With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment industry, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.
Do Water Softening/Conditioning Pseudoscientific Gadgets Actually Work?
Well do they?
Whenever there’s a need for a solution, you can bet that someone out there is going to come up with a “substitute” that’s intended to offer the same benefits as a professional option, at a much cheaper price. One thing to ALWAYS remember in LIFE, is that price is relative and not nearly as important as value. Perhaps you only spent $50 for an appliance that attaches to your sink, which supposedly improves the quality of your water, but at the end of the day, you may as well have taken the $50 and put it right down the drain.
Magical Technology That Uses No Salt!
One of the unifying narratives to the pseudoscientific devices out there is that they are supposed to soften your water without using sodium chloride (salt.) This is almost ALWAYS touted as a benefit. Systems without salt or potassium chloride cannot soften water… PERIOD. AZ Central details this nicely, pointing out that many of the systems that make these claim are simply scale inhibitors. This is one of the myths about water softening that consumers need to be well versed in.
But, there are other supposed miracle technologies, including ones that center on electromagnetism, that claim to soften water as well… and they DO NOT.
Magnetism has always been something that people have been fascinated by. For all of the ways it can be explained scientifically, it does tend to appear somewhat magical or even mystical. People tend to attribute qualities and abilities to this force, that simply are not based on ANY science whatsoever. Currently, there are companies out there that claim that magnetic force can filter water. It cannot. Visit the CWQA at http://www.cwqa.com and see for yourself.
Understanding Water Treatment
Water treatment is a complex process that involves chemistry, physics and biology all being applied together to make water safer and to preserve the appliances in your home. One of the current pseudoscientific marketing narratives involves ionizers and devices that make water more alkaline. The fact that these products sell like hot cakes doesn’t speak to their real efficacy so much as it speaks to a generalized misunderstanding of what the terms ionization and alkaline actually mean or do.
Kangen markets a consumer product that you can hook right up to your kitchen water tap that supposedly allows you to enjoy better quality water. You can listen to a detailed explanation as to why this product does not in fact work on the site Skeptoid. To put it PLAINLY, changing the pH of water—making it more alkaline—does not perform the same function as a real water softening system. It is also critical for people to understand that scientifically PROVEN water treatment actually removes potentially dangerous and destructive elements from the water.
Units that make water more “alkaline” and devices that are marketed with similar claims are based on PURE pseudoscience, and scientists are warning against them. The claim of making water more alkaline, for instance, isn’t scientifically sound. As Purative points out, alkalinity neutralizes acid, but water being alkaline does not. This, as the source states, is usually tied to a claim that the high pH will neutralize stomach acid, but that is TOTALLY FALSE.
How to Discern Good from Bogus
Membership in the CWQA is a good sign when you’re dealing with a reputable water treatment expert. Another thing to watch out for are statements made by companies that just seem too good to be true. If they sound too good to be true… they are. A qualified water treatment specialist can explain to you exactly how the products they sell work and nothing they explain will sound outlandish or magical or even mystical. Water treatment is science not science fiction. It can’t perform miracles, or make you younger… it’s not SNAKE OIL, but it can make the water safer, softer and even healthier. Most of all it can ALL be cross-referenced as real science and if it can’t, it’s probably not an effective water treatment solution.