Does A Water Softener Remove Nitrates?

The source water of your home contains a lot of minerals as well as certain contaminations as well. These contaminants can make you severely sick if ingested in large amounts and may cause potential damage to your organs if left untreated.

One contaminant of concern is nitrates. These are usually in the form of nitrite and nitrates. Interestingly these nitrates do not affect the taste and odor of the water which makes it quite difficult to determine the amount of nitrates in your water.

To find out the concentration of nitrates in your water, you will have to take a sample and get it tested from a laboratory. If nitrates are found in abundance, you will have to tackle them with certain mitigation strategies. One such strategy is the use of water softeners.

This leads to the question, does a water softener remove nitrates? Let’s find out.

Can Water Softeners Remove Nitrates?

Does A Water Softener Remove Nitrates (1)

Unfortunately, no. Standard water softeners lack the capability of removing nitrates from your source water. This is because water softeners deal with only hard water that contains calcium and magnesium ions. The entire operation of water softeners is based on an ion exchange method.

Water softeners contain resin beads that have sodium ions. These resin beads attract magnesium and calcium ions by retaining them at the beads, while letting purified water pass through the system through the ion exchange process.

Since water softeners are only designed for hardness causing minerals, they cannot remove nitrates.

Alternate Methods To Remove Nitrates From Water:

There are different ways to remove nitrates from water. Here is an insight into this:

1.      Nitrate Water Filtration System

Does A Water Softener Remove Nitrates?

The removal of nitrates is also possible by a similar ion exchange principle which is intended to specifically attract the nitrate ions – thus lowering their concentration.

Standard water softeners contain sodium ions which are not effective against nitrates. However, compared to standard water softeners, nitrate water filtration systems contain chloride ions that follow the same principle of ion exchange.

Such water filtration systems can effectively remove nitrates from your water. The basic working principle of nitrate filtration systems is to attract the nitrate ions while replacing them with chloride ions. Thus, the resultant water of the system contains no nitrates.

However, you should know that these are small scale systems and only have a rated gallon capacity. These have a rather short lifespan since the chloride ions will run out after some period which has a direct impact on the removal of nitrates from water.

Simply put, if there are no chloride ions in the nitrate filtration system, it will not have anything to replace nitrates with. This means, the system will fail to remove nitrates from your water leaving you with your nitrate problem yet again.

So, you will have to change the cartridge of the nitrate filtration system periodically to ensure its efficiency is not affected. Another factor that you need to consider for this system to work is to test your water quality for nitrates and sulfates.

Nitrate filtration systems attract both nitrates and sulfates. But if the amount of sulfates in water is higher than nitrates, it will have a lowered efficiency as compared to low amount of sulfates in water.

Due to this, the composition of ions in water is extremely crucial otherwise the filtration system will cease to be effective.

2.      Reverse Osmosis Systems:

Does A Water Softener Remove Nitrates?

Reverse osmosis systems are can effectively remove contaminants and chemicals like nitrates from your water. These systems are extremely effective and can remove up to 99% of these contaminants and dissolved solids – thus leaving you with clean and safe water to drink.

Reverse osmosis systems work by forcing water through a semi permeable membrane with high pressures. This semi permeable membrane has tiny pores which separates pure water from these contaminants while eliminating chemicals like nitrates, and other harmful contaminants.

The resultant water gets stored in the storage tank of the reverse osmosis system while the contaminants are flushed in a brine solution. Talking of the removal of nitrates using reverse osmosis system, it can remove up to 83 – 92% nitrates from your water.

Although nitrates may not be removed completely, a reverse osmosis system will bring their concentration down to the safe levels according to EPA standards.

Interestingly, reverse osmosis are so effective that they will remove almost all of the minerals from your water as well. To cope with this, these systems feature a remineralization filter as well which helps add minerals to your water post filtration.

The downside to using reverse osmosis (RO) systems is that it wastes a substantial amount of water. This is primarily due to the high pressure pumps involved in RO systems. If you have a limited supply of water, you will have to deal with supply problems.

In that case, you should opt for using other alternate means of nitrate removal.

3.      Water distillation units: 

Does A Water Softener Remove Nitrates?

Water distillation units are another effective means of nitrate removal from water. These systems remove almost all of the contaminants present in your water and leaves you with pure water.

This systems operate using the natural phenomenon of hydrologic cycle, which basically works by evaporation and condensation processes. Ideally, water distillation units contain a heating chamber which first heat the water and bring it to boiling temperature till the evaporation process begins.

When the evaporation process begins, the next step is to collect the condensed vapor in a tank. This condensed vapor is then left to cool down and is free from harmful contaminants like nitrates, fluoride, disease causing bacteria, dissolved solids, and many others.

The downside to using water distillation units is that standard distillers have a rather slow operation time and take up to 4 – 6 hours to purify 1 gallon of water. To cope with this, you will have to get a commercial or industrial grade distiller depending on your usage.

Furthermore, these systems are also quiet expensive both in terms of purchasing cost and operation cost which may not work for everyone. So, make sure to consider these factors before going for a water distiller.

What Are Nitrates And Why Do They Need To Be Removed From Water?

Nitrates and nitrites are two common types of nitrogen present in your source water. Although in small amounts, nitrates will not harm your health. However, if the concentration is higher it will have determinantal effects on your health.

Nitrates come from different sources in your water since they are highly soluble and can fully dissolve in your water without showing any physical signs.

Nitrates can come from either of the following sources:

  • Naturally present in the soil.
  • Due to the decomposition of plants.
  • Due to the result of using agriculture fertilizers.

It mostly gets into your water due to rain, snow, flooding, and soil erosion. Here are some health concerns associated with higher levels of nitrates in your source water.

High levels of nitrates in blood directly impact the way your blood carries oxygen – thus causing a syndrome referred to as methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome. This changes the color of your skin by turning it into a bluish color and ultimately leading towards serious health complications and even death.

It can also lead towards irregular blood pressure levels, increase heartbeat, severe headache, and digestive complications as well.

Other health issues due to consumption of high levels of nitrates include:

  • Anemia
  • Heart complications
  • Sepsis
  • Lung diseases
  • Glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase deficiency
  • Metabolic complications

Conclusion | Does A Water Softener Remove Nitrates?

Water softeners cannot eliminate nitrates from your water. These systems only deal with hardness causing metals. To remove nitrates from water, there are specific nitrates filtration systems that can help completely remove or lower the concentration of nitrates.

Other alternates include reverse osmosis systems, and water distillation units. Regardless of the option you choose, it is crucial to remove nitrates from your water. Otherwise, it would lead towards life altering sickness and may even cause death in worst cases.


This is my blog about the ways and solutions that can help you improve your health by taking more value from drinking water. As improving health means a lot to me, I decided to create the Water On Top project with the purpose to reveal the benefits of water, the finest products to take our daily water to another level, and much more great stuff about water that I believe is on top of our nutrition.

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