watering can watering garden

If you have a water softening system fitted in your home or are considering installing one, a question you may have is: “is it safe to use softened water on plants?”.

Many homes have a water softener installed to help reduce limescale and other hard water issues, such as skin concerns and the quantity of cleaning products that are needed. While water softeners can be very beneficial for your household and personal needs, they may not be the best choice for your garden.

At a glance:

  • Softened water contains some sodium, so watering plants with it has the potential to cause a sodium buildup in the soil, which can make it hard for plants to grow. 
  • As watering gardens uses a lot of water, it can increase running costs for your water softener system. 
  • You can set up a water softener system so that it only softens water inside the home, leaving the outside tap on the mains supply to avoid the issue of watering plants. 

What is Softened Water?

Across the UK, the water supply to each region has different levels of hardness or softness. Hard water contains more minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium.

The minerals in hard water can cause problems with limescale buildup, leading to damaged appliances. Hard water can also aggravate eczema and dry hair issues and makes it harder to clean as products do not lather as well under hard water. You can see why some people would choose to install a water softener to reduce these effects.

Most water softeners use sodium ions to help remove the minerals from the hard water. As a result, softened water can have traces of sodium left.

Can You Water Plants With Softened Water?

As softened water contains some sodium, watering plants with it has the potential to cause a sodium buildup in the soil. In the UK, we often get enough rainfall that it dilutes the sodium in the soil enough to not cause damage.

However, in periods of dry weather or for houseplants that don’t experience rain, it can be better to avoid using softened water to avoid a buildup of sodium in the soil. A buildup of salt in the soil can make it hard for new plants to grow. Further, too much sodium in the soil can make plants think they have taken in more water than they have, so they end up dying of thirst.

As such, while short-term watering with softened water shouldn’t cause too much damage, it is not recommended for the long term.

Costs of Using Softened Water on Plants

Something else to consider when considering using softened water on your plants is the cost and wear-and-tear on your water softening unit. Watering a garden can take large quantities of water, so if you are directing your garden water supply through a water softener, it can quickly increase your running costs for the softener system. It may lead to more regular maintenance needs.

As such, it is recommended that you run the outside tap from the mains water supply rather than through your water softening unit.

Alternative Ways to Water Your Garden

There are a number of ways besides tap water to keep your garden growing! These methods will not only keep your plants in good condition but can cut down on your water bill costs too.

Rain Water Storage

A rainwater butt is a fantastic way to water your garden - it’s free and won’t cause damage. Collecting rainwater to use in your garden is an eco-friendly choice and can save you a lot of money in the warmer weather when you can use the supply you’ve collected rather than your taps. Plus, rainwater is the right pH level for most plants, giving them the best chance of growing healthily.

Water From Appliances

If you have a tumble dryer that collects water that needs emptying after each use, or a dehumidifier, you can use the water collected by these machines for your plants. The water that gets collected from dehumidifiers or tumble dryers has been distilled and is suitable for use on plants.

For more information on water softeners and how they can be used in your home, please explore our blog or get in touch with our expert team for more details.