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We recently had a Sentry II 960 series water softener installed, and we're not liking the soft water. It makes the tubs and showers dangerously slippery, and some family members just don't like the feel of it.

The plumber tested the water hardness and set the softener accordingly. He told me that if it's too soft, I just need to lower the hardness setting and wait for the next regeneration cycle. Is this true? As far as I can tell, the hardness setting only determines the number of gallons used between regeneration cycles. It wouldn't affect the way the softener softens the water, right?

We're thinking about replumbing the softener so it only feeds the water heater, and not the cold water pipes to the rest of the house. That way we'd get a mix of hard and soft water in all the tubs and showers. And we'd still fully protect the water heater and dishwasher. What do you think about this plan? Is there a better option?

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4 Answers 4

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You can set up a de-slimer like my water softener guy set up for me when I bought my house. My water softener puts out totally softened water with 0 grains per gallon of hardness, and it would feel slimy if I showered in it. The de-slimer is a "re-hardener" tank after the softener to add a tiny bit of calcium back into the water. When I adjust the valves just right, the resulting water has just 0.5 GPG of hardness, which still qualifies by all measures as "very soft" but it doesn't feel slimy.

This gives you all the benefits of softened water in both hot and cold, but no slimy feel in the shower.

In the photo below, the softened water enters from the upper right and exits to the house plumbing at the lower left. The tank is a small 8 x 44" model, half-full of marble chips. The valves should be self-explanatory. The leftmost valve is partly open, and it admits a little water into the tank where it picks up calcium and mixes with the rest of the water just past the topmost valve.

This has been running for eight years with no problems, and the marble chip level has not changed at all. It takes a few trial showers with small adjustments until you get it just right, but then it's completely maintenance free.

enter image description here

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  • This sounds very interesting, I'll have to investigate this. Thanks for sharing it!
    – FreeMan
    Apr 13 at 11:07
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You can plumb hard and softened water to the various outlets in your house as you desire.

When I was a kid, we lived in a rental house. The owner liked to drink hard water, so he plumbed cold, unsoftened water to the upstairs bathroom sink. He would go there to get his glass of water to drink. Everything else in the house was softened. Since we moved in when he moved out, we also got hard water out of the bathroom cold water tap.

There are consequences to running hard water to taps in your house of course, as there are for every decision in life:

  • You may experience faster mineral build up in the pipes supplying hard water.
  • You will find that soap won't lather or work quite as well in hard water.

If you're concerned about slipping in the tub consider adding non-skid stickers to the bottom of the tub/shower. TBH, I've really never had issues in our house as a kid or adult.

I can commiserate with your family member that don't like soft water, as I'm not a huge fan of soft water for a shower - I feel like I'm constantly scrubbing to get the soap off. I can definitely tell when the softener has recharged over night. However, it's usually one shower, then it's good for a few days until the next recharge. Depending on your water usage, you might find it's a far more frequent recharge cycle.

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  • drinking softened water is also bad if heart problems, at least with salt.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 12 at 18:57
  • You're implying that the salt that cleans the resin bed makes it into the water that comes through the softener, @EdBeal? Since my grandfather survived 8 heart attacks, my grandmother, and by extension my parents never added salt to anything, and I'm pretty sensitive to the taste of salt (since I had very little as a kid). I've never noticed any salty taste to my softened water in my house (with 2 different softeners), nor in my house growing up...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 13 at 17:22
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    Just because you had a family member means nothing. It is a simple fact that salt systems increase the sodium in the water and maybe he would have had fewer heart attacks if using a more expensive potassium chloride pellets that eliminates the sodium, do a little research. you cannot taste it by the way, or the difference from salt to potassium. I have had both, in the same house it is a small amount but any additional salt for someone with heart problems can increase problems, just Google it and I am not implying anything. I am stating that a salt basted system increases sodium.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 13 at 17:39
  • Wow... reading failure. I have had water softeners in my houses as a kid and adult, not my grandfather. But anyway... I was asking for clarification, I'd never heard that before. I'd assumed that I'd taste the salt in the water because I know I'm pretty sensitive to it. I guess I was wrong on both counts. I'm 99.999% certain that there was no water softener in his apartment in mid-town Manhattan where he lived for at least 60 years, so I don't think that was a problem. Deep breath time.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 13 at 17:45
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    Many do not know, after loosing my dad at a young age I have assisted maybe 20 people convert to potassium on the recommendation from the doctor (we had a salt water softener) at least we have the internet to find this kind of information. An RO system also works to eliminate everything from the water (we use it on the drinking water only as they waste a lot of water).
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 13 at 17:57
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"the hardness setting only determines the number of gallons used between regeneration cycles."

Yes. A lower setting makes the softener go off less often. The water will be fully soft after the regeneration, but lowering the hardness setting when the water is harder will only let hard water through into the plumbing. So I think the plumber has misunderstood the hardness setting.

The idea of only feeding the water heater, and thus the dishwasher & clothes washer, might work. Washing clothes on cold water might not suds up well, so a feed to the cold inlet on the clothes washer may be good too.

Of course, hard water in the cold pipes may build up mineral deposits in the cold plumbing.

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I asked the water softener manufacturer for suggestions, and they sold me a mixing valve designed to address this very issue. It goes between the water softener and the bypass valves. It mixes a small amount of hard water with the output from the softener.

There's a small knob on the side to adjust the ratio of hard and soft water. I turned the knob just until I could see a tiny color difference on a water hardness test strip. That tiny bit of hardness makes a big difference.

The mixing valve before installation

The mixing valve installed

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