The water that you use for drinking or cooking, it contains a number of minerals. There are certain minerals that can be beneficial for you whereas some minerals may lead to health complications. One of these minerals includes fluoride. Interestingly, fluoride naturally occurs in water.
In addition, many municipal water systems also add fluoride to water considering their potential dental benefits. This substantially increases the concentration of fluoride in your water. Unfortunately, increased amounts of fluoride can be rather harmful for you.
Due to the health risks associated with increased fluoride in water, people tend to simply remove fluoride from water by resorting to water softeners or filters. This leads towards the question, do water softeners remove fluoride? Are they effective against removing fluoride?
Let’s find out.
What Is A Water Softener?
A water softener is a filtration system which is designed specifically to soften hard water. Hardness in water is usually caused due to the presence of certain hardness causing minerals like magnesium and calcium in water.
This results in damage to the appliances and fixtures. In fact, it may even end up causing permanent damage to these fixtures thus dramatically lowering their lifespan. To cope with this, water softeners are used.
Water softeners essentially remove these minerals using the process of ion exchange. Water softening systems feature a mineral tank which comprises of multiple resin beads. There are usually made from plastic and contain positively charged sodium ions.
When water flows through these resin beads, the calcium and magnesium ions react with the resin beads since opposite charges attract. This separates the hardness causing minerals at the resin beads and the resultant water that flows through the mineral tank is softened.
Now that you have an understanding of water softeners, let’s look at what fluoride is and whether or not water softeners can remove it from water.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally existing mineral in water. It usually comes from the ground due to the presence of fluorine in the Earth crust. You may have heard the term fluoride from your dentist as it is most commonly used in dental practices for reversing the effects of tooth decay and improving your dental health as well.
For the above reasons, it is a common practice for different water suppliers to add fluoride to your source water. Although fluoride can provide you with certain health benefits, it certainly does not mean consuming large amounts of fluoride will provide you with greater benefits.
According to the US Dept. Of HHS, the recommended amount of fluoride in source water (public) is 0.7 mg per liter. Anything more than this will be troublesome.
When fluoride is consumed in large amounts, it can have certain deteriorating health effects. Here are some issues associated with consuming large doses of fluoride whether it is in drinking water or from other sources like mineral supplements.
Consuming high amounts of fluoride can develop mild dental fluorosis in children when their teeth are still growing. These appear as white streaks or spots around the enamel part of the teeth.
Large amounts of fluoride can directly affect your bones by causing skeletal fluorosis. It will result in stiffness and pain in the joints. In the long run, it will also lead towards calcification of ligaments and changes in the bone structure – thus increasing the likelihood of fractures.
Consuming large amounts of fluoride frequently will cause damage to the parathyroid gland. It will lead towards hyperparathyroidism which is basically an abnormal secretion of hormones.
Another associated risk of high amounts of fluoride is the presence of calcium in your blood. Fluoride can reduce the amount of calcium in your bones while increasing it in the blood.
Due to these health concerns it is crucial to maintain normal levels of fluoride in your water. Now that you have an insight of what fluoride is and how it affects your body, let’s look at whether or not water softeners can remove fluoride.
Can Water Softeners Remove Fluoride?
Unfortunately, no. Water softeners cannot remove fluoride from your source water. This is because the resin beads of a water softener fail to attract and catch fluoride ions. This means, fluorides cannot be removed using the ion exchange process of water softeners since they do not cause hardness in water.
Water softeners mainly target hardness causing minerals like calcium and magnesium. They have little to no impact on fluoride in your water because they are simply purifiers whereas fluoride removal requires different types of water filtration systems.
The efficiency of these filters varies and depends on the specifications of the water filtration system and the concentration of fluoride in your source water. It is crucial to consider these factors when opting for a water filtration system that removes fluoride.
Here’s a detailed insight into different types of water filters for effective removal of fluoride removal from your water.
Alternatives To Water Softeners For Fluoride Removal:
Here are some water filters that can effectively remove fluoride along with other harmful minerals or contaminants – thus offering you pure and safe water for both drinking and cooking purposes.
1. Reverse Osmosis Systems:
Reverse osmosis (RO) systems are one of the best water filters for contaminant removal. In fact, RO systems can help remove up to 99% of harmful minerals and contaminations including fluoride.
RO systems feature a semi permeable membrane through which water is forced with high pressures. This membrane retains 99% of the contaminants and results in clean and pure water.
This is because the membranes used in RO systems have a rating of 0.0001 microns which does an effective job. Furthermore, certain RO systems offer remineralization filters that introduce essential minerals in the water post-filtration thus making your water not only safe but healthy as well.
However, you should know that during the process of filtration an RO system can waste substantial amounts of water. If you have a limited water supply, it would be best to opt for the other options mentioned below.
2. Water Distillation Units:
Water distillation units are extremely efficient and can completely remove fluoride from your source water. These units operate on the principle of distillation which basically heats water, converts it into vapors, and then collects the condensed water.
This process essentially removes harmful contaminants and fluoride as well up to 99.99%.
The only downside to water distillation units is that they also wash away the good and essential minerals. So, you will have to add a remineralization filter to ensure you’re getting some nutrition from it as well.
3. Bone Char Water Filters:
Bone char water filters are usually made from charred animal bones. It has a highly ionic surface which works on the principle of adsorption. It retains harmful impurities like heavy metals, fluorides, and other contaminants by retaining them at the surface of the filter.
Ideally, bone char water filters are extremely long lasting and can be good for up to several years. As long as you’re periodically maintaining them you do not have to worry about the filter going bad or losing its efficiency.
So, if you’re looking for a cost friendly option, bone char water filter should be your go to!
4. Activated Alumina Water Filter:
Activated alumina water filters are made using aluminum oxide. Activated alumina filters are widely popular in terms of fluoride removal. In fact, using this filter you will be able to purify your source water up to 95% and remove fluoride, arsenic, sulfate, and high amounts of dissolved solids as well.
While it does an excellent job at removing fluoride, you should know that its efficiency may drop if the water is basic and not acidic. Similarly, if there are other ions like magnesium and calcium, it may also disrupt the removal process of fluoride.
So, you will have to ensure your water is acidic to benefit from the activated alumina water filter.
Conclusion | Do Water Softeners Remove Fluoride?
Water softeners do not remove fluoride ions. These are only intended to be used for hardness causing minerals. Since fluoride ions do not cause any hardness they are not attracted by the resin beads of water softeners, which makes it impossible for water softeners to eliminate fluoride.
Simply put, removing fluoride from water requires a filtration system rather than a purifier like water softener. For fluoride removal, you will have to use an RO system, water distillation units, bone char filter or an activated alumina water filter.
If you’re looking for an all-rounder, you should opt for an RO system. Whereas for a cost friendly and long term solution, a bone char filter should be your go to.