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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRINKING WATER TESTING
EPA GUIDE to WATER QUALITY
FHA WATER TESTS REQUIRED
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPE USAGE GUIDE
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PRESSURE CONTROL SWITCH ADJUSTMENT
REVERSE OSMOSIS CONCENTRATE DISPOSAL
SEWER GAS ODORS
WATER HEATER SCALE REMOVAL
WATER HEATER SCALE PREVENTION
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Water softener alternatives that do not use salt or other chlorides: this article describes alternatives to conventional salt-based water softeners or water conditioners. Some of these alternatives work quite well at treating hard water (high in mineral content) but we warn that some other "water softener devices" often sold to homeowners are in fact ineffective.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Other Water Softeners or Methods for Removing Hardness & Minerals from Water: Real vs. Fake Water Treatment Equipment
Effective Alternatives to Salt Based Water Treatment for Hard high-mineral content water
Other methods of water softening may have different potential effects on the septic system, as we discuss next.
Chelating agents & chelating additives, treatments, or chelating systems for treating water high in minerals use chelating agents. Dow Chemical explains how chelating agents work to address minerals in water, various products, industrial processes, etc.
We discuss chelating systems for home water softener treatment at our FAQs section in this article.
Precipitating water softeners using additives such as borax precipitate out minerals as a white sludge but I wouldn't recommend this equipment for residential use where clogging pipes and increased water alkalinity may be a problem.
Reverse osmosis (RO) water purifiers (see sketch at page top) will also remove minerals from water leaving it soft. These systems do not discharge salt into the drain system, though they do discharge water.
We don't know (yet) which uses more discharge water - a water salt-based water softener or an RO system - I'll report that data here.
Culligan™ reports in their Water Softener Installation/Maintenance Guide that "The backwash interval is preset at the factory for 10 minutes which is adequate for most water supplies. It is adjustable, however, for 5 to 30 minutes. It is recommended that backwash last just long enough so that the effluent from the drain line is clear. Backwash too long and water is wasted, not long enough and the tank becomes fouled with sediment."
See REVERSE OSMOSIS CONCENTRATE WASTE DISPOSAL for a discussion of the possible impact of reverse osmosis water treatment equipment's wastewater concentrate when it is disposed into a septic system.
Iron contaminants and high manganese contamination are often found along with water that is high in calcium and other mineral content. These treatment methods that focus on iron removal from well water: 
Polyphosphate treatment can remove 0-3 ppm of soluble iron
Some magic water softener equipment is sold such as magnets or other magic "catalytic" devices which claim to remove hardness (mineral ions) from the water by surrounding a water pipe with a magnet or other exciting ideas are simple junk science. The only "hardness" they remove is money from your wallet.
Epsom Salts and Septic Systems: Epsom salt is not sodium chloride. People who use Epsom salt baths, such as for a sore foot, are unlikely to discharge enough Epsom salts into a septic system for it to be measurable. Household use of Epsom salts should not be a concern for the septic system.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about non-salt-based water treatment systems for high-mineral content hard water
Question: who can install a chelating cartridge to handle hard water?
I finally decided to do something about the hard well water and have ordered a chelating cartridge to be slipped into the stream after the particulate filter and before the big, blue reservoir water pressure tank. ... Do you know of someone whom you would trust to look at the present arrangement and use their noggin when planning how to get the flow diverted out to a new cartridge holder and then back into the present line, providing a bypass and possibly even a takeoff to get water for the outside spigot out before it goes through the chelator? I'd hate to see the job botched; it's such a neat piece of work as it stands.
I sure hope that you've heard good things about the chelation approach -- this uses citric acid to bind Ca++ and apparently (which makes sense) also can reverse calcium carbonate deposits already in place. It seemed to be a lot kinder to the septic tanks than a salt-based system. (Those have never made much sense to me, I'm afraid.). - E.O., New York
Reply: Discussion of chelating agents for home water softener treatment as an alternative to salt-based water softeners
Any licensed experienced plumber can recommend the installation location for your water treatment equipment and can handle the plumbing tasks themselves.
Chelating agents to bind various metals (iron, copper, manganese, calcium, and other metals occur naturally) that occur in water supply and in other raw materials that affect a wide variety of products, processes, and in mechanical systems have been in use for some time. Much of the literature discusses food processing, personal care products, industrial applications, pharmaceuticals, and stabilization of other products affected by minerals in water, and treatment of boilers and similar equipment to clean or remove mineral deposits.
For example, Dow Chemical discusses the effectiveness of chelating agents, the varied uses of chelating agents and how chelating agents work in the company's product literature their VERSENE, VERSENEX, and VERSENOL Chelating Agents that Dow indicates are generically referred to as EDTA, HEDTA, DTPA and NTA..
We don't have experience with the use of citric acid for those purposes. However some authorities that citric acid, a weak organic acid, is effective in binding minerals in water.  Just how effective the filter system you are installing will be in handling the hardness of your water supply surely depends on the rated capacity of the filter (in gallons per day), your daily water usage, and the hardness of your water supply. In your immediate area of Dutchess County, NY, the well water is very high in mineral content and also in iron.  
We agree that avoiding dumping excessive salt into a septic system (a concern you expressed) is smart thinking. A properly adjusted water softener should not be sending excessive salt to the septic drainfield, though indeed Gayman and others have reported on that concern. More septic system drainfield damage may be caused by flooding from excessive regeneration cycling or even a "stuck control" on a conventional water softener. Details are at SALT OR WATER INTO SEPTIC.
But before buying and installing a specific water treatment device, we recommend that you test your water to determine the degree of hardness and that you compare your anticipated daily water usage rates with the treatment capacity rating of the chelating filter you are considering.
Questions & answers or comments about non-salt-based water softening methods and water treatments for hard water.
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Technical Reviewers & References
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