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Thread: Softener and bacteria?

  1. #1
    DIY Member mar3232's Avatar
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    Default Softener and bacteria?

    I always wanted to know, does a salt based water softener kill bacteria or at least "help" in killing bacteria? (I'm thinking yes?)

    I do have well water which I know has something going on with bacteria, although I sanitize yearly and use a berkey water filter which makes perfect drinking water. (non- softened).

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Check with a local water quality expert, but I suspect that most filters and softeners specify that they are not to be used on water which is bacteriologically contaminated.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Disposable cartridge type filters always have that caution but... I've only seen one softener ever mention that Jimbo, and it was yesterday on a Canadian web site selling softeners manufactured in China.

    Anyway, Mar 3232, you really need a Coliform bacteria test done on your water. A softener does not do anything to get rid of any type of bacteria that are harmful to humans. And if a softener is mentioned to get rid of any bacteria it is harmelss bacteria like the reducing types that are a nuisance. You normally can get a test done at any water testing lab or plumbing and well pump supply stores (that's where plumbers and pump guys buy their supplies/parts etc.) or there are home test kits also; they usually are sold at big box type stores or online.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Yea, not only won't a softener take care of harmful bacteria they can often exacerbate the problem by allowing bacteria to propagate within the resin tank. You may need RO or in well chlorination but as Gary said, a test for bacterial is the first step. In the meantime buy bottled water
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  5. #5
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    I have treated a lot of bacteria contaminated water and have never seen where a softener makes a harmful bacteria type problem worse. I have heard many non water treatment people claim it does.

    RO should never be installed on water of unknown microbiological content, or known bacterial contaminated water.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    I have heard a lot of water treatment people claim it does and in fact, I am one of those people.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Then tell us how that happens.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    In the same way that legionella bacteria will propagate in a water system. For further edification on this you can visit www.watts.com
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  9. #9
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Watts should stay with plumbing parts. The only way they know anything about water treatment is due to them buying Alamo years ago but... I see you don't explain how Coliform etc. increase in a softener. Especially since a softener does not have warm or hotter water in it as a water heater does. And instead of giving me their main web site page URL, provide one to the page or pages that backs up your claim.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  10. #10
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Or, since you disagree with my post you could just delete it. Better yet why don't you find some information that backs up your claim?

    Neither coliform or legionella bacteria necessarily need warm or hot water to propagate within a water system. Both will grow over a wide range of temperatures. Tanks and filters of any type give more volume for bacteria to grow in. I also fail to see the connection between Watts buying out Alamo and your assertion that nobody within the corporation "knows anything" about filtration. They have been selling the stuff for years and a logical person would believe that there are folks there that are quite well schooled in the products that they design and sell.

    had you taken the time to watch their video concerning ASSE 1040 tempering devices and the connection to increased water temperatures and the ineffectiveness of simply raising system temperatures in an attempt to alleviate bacterial growth "within the system" you may have gained a better understanding of the principals involved rather than relying on your past experiences which in this case are not particularly useful or correct. Just because you have never seen bacterial growth increased within filtration devices does not mean that it has never happened. I have never personally witnessed the mating ritual of the North American Porcupine but judging from the number of carcasses littering our roads I can only assume that somehow these creatures have found a way to perpetuate their species.

    Here's a link that may be easier for you to wade through though I suspect you will decide that these folks have no clue what they are talking about either http://disinfectmysoftener.com/
    Last edited by Tom Sawyer; 11-05-2011 at 07:16 AM.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  11. #11
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    You said bacteria in a softener, now you're off into filtration.

    From your link to the guys selling a Pur-Gard... "When contaminants accumulate in a softener, they can seriously impair its ability to function properly, degrade water quality, and even result in premature mechanical wear or failure."

    Now for that to happen means the softener is not backwashing correctly. So are you now saying bacteria can build up in an improperly operated softener with incomplete backwashing? If so I'll agree but, that is not what you said originally.

    I see that those guys are also selling an annual softener service, just as if it is actually needed.

    My claim is that harmful (read Coliform etc.) bacteria does not build up or become more of a problem in a softener because the water in a softener is replaced (a number of times actually) with each regeneration.

