How Water Softeners Work

The terms “hard water” and “soft water” are something you’ve probably heard before.

You may ask yourself what determines the hardness or softness of the water and why is one healthier to drink than the other.

When you look at the water, typically it’s crystal clear but most of the time it contains chemicals and minerals. These certain minerals create the hardness of the water.

High levels of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals make water hard. Water softening systems reduce the concentration of these minerals from the water. While hard water has high levels of calcium and magnesium, soft water has a higher concentration of sodium or salt.

Just by looking at the water, you can’t tell whether it’s hard or soft.
Some of the signs of hard water are:

  • You will feel a film on your hands after you wash them. This happens because the soap reacts with calcium and it forms soap scum.
  • You will see spots on glasses and silverware that are coming out of the dishwasher.
  • Mineral stains will show up on the clothes when you get them out of the washing machine.
  • Mineral deposits will form in the pipes and they will shrink the interior diameter of the pipes and that way they will reduce water flow.
Some of the signs of soft water are:

  • When washing clothes, dishes, and your hands you will see a healthy lather.
  • Clothes will be much cleaner and there will be no mineral stains and damage.
  • You will have normal water pressure in your home
  • Your water will have a sodium taste
Water softening systems remove calcium and magnesium ions from hard water and replace them with sodium ions. This process is called ion exchange and it turns hard water into softened water.

Hard water will enter the mineral tank and will flow through a bed of spherical resin beads. These plastic beads are made from polystyrene and are charged with a sodium ion. The resin beads are anions and that means that they have a negative charge. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium have a positive charge and that makes them cations. Positive charge if minerals attract the negative charge of minerals because of the resin beads. When the hard water passes through the resin, the beads remove the mineral ions from the water. Sodium-ion is released when the bead seizes the mineral ions. The column of resin will strip out all hardness out of the water and then the water passes through the mineral tank and softened water will flow into your house.

Water softeners are made from 3 components: a control valve, a mineral tank, and a brine tank. They work together and they remove the minerals from hard water. They also monitor the flow of the water and clean the system through a regeneration process.

It’s safe to drink soft water. Sodium is released during the iron exchange process but that amount is not unhealthy. Compared to the sodium in a slice o pizza or bread, the amount of sodium that water softeners add is negligible.

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