How a Water Softener Works

How a Water Softener Works

Hard water is good for plants, animals and humans. It is the easiest form of water to find, whether it is raining from the sky or being provided by local utilities.

However, hard water is full of calcium and magnesium which can build up in water pipes and appliances, wreaking havoc on plumbing, skin and clothing and preventing soap from doing its job. A good water softener is the least expensive and most effective means of ridding hard water of these troublesome minerals.


What A Water Softener Does

Most water softeners work on the basic principle that the undesirable calcium and magnesium ions in hard water can be traded for softer ions, such as those in sodium. Most softeners rely on resin or zeolite beads that bond to the calcium and magnesium ions. These beads are already bonded to sodium ions in the tank, and as the water washes over the beads, the sodium switches places with the calcium and magnesium. This leaves the calcium and magnesium bonded to the resins and the sodium left in the water, providing softer water for showers, laundry and other household chores.

The problem is that eventually the water tank is full of calcium and magnesium bonded to resin beads, and there is no sodium left to filter through the water. When this occurs, the softener is no longer useful, so it must go through a regeneration cycle. The regeneration cycle soaks the beads in a sodium chloride solution that forces the calcium and magnesium ions to drop off the beads, re-establishing the bond of sodium to resin. At the conclusion of the regeneration, the softener flushes the unusable calcium and magnesium brine out of its system, leaving a sodium-rich solution behind for more water softening.

Some home softening systems utilize an electric timer that initiations the flushing of the unusable ions, while others rely on a sensor that detects sodium depletion. The most efficient systems are equipped with two mineral tanks that allow one to be in the regeneration cycle while the other softens water.

Benefits of Having a Water Softener

A good water softener can make a difference in many aspects of the household:

1. It improves the cleaning ability of soaps and detergents. – Many soaps, shampoos and detergents are insoluble in hard water, causing them to lump together and be unusable.

2. It keeps plumbing, pipes and appliances cleaner. – When the soap or detergent is clumped up due to hard water, pipes and appliances can become clogged and unusable.

3. It makes hair and skin softer and smoother. – When shampoos and soaps are dis-solvable, they more easily rinse from the body and prevent residues.

4. It keeps fabrics softer and more vibrant. – Detergents wash more easily from fabrics with soft water, allowing them to last longer.

5. It cleans silverware and glassware more thoroughly. – Dishwashers with soft water keep kitchenware looking clean and sparkling.

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