    You should note that even in a house with a Legionella bacteria problem in the water heater, there is no mention of the same bacteria in the softener in the same house on the same water. Why do you suppose that is?

    Had I taken the time to watch their video concerning ASSE 1040 tempering devices and the connection to increased water temperatures and the ineffectiveness of simply raising system temperatures in an attempt to alleviate bacterial growth "within the system" .... the Watts link you posted doesn't show anything about the video but..." now I guess Watts and you are saying pasteurization doesn't work. LOL I suppose you sell the Pur-Gard too.

    Tell me, how would anyone know there was more bacteria in a softener than the feed water going into it?

    Also, what type of harmful bacteria might we find in a bag of salt?

    As to non harmful bacteria in a filter, I've seen that may times in disposable cartridge filters; clear to black slimy, smelly etc. build up, same as in toilet tanks but softeners aren't filters that trap bacteria and the food they use to survive. I knew it was non harmful because a Coliform bacteria test found none.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  12. #12
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    You said bacteria in a softener, now you're off into filtration.

    From your link to the guys selling a Pur-Gard... "When contaminants accumulate in a softener, they can seriously impair its ability to function properly, degrade water quality, and even result in premature mechanical wear or failure."

    Now for that to happen means the softener is not backwashing correctly. So are you now saying bacteria can build up in an improperly operated softener with incomplete backwashing? If so I'll agree but, that is not what you said originally.

    I see that those guys are also selling an annual softener service, just as if it is actually needed.

    My claim is that harmful (read Coliform etc.) bacteria does not build up or become more of a problem in a softener because the water in a softener is replaced (a number of times actually) with each regeneration.

    You should note that even in a house with a Legionella bacteria problem in the water heater, there is no mention of the same bacteria in the softener in the same house on the same water. Why do you suppose that is?

    Bacterial growth is not limited to the water heater tank alone. Studies have found that even with increased water tank temperatures the bacteria will continue to propagate in the piping system itself and parts thereof. Simply raising the temperature of the water to above 160 in the tank will kill those bacteria in the tank but not in the rest of the system which is why Watts (and the code though nobody follows it) say to install an ASSE1040 tempering device at the point of use. Though a softener in good working order does indeed backwash the system there is plenty of time for bacteria to propagate during the time when the tank is in normal use and there is no proof that the back wash cycle will remove and or kill any and all bacteria present. Some bacterial strains do quite well in a salty environment.

    Had I taken the time to watch their video concerning ASSE 1040 tempering devices and the connection to increased water temperatures and the ineffectiveness of simply raising system temperatures in an attempt to alleviate bacterial growth "within the system" .... the Watts link you posted doesn't show anything about the video but..." now I guess Watts and you are saying pasteurization doesn't work. LOL I suppose you sell the Pur-Gard too.

    Watts is not saying that pasteurization does not work. They are saying that it is ineffective when limited to the storage tank alone. And no, I do not sell Pur-Gard

    Tell me, how would anyone know there was more bacteria in a softener than the feed water going into it?

    Good question and I suppose by assumption unless some lab has run tests but without wading through a lot of pages I can't say for sure

    Also, what type of harmful bacteria might we find in a bag of salt?

    Again, don't know, I assume that the salt has been treated and cleaned before bagging so hopefully none but why is bacteria in salt an issue? I guess one could make an argument for bacteria settling in the brine tank should someone leave the cover off but I am going under the theory that the bacteria we are talking about is coming from the water source.

    As to non harmful bacteria in a filter, I've seen that may times in disposable cartridge filters; clear to black slimy, smelly etc. build up, same as in toilet tanks but softeners aren't filters that trap bacteria and the food they use to survive. I knew it was non harmful because a Coliform bacteria test found none.
    Yes, we have all seen IRB build up in paper and carbon filters. Be careful not to limit bacterial growth to coliform alone.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  13. #13
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    So your position is based on what those selling tempering valves, Pur-Gards and an annual service say....
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  14. #14
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    My good Sir; Though I strongly disagree with your view on this matter I none the less shall defend with my dying breath, your God given right to be wrong. Live free or die
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

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