In-line 'magnetic' water softeners?

So, we are currently renting in Mid-Missouri, and we have noticed that the water is a bit on the hard side- deposits left in kettles, faucets, interior of the dishwasher. We’re not really in a position to have a salt-based softener installed. However, we have stumbled upon items like the following:

Basically, it clamps to the water supply pipe and has 2 coils that wrap around it, ‘ionizing’ the flow such that calcium and magnesium are chemically changed and so don’t precipitate out of the water and leave residue.
My two questions- does it actually work? And if so, what does that mean for the water we ingest?

Any help, either from folks with water softeners or chemistry expertise, would be much appreciated.

Snake oil.

Snake oil doesn’t do anything either.
And it’s expensive as hell.


Yes, snake oil, or at least they don’t do anything. These things used to be more mainstream. I remember when they were offered by McMaster-Carr and bought by industrial users. It might be that somebody was trying to rip people off, or, I don’t know, there may have been manufacturers who thought the things actually work – it’s not trivial to figure out, after all.

No, even stupider.

Magnetic water stuff is so totally nonsensical it makes snake oil look like Penicillin.

Get a real water softener.

“Get a real water softener,” says ftg. Well, now, that opens a whole different can of Pandora’s worms. For the record, I have a conventional water softener, and I like its effects. However, I don’t really understand what it does or how. I pour in bags of salt, sodium chloride, and somehow I get a big reduction in the mineral deposits where the water flows. Something about an “ion exchange ladder,” or some such magical talk.

I once told my vet I was giving my elderly dog soft water, so she’d get less sodium. He said it wouldn’t make any difference, for some scien-terrific reason that I didn’t understand. The more I learn, the dumber I feel.

Water softeners mostly replace Calcium and Magnesium with Sodium or Potassium - if you’re adding regular salt it’s Sodium. Those are the ions that are being exchanged in the ladder that was mentioned. Running hard water through a water softener will increase the amount of sodium in the water, so if anything you’re giving your dog more sodium by using the softened water, though in a tiny amount that probably won’t matter much.

The Calcium and Magnesium in hard water should be just fine for your dog, it’s just that they’re not so good for your plumbing.

In laymen’s terms here’s how it works:

Hard water contains Magnesium ions which don’t allow soap to work properly.

There are pellets in the softener tank that love to latch on to Magnesium.

Those pellets are charged with Sodium ions via the brine solution.

As the hard water flows through, the magnesium ions take the place of the sodium ions which move into the water.

When the pellets are about as full of magnesium ions as they can be, a recharge cycle flushes out the magnesium ions and replaces them with fresh sodium ions.

Rinse and repeat.

I’ve read that the increased amount of sodium in your diet from softened water is equivalent to eating two slices of commercail white bread.

Never had a rusty, squeaky, snake I take it? Worth every penny!

CMC fnord!

As noted above, magnetic water softeners don’t do anything.

If they did, they would be installed in the heat exchange systems of every thermal powerstation in the world (who are in constant and expensive battle against carbonate deposits in the pipes).

However, when we updated our gas boiler in the UK (for both hot water and radiators) we did install a magnetic trap, which uses a strong magnet to collect magnetite flaking off the inside of the radiators in the closed radiator loop - it was always surprising how much crap had been collected when the boiler was serviced and the trap emptied.

Calcium and Magnesium are already ionized in the water: they’re Ca[sup]2+[/sup] and Mg[sup]2+[/sup] respectively. What deposits is their salts, not the pure metals; mainly the carbonates CaCO[sub]3[/sub] and MgCO[sub]3[/sub]. Both of those metals will, when solid, ionize rapidly and spectacularly in contact with water: you know magnesium flashes? That spectacularly.

What they are selling is, in chemical terms, equivalent to a system to turn dihydrogen monoxide (H[sub]2[/sub]O) into water.

AskNott, the hardness of water is defined as “its content in Ca[sup]2+[/sup] and Mg[sup]2+[/sup]”. Sodium content is simply not part of the definition. Ocean water can be supersoft, it will still have a ton of sodium.

The way they work is you order one and money is removed from your account. Simple process.

Mag wheels used to be popular. Mag is short for magnesium. Those wheels didn’t go up like a flashbulb when they hit a puddle. I also have used magnesium ribbons many times to demonstrate magnesium’s flammability in air (magnesium flashes are just burning magnesium), but I can assure you no great reaction occurs between room temperature magnesium and water. Calcium does react with water, and will fizz off hydrogen gas pretty rapidly in hot water, but its reaction in cold water is a lot weaker. Perhaps you’re confusing the alkali metals (lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium and cesium) with them.

Yes, this. Magnesium actually behaves much like aluminum in most practical situations. You might confuse the two, if you had them in your shop scrap pile, and usually it wouldn’t matter if you did. Now, if you have a pile of fine magnesium chips or turnings from a machining process, and you dropped a sparkler on the pile, they’d probably ignite and you’d have a vigorous and spectacularly bright fire. But even narrow strips of magnesium foil ignited for a nifty display tend to extinguish themselves.

Yes, drinking soft water isn’t a big deal unless you are on a sodium-restricted diet (or are like a newborn drinking formula made with it).

Often when a water softener is installed, the cold tap to the kitchen is split before the softener, so water at the kitchen sink isn’t softened.