Is Soft Water Bad for Plants? Everything You Need to Know

Is soft water bad for plants small

Soft water is actually great for the household. It tastes better and it allows you to wash and clean things more easily. When it comes to the garden, though, is soft water bad for plants?

Here are the things you should know about soft water.


Hard Water vs Soft Water


You’ve probably heard of hard water and soft water before. Do you know the difference?

Let’s start:

Hard water contains dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. It also has chalk and lime.

Meanwhile, soft water contains sodium. 

How do you know what you have?

You know that you have hard water at home because of the white scaling on your faucet. You will also find soap scum on your sink or on the tub if you are using hard water. 

You’ll also find that hard water will leave mineral residue on your dishes and other household items.

Moreover

Hard water has a distinct effect when used in washing. For example, you can’t expect a good lather when you are doing the laundry using hard water. 

Plus, you won’t get a thorough washing with hard water. 

Typically

Water always contains minerals, but it’s the excess of minerals that makes it hard. 

If you want to reduce the mineral concentration of water, then that’s how you make it soft. This type of water, though, has a high concentration of sodium or salt. 

It’s hard to tell if water is hard or soft just by looking at the water itself.

As mentioned

You will know when you have hard water when you find scaling on your faucet or soap scum on sink and tub. That’s due to the soap reacting to the calcium in hard water. 

The opposite of these would indicate that you have soft water. 

Generally

Soft water is good for the household. For one, it tastes better because of the sodium in it. Two, you will have an easy time washing off soap, whether you are doing the laundry or taking a shower. 

You won’t have mineral stains on your glassware and there will be no scaling on the faucet or soap scum on the tub or sink. 

Lightly colored bathroom

Look

While soft water is generally better in the household, there are really no major ill effects when you have hard water. 

You may have dry skin and hair though. Since hard water has a hard time completely washing off the soap from your body, you would have to use more water than necessary. That leads to dryness of your skin and possibly itching of the scalp. 

On the other hand

It could be good for you to drink hard water because calcium and magnesium are important minerals. 

There are even theories that hard water has some cardiovascular benefits when you drink it. 

How about soft water?

Generally, there are also no adverse effects to drinking soft water. However, people who have high blood pressure may be vulnerable because of the sodium in the water. 

There’s also a tendency for soft water to pick up lead from old water pipes. 

On the upside

It’s great for cleaning and you could save money by not using too much water when washing clothes, the dishes, and yourself. 

If you’re worried about your blood pressure, then you are better off drinking mineral water while having soft water for your household needs. 

How do you soften water?

There is a system that softens water. The process works with the hard water going through a resin substance coated with positively charged sodium ions. 

The calcium and magnesium in the hard water will be replaced with concentrations of sodium during the process. 

Although

Some systems make use of potassium pellets rather than sodium. Still, some will use citric acid or magnets to decrease the concentration of calcium and magnesium in hard water. 

So

We’ve established that soft water would be good for the household, but is it also good for the plants?

If it’s safe enough to drink then it should be good enough for the plants–right? 

Let’s get to that.


Is Soft Water Bad for Plants?


Most of the time, yes–soft water is bad for the plants

Let’s elaborate

There are plants that are very easy to please, like weeds for example. A lot of weeds just grow even in the most intolerable conditions. 

In other words, there may be some plants that will continue to flourish even when doused with soft water. 

Generally

Soft water is not good for the plants because of the concentration of sodium. Most plants just cannot tolerate salt in their system.

Sodium could actually kill plants. 

Here’s the deal:

Sodium could interfere with the water balance in the plants. The sodium content in soft water tricks the plants into thinking they have enough water in their system when they actually don’t.

As such, they would die of dehydration or thirst. 

Dying plant

To make it worse

Your soil will also be affected. There will be salt buildup in the soil and future plants will have a hard time growing as well. 

Soft water will not just kill existing plants, it will also prevent future plants from thriving. 

Fortunately

There is something you can do. 

If you really want to have soft water for the sake of your palate and for the sake of your sink, tub, faucet, and laundry, among others, but still want a beautiful garden, you can. 

Here are things you can do:

1. Go to the water source

Since soft water goes through a system of softening, then you just have to use water that doesn’t go through the process. 

You essentially just need to install a spigot that takes water from the line before it undergoes the softening process. 

It’s that simple!

2. Mix soft water with distilled water

If you think installing another spigot is too much work, you can just mix your soft water with distilled water. If not, you can use rainwater. However, it’s not always easy waiting for rain, especially during the summer. 

Distilled water or rainwater will dilute the salt in the soft water. This will make it better for the plants. 

Take note

It will only dilute the salt, it will not eliminate it. This means that the salt will still be in the soil. 

The more you use soft water in the soil, the more salt would build up in it. 

What should you do then?

You have to test the soil. If there’s too much salt in it, then you have to “treat” it. 

The best way to do it is through the process of leaching. 

Leaching

This is the process of drawing out the salt that has accumulated in the soil. It’s just a matter of frequent watering–not with the soft water of course!

It’s simply a matter of washing away the salt in the soil. However, washing away the salt will also wash away the nutrients.

Therefore

You also need to add back the nutrients and minerals that the soil has lost. This is why you have to keep on testing the soil and determine what it needs to be healthy and become a healthy environment for plants. 

There is no quick way to get about this. 

That’s why

Avoid using soft water in your garden. 

Rear view of gardener watering plants at garden

Summary


If you live in a place that has hard water or mineral-rich water, then chances are you would have soap scum sticking in your tub or sink and some scaling in your faucets. You may not even enjoy the taste of your drinking water.

You might have to soften your water in order to take care of your household items. Soft water is better tasting, too. Not to mention, it would be easier to wash things with soft water. That also includes showering since hard water doesn’t wash off soap that easily. 

Now, it begs the question: Is soft water bad for plants? Unfortunately, it is. Soft water has a high concentration of sodium, which is essentially salt. Salt could kill plants and would build up in the soil. 


Useful Resources

  • Hard Water Vs. Soft Water: Which One Is Healthier? – Healthline
  • Softened Water and Plants: Using Softened Water for Watering – Gardening Know How
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