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Water Softeners Explained

What is a water softener?

A water softener is a mechanical appliance designed to remove ions that cause the water to be "hard," - usually calcium and magnesium ions that come from surrounding rocks and soil. By removing the minerals that contribute to water hardness, the softener is actually making your water "softer."

Some iron may also be removed during softening, but water softeners are not an ideal solution for people who have a large amount of iron in their water. For that situation, you would need a chlorination system.

How does a water softener work?

When it is hooked up to your existing well water system, water softeners remove minerals like calcium and magnesium by "replacing" those ions with different ions - in this case, sodium.

The water softener contains a mineral tank that is filled with beads that have a negative charge. Calcium and magnesium have positive charges, so these minerals will be attracted to the beads as the water passes through the mineral tank.

Sodium ions are also positively charged, but much more weakly than calcium or magnesium. Water softeners have a separate saltwater tank that is flushed through the mineral tank, driving the calcium and magnesium ions off of the beads. The water then goes through a regeneration cycle to flush dirt, the saltwater solution, and the calcium and magnesium out of the water that is then delivered to your home.

What are the benefits of having a water softener?

  • Use less detergents, soaps and cleaners, which is better for your budget and the environment

  • Noticeable difference in the look and feel of your skin and hair, using fewer products

  • Reduce scale build-up on tubs, showers, sinks, faucets and appliances (resulting in lower energy consumption in these appliances).

  • No more spots on glassware, dishes and flatware, and no need to use chemical rinsing agents.

  • Whiter/brighter laundry with less mineral residue (helping clothes last longer)

  • Reduced scale build-up in pipes

Additional Resources:

  1. How It Works: Water Softeners

  2. Popular Mechanics: Water Softeners

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

Erica Bales