Salt Water Facts

Hello again everyone! In our last article we talked about how to test your water at home. For this post we’re going to go over some fun facts about salt water.

One of the issues people often find with their water isn’t that it necessarily needs filtering but that it’s too hard. So the first thing people think is if a water softener might fix the problem. But how do water softeners work? Do they use salt? And if they use salt, doesn’t that leave you with salt water?

We’ll discuss, so first let’s get into what salt water is exactly.

Salt water is basically any water that’s over 3% salt. All of the oceans contain salt water, but you can find it in brackish water as well. Water is typically less salty where you have fresh water mixing into the ocean, like from a river, and it tends to get more salty where you have a lot of water evaporation, like the Red Sea.

So why is ocean water salty? We wondered the same thing! It turns out salt isn’t just one thing, there are loads of different types of salt: chloride, sodium, magnesium, sulfate, calcium, and so many more. So why is it in the ocean and not the rivers?

Well, it sort of is!

Rainwaters works its way through the soil, dissolving minerals from rocks and picking up minerals in the soil. It enters the river, which always has a fresh supply of water coming in, and then works its way into the ocean, accumulating there as water evaporates off, leaving the salt.

Super interesting, right? So how does that relate to water softeners?

First, a quick video:

Well, one of those salts, which can be accumulated from the ocean, is sodium. Sodium is what helps the ion exchange process to take place in a water softener. The salt sits in the water softeenr, waiting for water to come through. Because the minerals in water that make it hard have a positive charge, they get trapped in the water softener, thanks to the dissolved salts.

So wouldn’t this make your water salty? Not so! Or even hard, from the sodium?

The amount of sodium that’s left in your water is minimal and doesn’t have the same effects that the hard minerals do, so we don’t mind it in the water supply. Water always has some amount of sodium, so this isn’t that big of a deal.

Testing 101: Getting Started With Your Water

Hey folks! Getting started here with our first guide, which takes us through some of the benefits of self-testing and the problems which can arise. We’re going to use a home’s water supply as an example because it’s something we all have, it’s pretty inexpensive to test, and helps set the stage for a testing-oriented lifestyle.

So with anything you want to explore, you should always wonder why. What are the benefits to me? What could I find?

Start with a prediction of what you think the outcome will be. Make sure it’s something where the stakes matter to you (hopefully your water’s safety counts!).

Water is going to be a bit tricky because we have all different sources, so be sure to test:

  • your filtered water
  • your tap water
  • bottled water (as a control)

If you haven’t done anything like this before, I promise you it’s addicting. We’re going to take you through some other tests you can run on your own (like power supplies, lux produced by a light, car exhaust, etc) in the future, but if you can come up with a performance you want to measure, I’m sure there’s a test you can perform (and be surprised when it differs from the manufacturer’s own stats).

Plus, Minnesota’s Department of Health recommends everyone test their well water, which around 13% of Americans use.

On to water!

There’s loads of ways you can test: you can send water to a laboratory (it might not seem like testing, but gathering the sample and sending it off are important parts!), bring in a water testing expert to your site, or DIY (do it yourself). We’re going with the third option as it’s the cheapest and has the opportunity to teach you the most.

Test #1: Get a water quality report from your town.

This one is pretty easy, it relies on the fact that it’s very likely that the water has already been tested if it isn’t from a well. So you can contact the EPA for what’s known as a Consumer Confidence Report. This is going to let you know the source of your water, past tests which were performed, and it’s a good basis for knowing the quality of the water before it hits the pipes closest to you.

You can also get in touch with your water supplier directly, they’ll have the same report if you have trouble finding it from the EPA.

Test #2: Use a home water testing kit

You can find these kits everywhere (I won’t recommend a specific kit in this post), what they’re going to do is test for common contaminates like lead, bacteria, or chlorine. They’ll also test for:

  • water hardness
  • pH
  • copper
  • pesticides
  • nitrites

Each test kit will come with its own instructions, and you can even purchase several different types to verify the outcome. Most of these tests are single-use, so they’re consumed after the test. There are TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) tests which you can purchase which are reusable. They don’t tell you exactly what’s in your water, but they can let you know if further testing is advisable.

Another way to verify is going to be to compare it to another type of test:

Test #3: Have your water company (or consultant) test your water

Your water supplier should have their own tests that they’re happy to offer. Many people don’t know this, but if you just request a water test they’ll likely offer it for free (or a very small charge). It can take a few weeks to get a result back, so it’s not quite as satisfying as using your own kit, but the testing they can perform in a lab is significantly more thorough than what’s available at home.

They’ll break down all of the contaminants in great detail, so be careful about pursuing this route if you’d rather not know what’s inside your water.