Detergents in (some) Water Softener Salt?!
Alert for SolveEczema.org users: TAKE CARE TO USE ONLY WATER SOFTENER SALT PRODUCTS IN THE SOFTENER THAT ARE PURE SALT, AND NOT A SALT PRODUCT WITH ADDITIVES!! Read on.
Soaps work better, they clean better, in soft water than in hard water. Soaps perform better than detergents in soft water — one reason detergents were invented in the first place was to perform across different water conditions including hard water. Detergents perform better in hard water than soaps do , though nothing performs what I could call well in hard water, soap or detergent.
Because soaps perform so much better in soft water, I recommend mechanical water softeners to people who otherwise have hard water. Soaps work better, it takes less time to wash out old detergents from clothing, it takes less soap by far to get things clean, white fabrics stay white and don’t grey as they do in hard water, and hair and skin stay soft. It’s easier to keep bathroom surfaces clean without so much scale on surfaces. There are many advantages.
As I mention on the website, several studies have looked at water hardness versus eczema, and found that people living in areas with harder water have more eczema. For example,
Atopic eczema and domestic water hardness
Ecological association of water hardness with prevalence of childhood atopic dermatitis in a Japanese urban area,
As a result of these studies, a group in the UK did A randomized controlled trial of ion-exchange water softeners for the treatment of eczema in children. In contrast to the studies above, which simply measured water hardness and correlated with eczema prevalence, here mechanical water softeners were installed in some homes and the results to the eczema of the children with and without assessed. Participants were told not to change the way they bathed or washed their laundry. The results: No benefit was found from the softeners, although interestingly, over 50% of the parents chose to buy the water softeners at the conclusion of the study.
Given that the water softener study protocol asked families to maintain their washing and washing product habits through the trial, it’s not surprising to me that they found no benefit from the softeners.
What do SolveEczema.org users take from these studies? Very little, because the study designs don’t take the type of washing products used by the families into account, and in the study of installed softeners, the researchers specifically asked families not to adjust the type or amount of products they used. (They have eczema, they’re using detergents!)
I have recently become aware of a another potential concern for SolveEczema users. SOME WATER SOFTENER SALTS HAVE DETERGENT ADDITIVES!
Additives help keep the ion-exchange resin in the softener clean, and prevent inconveniences like “bridging” of the salt, and since water softener companies are unaware of the connection between small amounts of detergent and eczema, and believe the amount of detergent introduced by the additives is small, they believe it’s all good.
But taking a look at the Morton web site, I found this frequently asked question (with answer): “After using Morton water softening products why does my skin itch? …Even though it is unlikely that the additives in the salt product could be the cause of the skin itch, you may wish to try a product with no additives, such as Morton®White Crystal® products or Morton® Potassium Chloride Pellets. …”
Because of the additives, Morton also does not recommend using the water softening salt with additives in aquariums. As mentioned above, they do sell water softener salt products without additives, and I called their corporate office recently to suggest they pay attention to the issue of detergents and eczema, since much potential future growth in the water softener business will likely come from families whose kids have eczema (from detergents).
Another parent wrote to me with this information from the Cargill site regarding Diamond Crystal salt pellets with an additive called Softener Care:
“What exactly is “Softener Care” additive?
The Softener Care™ additive is a surfactant called sodium hexametaphosphate. In the pellets, it provides added durability, thus reducing the tendency towards mushing and bridging which can interfere with normal softener operation.”
It appears that Diamond Crystal/Cargill also sells products without the additives.
Our local hardware store always sold only pure salt for the water softener, but when this came to my attention, my husband told me he had just bought a bag that was different because the hardware store stopped carrying the old kind we had been using. Lo and behold, it had detergent additives in it! Luckily, he hadn’t yet poured it.
It gets exhausting keeping after all the many sources of household detergents, but this one is particularly important to get right, since it would introduce low levels of detergents in the household water supply.
I still recommend water softeners for those wishing to try the strategies on SolveEczema.org, because of so many benefits to skin and household, and because it takes so long to get results with hard water — hard water results often are never as good as with soft water. So, if you are trying to follow the SolveEczema.org site strategies —
TAKE CARE TO USE ONLY WATER SOFTENER SALT PRODUCTS IN THE SOFTENER THAT ARE PURE SALT, AND NOT A SALT PRODUCT WITH ADDITIVES!!