I'm extremely skeptical of the idea of magnetic water softeners (strong magnets attached to pipes), but desperately wish it were true because I hate lugging 40# bags of salt out to my well house in the hot Texas sun.

I'd love to see some objective research results on the subject from someone who isn't selling a magnetic water softening system.

For the purposes of this question, "work" is defined as changing the properties of water treated with the system to:

  1. Substantially improve the effectiveness of soap products using the output water.
  2. Minimize scale buildup on fixtures, in pipes, and on dishes.

The reason I'm being so specific is that I've seen some defenders of this technology that claim you get the benefits of soft water using their systems, but because of the way it works it doesn't show any difference on standard water hardness tests. That is, it is pseudo-soft water, but acts like soft water for all practical purposes. Just the fact that they have a miracle solution, that involves magnets, and is resilient to empirical testing makes me extremely skeptical.

  • See also skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/162/…
    – Suma
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 9:13
  • 4
    “acts like soft water for all practical purposes” – then what do the water hardness tests measure? Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 9:31
  • I wonder if you could add iron filing to the water heat it enough for the calcium to build up on the iron filings and then use a magnet to pull them out of the stream. Although you would then be dragging bags of iron filing around instead of bags of salt, have greaters costs as you heated the water and have to folter the water to make sure no iron filings got through to the tap...
    – Ardesco
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 10:23
  • I don't think the claim is to eliminate the hardness but to render it unable to clog pipes or do other damage. I can find no documentation of this claim.
    – user9082
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 12:05
  • I believe the studies cited are incomplete and much more research in this area is required in order to understand the dynamics of buildup variability based on magnetic influence.
    – ylluminate
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 18:33

2 Answers 2



There have been a few studies on the efficacy of magnetic water softening systems. This one (PDF) from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory compares chemical and magnetic systems against a control. The table of results for scale buildup are pretty compelling:

enter image description here

As you can see, the Polyphosphate chemical process was effective, and the magnetic one was not.

The Army Corps of Engineers also conducted a study on three magnetic water softening devices which found:

The results of this study do not indicate any clear advantage for any of the three devices tested versus a control for the inhibition of mineral scale formation or the corrosion of copper.

  • 1
    Am I reading this correctly that the magnetic device made the scale buildup WORSE?
    – JohnFx
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 15:44
  • Looks like it, but without knowing the margin of error that could be just chance. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 9:03
  • The problem here appears to be that there WAS a change. If there was a change and these magnets prompted more buildup, then it would stand to reason there is some variable that is not accounted for and this needs much more scrutinization and study with differentials accounted for (and are missing from the PDF and the above table). This is an exceptionally incomplete study. This seems to be the case also with the Army Corps of Engineers in that while there is a lot of data, methodologies were not changed up appropriately and alternative recourse / further study considered.
    – ylluminate
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 18:32

There was a study by Trinity College that concludes there is 99.9% chance that a magnetic water softener will reduce hardness to some degree, very interesting how it happens.

Carbonates formed by heating water containing ≈120 mg(Ca)/l are characterized by X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. Tests on 32 pairs of samples establish, at the 99.9% probability level, that drawing water through a static magnetic field (B≈0.1T, ∇B≈10 T/m) increases the aragonite/calcite ratio in the deposit. There is an incubation period of several hours, and memory of magnetic treatment extends beyond 200 h.

Source: Cass, S., & Coey, J.M.D. (2000). Magnetic water treatment. Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, 209, 71-74. (Full text - PDF)

  • Can you please include an excerpt?
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 23:25
  • 8
    It doesn't say that it reduces hardness at all. It says "In conclusion, we have established that a magnetic field effect exists. Passing water through a magnetic field subsequently favours formation of aragonite rather then calcite in our experiments" where aragonite is a different crystalline structure of calcite. In particular, Table 1 specifically says that there is no effect on Na, Mg, K and Ca, which are the dominant cations that make water "hard"
    – msw
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 0:04
  • 7
    This is an unsound conclusion. A significance level of 0.001 does not mean the same as 99.9% likely.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 1:44
  • @msw: If it affects the aragonite/calcite ratio in the deposit, then it affects CaCO3 somehow
    – Henry
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 0:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .