Read Our COVID-19 Update - 02/11/20

The government have announced a new national lockdown, to start with effect from Thursday 5th November 2020.

The government have also confirmed that trade businesses that work in customer homes may continue as long as they are COVID Secure, which Hydroworks has been throughout the pandemic.

Our team will continue to follow all strict social distancing guidelines, including sanitising and now the wearing of masks in customer homes where customers are present.

If we are working within your home, such as changing a filter or servicing a softener, or installing a new softener, we would ask that the area we are working be well ventilated.

The company policy is that we will sanitise our hands on arrival at your home, and on departure too.  If we touch surfaces within your home, we will inform you which surfaces we have touched, and we will sanitise those surfaces too with a light bleach solution before we leave.

Our salt was manufactured and stored on pallets more than 30 days ago, and will only have been touched by the member of our team who delivers it, and their hands will be sanitised.  We will deliver your salt to your home, and if safe to do so, will leave it in your desired location.  If you would prefer your salt to be left outside your home, then we will ascertain beforehand where your preferred safe point is.

Lastly, we will confirm with you that no one in your home is experiencing symptoms or self isolating when booking the appointment to come and see you, plus when confirming the appointment the day before, Daniel will also confirm that no one in your home is self isolating or experiencing symptoms at that time too.  

As a final precaution, when we are on our way to your home, the individual coming (Laurence, Alex or Pete) will also call you to confirm that not only are we experiencing no symptoms, but to ascertain that no circumstances in your own home has changed either.

We remain committed to the safety of our clients, and together we will get through this safely.

Any questions, please call Laurence on 07976 036101 or email the team on hello@hydroworks.co.uk


COVERING KENT, SUSSEX, EAST SURREY & SOUTH EAST LONDON

Can you safely drink softened water?

Yes, and it's even considered 'wholesome'

Can you safely drink softened water?

Yes, and it's even considered 'wholesome'

Can you drink softened water?

There is so so much that has been said about drinking softened water, and it can be rather confusing. 

To offer the industry and consumers guidance, I wrote a document for the Harvey Water Softeners dealer network in 2014, in which I summarised the official position on drinking softened water. 

You can download that document here, or read through the points I covered below, along with a lot more detailed and specific information.

All of that said, you are in for a complete and interesting surprise as I have researched this exhaustively.

But before you go any further, it is important to note that the right decision is the decision that you feel most comfortable with.

Some companies recommend always having a hard water tap - that may be because they are in a very hard water area (such as Suffolk), or are very large organisations with a lot of staff, such as Harvey Softeners, where in those circumstances it is easier to have a simple 'one size fits all' policy that makes it easy for all staff to follow.

Let's look at the facts

Can I drink softened water?

Yes ... And it's even considered "wholesome".

The definition of wholesome is "conducive to or suggestive of good health and physical well-being". 

In this context, 'Wholesome' means Healthy and Drinkable.

Wow!  But I thought salt was bad for you?

Let's be clear, the salt we use in water softeners doesn't go into our water supply, but instead is used to create a brine solution which is used to flush the calcium ions (chalk) we remove down the drain.

When your softener is in service and providing softened water, the chalk is removed by a process called ion exchange which replaces calcium (chalk) for sodium.  As hard water flows through the softener, the resin exchanges 'calcium for sodium', 'calcium for sodium', 'calcium for sodium'.

When the softener is full of chalk (calcium) and cannot soften any further, it then pops offline and a process called 'Regeneration' begins.  The sodium ions in the brine solution are then flushed through the resin, this time exchanging in reverse, 'sodium for calcium', 'sodium for calcium', 'sodium for calcium'.  Once the regeneration is complete, the resin is ready to work once again.

The traces of sodium left behind in the water supply are minimal and of an entirely safe level.  Our bodies need sodium to live, and how much sodium we need is guided in the UK by the Department of Health

Interestingly, in the new, Third Edition of the World Health Organisation's Guidelines on Drinking Water Quality 2003, there is no sodium guideline.  

It only states that concentrations in excess of 200mg/l may impart a taste.

It is the UK Department of Health that recommend limiting sodium concentrations to 200mg/l in drinking water for babies (see more at the bottom of this page), and those individuals on a medically-prescribed, salt-restricted diet.

Did you know that there is already sodium in mains tap water?

Our mains water across the UK contains sodium, and the level of sodium is regulated by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (part of Defra) who guide local water authorities that a maximum of 200mg/l of sodium is permissible.

