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How Do Water Softeners Work?

Last Updated On September 2nd, 2016

Hard water is groundwater that has absorbed minerals from the earth – the most problematic minerals are calcium and magnesium. Water that has high levels of these minerals tend to build up in pipes, reducing the water flow and will eventually lead to clog pipes. Hard water also makes soaps hard to lather while leaving behind sticky soap scum, which makes washing anything a difficult task – anything from your dishes to your car to your hair, and etc.

Because hard water is harsh for your skin, appliances, home, and wallet, some home owners choose to install a water softener system to counteract these effects. Soft water helps with hard water deposits and stains on tubs and showers, makes household cleaning easier and quicker, leaves less spotting on dishes and glassware, reduces your energy bills due to improved water efficiency, reduces soap usage due to better lather, results in brighter and softer clothes, and extends the lifespan of appliances that use water.

Water Softeners in a Nutshell

Each water softener system has three main components: a mineral tank, a brine tank, and a control valve. The mineral tank house resin beads that turns the hard water turns into soft water. The brine tank takes charge of regenerating the resin beads so they can effectively remove hard water minerals. The control valve commands the flow of water in on out of the mineral and brine tanks during regeneration.

Follow the flow of water from hard to soft:

  • Hard water comes into your home via a main water pipe then flows to the water softener.
  • The hard water flows through the mineral tank filled with resin beads. These resin beads attract the minerals from the hard water, removing them from your household’s water.
  • The resulting water released from the mineral tank is softened, and flows to various pipes in your home.

The Science behind the Regeneration Process

In traditional water softeners, the agent in the resin beads which attracts the other minerals is sodium (or salt). Every so often, the resin beads need to be rinsed free from the hard water minerals and recharged so they can effectively attract and collect calcium and magnesium. Check out the detailed steps for the regeneration process below:

  • A very strong brine (water that is high in salt) solution simply by adding salt to the softener.
  • The brine solution flows through the tank with resin beads, rinsing the beads, exchanging the new sodium in the brine solution for the hard water minerals that was previously collected.
  • The brine solution and the collected hard water minerals are then flushed out of the resin tank and down the drain.
  • The resin beads are thus recharged and ready to effectively collect calcium and magnesium once again.

Instead of sodium, some water softeners are potassium based. Those who are trying to restrict sodium in their diets or want a system that is more environmentally friendly should consider a potassium-based water softener system.

Hard water brings variety of problems to your household, and a water softener system can be an easy fix. Water softeners work simply by “filtering” the hard water minerals, turning the hard groundwater into softened water that is easier to live with using a mineral tank with resin beads, a brine tank, and a control valve. And that’s how water softeners work in a nutshell!

Also read: Are Water Softeners Healthy?

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