What is the Ionized Water Myth?

Water ionizer, or water decarbonator?

Did you know? All water on Earth – except for distilled water and water filtered by reverse osmosis – is ionized to some extent. This is because water, with anything dissolved in it is ionized by the substance dissolved in it. This means your tap water is ionized water, the oceans and seas are full of ionized water, and the water made by home water ionizers is ionized water!

But why do skeptics say there’s no such thing as ionized water?

Why  do skeptics – including chemist Stephen Lower – say there’s no such thing as ionized water? They do this because the term ionized water is a misnomer – a term wrongfully used to describe something. In chemistry, water that has had all the ions removed from it – either by distillation or reverse osmosis – is called deionized water. But, water that has ions in it is not called ionized water by chemists. They refer to water with ions in it as an “aqueous solution”. The ionized water myth really isn’t a myth at all, it’s a misunderstanding.

Water Ionizers and Ionized Water

ionized water myth infographic

Ionized water, more of a misunderstanding than a myth

The term ionized water has become popular for describing the water made by water ionizers. In fact, the name ‘water ionizer’ is not an accurate description of what these machines do! A scientifically accurate term for ‘water ionizers’ would be water decarbonator because that’s what water ionizers actually do! Water ionizers split alkaline mineral ions from the acidic carbonate ions which are present in your tap water and discharge each of them in separate streams of water.

Is ionized water microclustered?

No, microclustering is a common ionized water myth which is loosely based on one of the physical properties of water called hydrogen bonding. Water molecules can momentarily bond together to form clusters, but they break apart within picoseconds – that’s one trillionth of a second! Water molecules form hydrogen bonds with each other, and break them, constantly! Hydrogen bonding has never actually been observed in a laboratory, so it’s just a theory. Physicists claim that if it happens, it happens too fast for them to observe it. This is why alkaline water skeptics like Brian Dunning state that the microclustering theory of water is pseudoscience. Microclustering is pseudoscience made to sound like real science.

How Water becomes ionized

Water becomes ionized when you dissolve something in it. This is because when you dissolve something, you cause the atomic bonds that hold it together to become loosened. For example: Table salt in solid form is a compound – a substance made up of two or more elements – which is comprised of one atom of sodium plus one atom of chloride. It has the familiar chemical formula of NaCl. (Na = Sodium, Cl = Chloride).

How salt becomes ions in water

But when you dissolve salt in water it becomes Na + Cl+ H20. When the salt is dissolved in water, the bond between the sodium atoms and the chloride atoms becomes loose. The sodium becomes slightly separated from the chloride. They are attracted to each other by their atomic charge. Sodium has a positive charge, chloride has a negative charge. When any particle has a charge, it is considered to be an ion. Because of this, when you dissolve salt in water, the water becomes filled with sodium ions and chloride ions, thus the water is now ionized.

The Ions in Tap Water

Tap water is ionized water! There are many different ions in tap water, the most common ions in tap water are calcium, magnesium, carbonate and bicarbonate ions. These ions come from the calcium carbonates and magnesium carbonates which are commonly found in hard water. These ions are in tap water because water picks up magnesium and calcium from the Earth, and then combines them with CO2 from the air. When CO2 dissolves in water, it forms carbonates.

The ions in ionized water from a water ionizer

As I mentioned earlier, a better name for a water ionizer would be water decarbonator. This is because a water ionizer splits the carbonate ions from the calcium and magnesium ions, and then discharges both in separate streams of water.

When the magnesium and calcium ions in tap water are separated from the carbonate ions, they become chemically unstable. To regain stability, the calcium and magnesium ions chemically combine with ions ripped from water molecules to form mineral hydrates in a process called hydrolysis. The ions that are taken from the water molecules are called hydroxyl ions (OH-).

The hydroxyl ions have a negative charge, which balances out the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions.

The carbonate ions which are discharged in a separate stream of water by the water ionizer undergo a chemical change too. They break down water molecules to form a weak solution of carbonic acid.

Two types of ionized water made by a water ionizer

Because a water ionizer splits the alkaline mineral ions from the carbonate ions, and discharges both in separate streams of water, a water ionizer makes two kinds of water at the same time:

    • Ionized Alkaline Water – composed of alkaline mineral ions and hydroxyl ions

  • Ionized Acidic Water – composed of carbonate ions and hydrogen ions

The chemical formulas for the compounds in these ionized waters are:

    • alkaline water = Ca(OH)2 and Mg(OH)2 – Calcium hydroxide and Magnesium Hydroxide

  • acidic water = H2CO3 – Carbonic acid

Busting the Ionized Water Myth

As you can see from the information presented so far, what water ionizers do is basic chemistry. Any chemist – including Stephen Lower – would agree that the processes outlined above are in strict accordance with the laws of chemistry and physics. There is nothing magical about what a water ionizer – or water decarbonator! does.

So the “myth” of ionized water is a simple misunderstanding. The term water ionizer is a misnomer. As shown in this article, water ionizers have no effect on the water! What they have an effect on is the mineral ions and the carbonate ions in the water. That is why I say that a better name for water ionizers is water carbonators. That is what these machines actually do, they decarbonate your tap water. It’s simple science.


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