This guidance shows that as mains water is permissible to have up to 200mg/l of sodium, it is considered safe for everyone to drink water with sodium up to this level unless they have been medically advised not to drink mains tap water.  This level is set low at 200mg/l so that it is safe for consumers to drink the water safely, even if they are under medically prescribed directives. You can read this document here.

The sodium levels in local mains tap water are obtainable from the water boards, and all areas in Kent and Sussex are significantly below this 200mg/l level.  Specifically:-

Average mg/l of sodium in mains tap water (max 200mg/l)

13     Ashford

23     Brighton

28     Bromley

15     Canterbury

23     Chatham

48     Chislehurst, Orpington & Petts Wood

21     Croydon

22     Dartford

22     Deal

13     Dover

22     Eastbourne

12     Faversham

17     Folkestone  

21     Herne Bay

35     Haywards Heath

20     Horsham

17     Kemsing

26     Maidstone

18     Sandwich

23     Sevenoaks

22     Thanet

20     Tunbridge Wells

21     Whitstable

15     Worthing

When we soften water, as an industry we always follow the advice to recommend that customers don't drink water where sodium exceeds the maximum that could be obtained through the mains water supply, i.e. 200mg/l

How much sodium is added to water during the softening process?

For every 100mg/l of calcium carbonate hardness taken out of the water, 46mg/l of sodium goes in.  

The sodium limit will be exceeded where the water is extremely hard, for example above 425ppm (parts per million) - this level of hardness is not typically found in the South East, and is more commonly found in Suffolk and parts of Norfolk.

In Kent and Sussex, allowing for local mains water sodium levels, and hardness levels, the typical sodium in the softened water supply is always below the recommended guidelines and is therefore safe to drink.  

These local readings are:

Average mg/l of sodium in softened water (max 200mg/l)

138    Ashford

148    Brighton

159    Bromley

156    Canterbury

187    Chatham

191    Chislehurst, Orpington & Petts Wood

146    Croydon

163    Dartford

166    Deal

153    Dover

126    Eastbourne

130    Faversham

162    Folkestone

146    Herne Bay

81      Haywards Heath

101    Kemsing

94      Horsham

174    Maidstone

187    Sevenoaks

166    Thanet

167    Tunbridge Wells

146    Whitstable

138    Worthing

How is hard water measured, and when is soft water, soft?

There are many ways to measure water hardness, and you get an approximate hardness level by ringing your South East Water in East Kent or Southern Water in West Kent and Sussex.

Alternatively, we'd be happy to come and do that hardness test for you based on your own home's water supply.

Sometimes we can find that one part of a street differs to another part of a street, which sounds bizaare, and in those circumstances it all depends which way the water main comes in and where it is served from.  

We prefer to use the Hach test kit as it is the most accurate way outside of a laboratory to get an accurate hardness reading.

The Hach test kit uses the universal method of measurement Parts Per Million, PPM, which is directly drawn on the Hach test kit from the American form of measurement of Grains per Gallon.

How many people drink softened water?

Millions!

During the 1920's and 1930's, water softeners started to be sold to some homeowners, hotels and many other businesses, to improve the taste of drinking water.

In the USA, there is no myth surrounding softened water use for drinking purposes, and over 1 million people a year have a water softener installed.

Today there are millions of water softeners in everyday use in American homes which are used for drinking water purposes.  In some parts of the US, almost everyone needs a softener because of the hardness of ground water, but millions of others are bought as a preference item due to dry skin conditions, to remove scale or to keep homes and appliances looking like new. The same happens in the UK.

To the knowledge of the UK industry, on agreement with the USA findings, there has never, in over 90 years of history, been a health-related problem reported that was associated with a water softener.

What does softened water taste like?

The Precipitation Test.                              ​This photo shows chalk in a test tube, which is then sat in a glass of tap water, showing the contrast between what we can't see, and what we can, once we add a simple chemical to the water that precipitates the hardness out.​                 The definition of Precipitation is the "cause (a substance) to be deposited in solid form from a solution."

Everyone has a different perception of taste, so this depends on your individual preferences.  

We become so accustomed to the flavour of chalk in our water that we think that the way hard water tastes is the way it should.  

Try the following experiment - the results may be quite a surprising:

If we took a glass of hard water and looked at it against a window or light, it would appear clear, just as we would expect - we cannot see the dissolved chalk in the water.  

But if you were to take a sample of that same water, and place it in a test tube, and precipitate the hardness out (done by adding a chemical - we can do this to show you), immediately the chalk will become visible (see photo to the right).  

