BEWARE – The Internet is full of companies hawking all sorts of alternative water treatment products. Chemical or salt free water conditioning, alkaline water, structured water, energized water, magnetic, catalytic, etc. – all promise to do amazing things, but we strongly urge caution. These products are all sold using testimonials, without any credible, independent, third party validation. The claims may sound scientific to the average layperson, but are they really based on science – or just hype?
While scientific results are not necessarily perfect and can even be wrong, they are usually based on the results of controlled experiments. When the same or similar outcomes result from controlled experiments, using the same or similar parameters, scientific conclusions can begin to be drawn. Unfortunately, we have not seen or read about any credible evidence that supports the claims made by these purveyors of alternative water technologies.
The claims from two categories of products are particularly troublesome – “no salt” or “chemical free” water conditioners and “alkaline” or “structured” water.
For interesting, easy to understand information about pseudo-science and water chemistry from a chemistry professor click here.
For analysis by specific brand or type of alternative water treatment by the chemistry professor click here.
“NO SALT” and “CHEMICAL FREE” WATER SOFTENERS
The promotion of alternative, “chemical free” water “conditioners” to prohibit hard water scale has a long history. Magnetic, catalytic, and other “magic bullet” treatment methods are not new and have had ample time to prove themselves, if, in fact, they actually worked.
Most of these systems don’t claim to remove the hardness minerals like a traditional water softener does. Instead, they claim to alter the “charge” or other properties of the scale causing minerals in order to inhibit the buildup of scale. Independent, university research has yet to quantitatively validate these claims. Kinetico Corporation recently conducted its own test with six of these products, treating the feed water to identical hot water heaters. At the end of the test run, the hot water heaters were cut open, the scale was removed, and then the scale was weighed. All six of the hot water heaters had exactly the same amount of scale, by weight, as the control (untreated) hot water heater.
Because it is so difficult for these promoters to satisfy their scale reducing claims, many have turned to packaging their proprietary product with a proven water treatment product such as activated carbon, so that their product will actually do something. While carbon is an excellent filtration and purification media, it does little or nothing to reduce scale.
We have replaced numerous alternative conditioners through the years for homeowners that want something that actually works. When curiosity leads us to open up one of these units to see the actual “technology” behind them, we are always amazed at the “gall” or outright fraud behind some of these “magic bullets”. BEWARE!
ALKALINE or “IONIZED” WATER
One of the more questionable water treatment categories is that of alkaline water, where water ionizers produce an alkaline water stream. The alkaline water is purported to provide a long list of amazing health benefits, including preventing disease, increasing energy levels, and hydrating the body more effectively than tap water. It supposedly does all this by balancing the body’s pH levels. While we certainly agree that drinking lots of water, as opposed to lots of soda, does provide many health benefits, we question whether any possible health benefits are a result of the alkalinity in the water or just the result of drinking more water. We also question whether the alkaline water even has any ability to alter the body’s pH.
One prominent alternative medicine authority, Harvard trained MD, Dr. Andrew Weil, says the alkaline water claims are “bogus”. To see what he has to say click on this link, https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/healthy-home/does-alkaline-water-promote-health/. His views are shared by most of the western scientific and medical communities.
Our opinion is that water has very little ability to buffer or alter the pH. Other than acting as a dilutant, it is more likely to be effected by the pH of whatever it comes into contact than to have any significant impact itself. Most fruits and vegetables that are considered highly alkalizing by the alternative medicine community are actually quite acidic. Lemons and limes are good examples. They rank among the most alkalizing of foods, yet lime juice is actuallly extremely acidic. With a pH of around two it is 100,000 times more acidic than pure water. What lime juice does have is readily bio-available minerals and nutrients that have the ability to positively effect the body and health. The minerals in tap water (and subsequently ionized water) are inorganic, have little bio-availability, and mostly just pass through the body. We rely on plants to process inorganic minerals into minerals that our bodies can more readily use.
A BETTER ALKALIZED WATER
If you want water with true alkalizing potential, save your money by not purchasing the ionizer. Instead, buy a reverse osmosis or distillation system, which will purify and reduce the “bad” contaminants like arsenic and nitrates. Next, just squeeze a slice of lemon or lime into your purified water. Another option would be to add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vineger, a tried and true home remedy. Again, the apple cider vinegar is a strong acid, but it is considered an excellent “alkalizer”.