution. They take things like bathtub ring as a natural part of life. It is actually the product of a reaction between soap and dissolved minerals in the water. The technical term is soap curd. Yes, just like in the famous poem featuring Miss Muffet. A softener exchanges the dissolved calcium ions for sodium or potassium so this reaction can’t happen.

The softener accomplishes this amazing feat through a process called ion exchange, and it follows the physical laws of electrical attraction and chemistry. Just like the opposite ends of two magnets attract each other and the similar ends repel each other, ions seek to find their proper place as they float around dissolved in water. Ions are charged particles, so some have a positive charge of varying degree, and others have a negative charge.

A classic example of ionization can be seen in table salt, also known as sodium chloride or NaCl. When dissolved in water, the sodium atoms turn into positive ions by giving up a negative electron to the surrounding water. The chlorine atoms gain an electron, and in so doing they turn into negatively charged ions.

The media inside the softener uses this principle of opposites attracting each other. It is specially made to have a chemical structure with permanently ionized docking sites to attract and hold positive ions. These docking sites start out loaded with sodium or potassium ions from the salt regeneration process. When hard water passes by on the way to your faucet, the docking sites take on the hardness ions because the attraction is stronger. The ions from the salt are released in exchange, and the result is softened water. I have uploaded a video to this blog to help explain this process—please note the accomplished actor in the video :)

View this video on Kinetico's YouTube channel

Hopefully some of the mystery is gone, and you can better understand how softening works and some of its benefits. 

Contact Stuart P.


Water: Understand it, Value it, Respect it. Learn more about life’s most vital resource.

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