A water softener is a mechanical appliance designed to treat and turn hard water into soft water. These systems replace minerals such as iron, magnesium, and calcium in exchange for salts like potassium chloride and sodium. Hard water is a reality that most households experience within their homes. Have you ever noticed scale buildup in your shower, faucets, or sinks? If yes, then you have witnessed the adverse effects of hard water.

Over 85% of homes in the United States are using hard water, so it’s likely your home already has this device. If you have questions about how water softeners work, we have answers. In this guide, we’ll examine how a water softener system works, but to fully understand the process, you must also have an idea of what hard water and its composition is. If you are interested in purchasing a system for your home, you should check out some of the best water softener reviews to make an informed buying decision.

What is Hard Water?

You need to understand that water is a natural compound that is never pure, you’ll never find raw water that only comprises of oxygen and hydrogen atoms. As water is the most versatile universal solvents on earth, it is understandable it picks up impurities both on the surface and underground as it makes its way through. Although most of the harmful substances are dealt with in the water treatment facilities, it still doesn’t remove water’s innate hardness.

Hard water has a high volume of minerals dissolved in it. Iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese make up the vast majority of these minerals. Ideally, hard water doesn’t cause any adverse health effects. However, it hampers household appliances and is also bothersome in other ways.

Hard water can mean the difference between a smooth-running household whose boilers, washing machine and other water-reliant appliances are in great shape, and a home where the home appliances keep clogging and interfering with almost every cleaning task from bathing and dishwashing to laundering and personal grooming. However, not all homeowners have to deal with this. It mostly depends on your geographical location.

How to Test for Hard Water

The first step to better-tasting, fresher water is to implement a water hardness test so you can find the best water softener system. Although hard water signs are apparent, it takes just a few steps to find out how hard your home water is. If you get water from a municipal water company, call the superintendent of water or city offices to ask for the result of your testing.

In the case your water is supplied privately, you may have to do the testing yourself. You can test the hardness of your water by hiring a water-conditioning company or an independent water-testing laboratory. There are also some city or state where the health departments usually offer to check your water hardness.

How Does Water Softeners Work?

Typically, there are four types of water softeners: ion exchange, salt-free, magnetic, and osmosis water softeners. However, ion exchange also known as Salt-free water softeners are the most popular and used due to their nearly non-existent environmental impact and multiple benefits compared to others. So let’s see how this mechanical appliance works:

Ion Exchange Process

The appliance has two tanks connected to a house plumbing system. Depending on the intended use and capacity of the softener, it is usually mounted either underneath the sink or your home’s water entry point. A water softener works on the concept of ion exchange, and it follows these steps:

During the process of ion exchange, the water softener eliminates and replaces magnesium and calcium with sodium ions. The hard water from your water supply enters a tank full of thousands of tiny resin beads. You can think of these small beads as negatively charged magnet which attracts the opposite charge.

So when the hard water enters the tank, the negatively charged resin beads make a trade with the hard water ions like the magnesium and calcium. As the hard water come into contact with the resin, the positively charged ions bind to the resin beads, and they get replaced with the sodium ions. And what we have left after this exchange is the noticeably softer water. While there is some sodium left in the soft water, the concentration is considerably small and can be considered negligible.

Regeneration or Recharging

Regeneration is the process whereby a water softener recharges itself to continue proving your household with soft water because, after some time the resins beads will be depleted and become saturated with positively charged ions. When this occurs, the resin beads will stop extracting the hard minerals. So it needs to be regenerated and cleansed of the metals ions that are attached to them.

The second tank called “Brine Tank” comes into use at this moment. This tank is the place where the softening salts (made of sodium chloride and potassium chloride) are stored. It also keeps the brine solution that is rich in the same sodium ions found in the resin beads. The brine solution which is made up of higher salt concentration than the regular salt water enters the first tank and the ion exchange process takes place, only this time in reverse. Then, the salt water thoroughly cleanses the unwanted hard water metal ions, and finally, the hard mineral water gets flushed out of the tank.

Now the resin beads have been refreshed are they are ready to repeat the purpose of extracting hard water ions. The process takes a while to complete; this is why the water softener is set up at night to initiate the regeneration process. And the high-quality water softener systems can perform this function automatically at a convenient time.

Do You Need A Water Softener System?

In a nutshell, if you have hard water in your home, you should probably own this. Each household exact requirement varies, as some locations have more impurities than the others.  If you have all the adverse effect of hard water in your home, then you are required to get a water softener to prevent the havoc it can cause.

The higher the degree of hard water in your household the more damage it can do to your home appliances. In this case, water softeners can save you money, and increase the lifespan of your home appliances.