A Brief Guide To How Water Softeners Work

If you have never lived in a home with hard water before, moving into a home with hard water that depends on water softeners can feel a bit like walking into a mystery. Here is a quick guide to help you understand what hard water really is, as well as how a water softener will help you out.

What Hard Water Really Means

The term hard water can be a little confusing. The water that comes out of your faucet, to the naked eye, will look just like any other water. However, if you were to take that water and put it under a microscope, you would see a high presence of both magnesium and calcium in the water. These minerals join up with the water as it makes it ways through the soil, to the filter plant and all the way through the pipes to your faucet.

The presence of these minerals is what makes the water "hard." The high levels of magnesium and calcium in the water will not hurt you when you drink it; however, hard water does have an effect on other things its encounters.

Hard water can cause minerals to build up inside of your appliances that depend on water, such as your washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator. Hard water also decreases the effectiveness of soap, and can lead to spots showing up on your clothes and dishes.

How Water Softeners Fight Hard Water

A water softener is different than a water filter. A water filter allows water to pass through it, and tries to grab minerals with the fibers of the filter in order to stop them.

A water softener, on the other hand, actually uses a chemical process to remove magnesium and calcium from your water.

A water softener system has a tank that is filled with resin beads that are made of plastic and are negatively charged. These beads rest inside of a tank filled with sodium chloride, more commonly known as salt water, which is negatively charged. Due to the difference in the charge of the resin and the sodium chloride, the negatively charged resin clings on to the positively charged sodium ion.

Both magnesium and calcium are positively charged ions. They each have two positive charges. When the hard water passes through the resin and sodium chloride solution, they detach the sodium chloride from the resin and take its place. They are able to kick the sodium chloride to the curb because they have two positive charges and are stronger than the sodium chloride, which only has one positive charge.

The water that comes out of the water softener leaves behind all the extra calcium and magnesium that originally made it hard. The water is now soft, and will not damage your appliances or hamper your cleaning efforts.

Eventually, the resin needs to ditch all the magnesium and calcium it has picked up. In most modern water softeners, the water softener automatically flushes out the magnesium and calcium by flooding the resin with an excessive amount of salt water. In older systems, you have to manually flush out the magnesium and calcium by adding extra salt to the system.

If you have hard water in your new house, your water is safe to drink. You just need to make sure you have a water softener set up to filter out the excess minerals in your water in order to keep your appliances in good working order and in order to keep your clothes and dishes clean. If you have a water softener, check it out and see if it is an older one you need to flush yourself, or if you have a new water softener that will do that job for you. Contact a plumbing company to learn more!