The weather is getting warmer and some people have begun planting and gardening. One thing many people wonder is if they can use the softened water from their water softener to water plants.
Softened water can do a world of good in a home. From reducing the amount of soap needed to wash clothes and dishes to extending the life of a water heater, and saving on energy bills. But does softened water bode well for indoor plants and outdoor gardens?
Does the Added Salt Kill Plants?
Most water softeners utilize an “ion exchange” process where calcium and magnesium (minerals that make water hard) are exchanged for either sodium or potassium chloride in order to soften the water.
The amount of sodium or salt in your household water (after processing through a water softener system) can vary depending on the hardness of your water, but it certainly isn’t “saltwater”. In fact, on average, those that own a water softener get less than three percent of their daily sodium intake from drinking softened water.
Keeping Indoor Plants Happy
But if you’re worried that the extra sodium from softened water may be hard on your plants, here are a few alternatives:
- Collect and water your plants with rainwater. You can collect rainwater in a barrel or even a plastic garbage can at the bottom of a downspout. Collecting rainwater not only conserves water, but rainwater is usually quite clean. And FYI, rainwater is considered “naturally soft water” because it does not contain a significant amount of dissolved minerals.
- Some plants cannot tolerate chlorinated tap water. If your water seems to have a high level of chlorine (you’ll know by the strong chlorine taste or odor), let the water sit in your watering can for a few days to dechlorinate.
- Use bottled water to water houseplants–but this can be rather expensive.
- Use water from a reverse osmosis tap to water your houseplants. After the initial cost of the RO unit, reverse osmosis water is generally very inexpensive—just pennies per gallon.
- Use potassium chloride instead of regular salt (sodium chloride) pellets in your softener’s brine tank. Potassium is a plant nutrient and is fine for plants and soils.
Keeping Lawns and Gardens Happy Outside
For outdoor watering, most water softeners have a bypass valve that allows you to temporarily bypass the softener to access untreated water for your plants. Refer to your softener’s owner’s manual or contact a water treatment specialist in your area to learn more.
You may also consider having a separate line to the outside tap installed by a plumber. This outlet allows you to water plants, trees, and landscape with untreated water, but enjoy all the benefits of softened water in the home.
Mainly, look to your plants for clues. While calcium and magnesium (found in hard water) can be helpful plant nutrients, too much of a good thing isn’t so good. Some plants don’t do well when watered with “hard water”. On the other hand, some plants have a difficult time with softened water. So pay attention to your water quality and look to your plants for clues.