If you then took a sip of the original glass of hard water and rolled that water over your tongue while looking at the vial of precipitated chalk, you would immediately notice a slightly 'fuller' texture - in other words, you would feel the dissolved chalk in your mouth.  

- - -

By removing dissolved chalk from our drinking water, the flavour of water initially tastes different from what we are used to, and as stated previously, everyone's perception of that taste is different.

To myself, (Laurence), when I first tasted softened water I thought it tasted like boiled water gone cold; Flat. My mother thought it had a slight metallic taste. My dad couldn't tell a difference, and many customers have felt that the water tastes "clean and fresh", the way water should taste.

Today, my tastes have changed, and I went through a period of tasting a slightly sweeter taste, and now can't tell the difference other than knowing I much prefer the texture of softened water on my palate.

Many other customers describe it as 'beautiful' and feel that it enhances their pleasure of a cup of tea.

- - -

Something worth remembering:

It is worth noting, however, that softened water always tastes stronger for the first 2-3 weeks while the new softener 'beds' in.  This is because the resin comes supercharged from the factory, as it is a manufactured component (a bit like a new oven has a new smell for the first few uses).

Over the few weeks, the taste settles and you will also increasingly become familiar with the taste, and we often find that within a few weeks, customers are much preferring the refreshing taste of softened water, often describing it as, 'beautiful'.  

Don't forget, softened water will always taste different to hard water as it doesn't have dissolved rock chalk in the water, and chalk masks everything, creating a taste that we often associate with what water should taste like.

What effect does softened water have on babies?

This is the most complex question to answer as it is also the most emotive. For that reason, the best advice for any parent of a young baby is to do your research, and make a decision that sits well with you.

There are, however, a few things to be aware of. What the industry say, and what the NHS say.

The industry takes its lead from water regulations, which encompasses all the guidance available.

Industry:

The leader in the European Water Softening sector is Harvey Water Softeners, and they have been a driving force behind clearing up the regulations on drinking water.

Harvey's chairman, Harvey Bowden, states here on their website:

-

"We generally don't recommend using softened water with baby feed. You can use softened water for baby feeds if the sodium concentration is below the 200 mg/l limit for sodium. So, it isn’t recommended if you are unsure of your water’s sodium concentration - which is likely in most cases.

The 200 mg/l sodium level was set by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in the Drinking Water Regulations.

This limit was adopted to make sure that the total sodium levels in baby feeds, plus the water added, does not exceed 350 mg/l, considered a safe level for infants."

-

The guidance relates to the initial approximate 6 weeks of a baby's life while their kidneys are still being formed, and then, as a baby progresses from new born to infant, their tolerance to sodium increases. Where applicable, the options are to either leave a hard water drinking tap, or to fill a jug from an outside hard water tap, and keep it in the fridge for the initial few weeks.

Our experience is that customers who go on to drink softened water then stop using the hard water tap out of preference, and that means the hard water tap can very quickly become a bacteria and algae harbour, which is less than ideal, particularly if that is used very infrequently.

Pretty much all of Kent, Sussex and South East London fall typically within the low sodium level zone, with the exception of homes supplied by boreholes or well water.  If you are uncertain, we can always guide you.

NHS position on new born babies and softened water

The NHS offer blanket advice based more around sterility and prevention of infection, "To reduce the risk of infection, it's best to make up feeds 1 at a time, as your baby needs them. Use freshly boiled drinking water from the tap to make up a feed. Do not use artificially softened water or water that has been boiled before." - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/making-up-infant-formula/

and the NHS have also produced a booklet which says,

"It is best to use drinking water from the tap that has been freshly boiled (and cooled slightly to 70 ̊C or above) to make up a feed. Do not use water that has been previously boiled or artificially softened water. This is because the balance of minerals in previously boiled water and artificially softened water may not be suitable for making up formula feeds."

This advice is provided on the basis that there are many different types of baby formula foods, some with higher levels of sodium than others.

Hydroworks will always do what you prefer.

Give me some facts and figures?

Let us compare a glass of softened water from London (typically 300ppm of hardness) with other items we may have as part of our diet.

Meet our happy customers

We'll show you how their softeners were installed too!

Richard Cook - Herne Bay

Alison and Stuart Roberts - Herne Hill, Kent

Len Halsall - Eythorne, Kent

Meet Mavis... we're choosing the best Quooker for the home

Richard Cook - Herne Bay