Q. Can a water softener harm the septic tank?
A. Some say water softeners are bad for septic systems, among other things, but up to this point nothing has been conclusively proven. For the most part, brine from water softeners can be discharged into septic tanks, but check with local authorities to be sure. Concerns about damage can be avoided with portable exchange water softeners.
Q. How can you tell if water is soft?
A. Mix soap flakes (pure soap, not detergent) with a cup of water and shake. If suds last several minutes, the water is soft, but if there are no suds or scum is visible, the water is hard. Soap always forms a curd when it mixes with calcium and magnesium and suds when they aren't present. A more scientific determination can be made by taking a sample and sending it to a lab or having a company come do the test. They will confirm how hard the water is so you can find out what it means for your home.
Q. Can softened water be used on house plants or the lawn?
A. If the water being softened isn't very hard to begin with, the amount of salt added might not be enough to harm plants, but generally speaking, plants do not respond well to soft water and show it through stunted growth or death. Regardless of whether you've added a little or a lot of salt, it is always a waste to use soft water where it isn't needed.
Q. How much will the salt cost?
A. Although a benefit of water softeners is using less soap, most agree that the amount of money spent on salt won't be covered by soap savings. Water softener salt will likely be a few dollars per person per month, unless you opt for the significantly more expensive potassium chloride.
Q. Can you drink softened water?
A. While there are health risks for some people, there is a general consensus that drinking soft water won't harm healthy individuals since it contains no more salt than many food items consumed safely every day.