How Does A Water Softener Work You May Ask? Evolve Explains How

You may have been thinking about getting a water softener installed in your home. In addition, you may be aware of why you need a water softener, as it removes the hardness in your water to make it cleaner and better.

How Does A Water Softener Work You May Ask Evolve Explains How

It will help prolong the life of your appliances and reduce your maintenance costs.

However, you may have been curious about how a water softener works and what the system does. Especially as it may seem strange to be adding so much salt to the brine tank and what your system is doing as it regenerates at night.

Typically, we don’t ask how certain appliances in the home work, we just want them to do their job. Although, sometimes it’s worth knowing how certain appliances work so that you understand why something is going wrong.

In this article, we will be talking about what a water softener does and how it works.

Components Of A Water Softener System

Typically, your water softener is made up of two main components. These include the media or mineral tank and the brine tank. In the media tank, this is the place where the hard water is turned soft due to an ion-exchange.

This ion exchange is produced due to resin beads that sit at the bottom of the tank. These beads will absorb the hardness ions in the water, which will then turn it soft.

Near the top of your tank, you will see a controller, where you can set the settings that suit your home’s own water needs. Next to the media tank, is a shorter tank, known as the brine tank.

In the brine tank, this contains the water softening salt, which will go into the media tank when required to help regenerate the resin beads.

Once the resin beads are full of hardness ions, they will stop working. Then, when the brine tank enters the media tank, the salt will react with the resin beads.

The sodium ions remove all the madness that is stored up in the resin beads, and they can then begin to work again.

Both the brine and media tank are connected with a line that feeds water into the two tanks during the regeneration process.

What Is An Ion Exchange?

As we have mentioned above, typically your water softening system will complete an ion exchange. Inside the media tank there are small but negatively charged resin beads. These beads are able to remove hardness ions from your hard water.

Hardness ions, such as calcium and magnesium, are positively charged, so the two resin and hardness ions are attracted to each other. The resin ions remove all the hardness, and soft water is left behind.

While sodium has a small positive charge, so when it makes contact with the full resin bead, it removes all the hardness and the resin bead regains its negative charge.

Therefore, hard water will run into your media tank. The strongly positively charged hardness ions will immediately be attracted to the negatively charged resin beads.

Think of it as two magnets being attracted to one another. The hardness ions that become trapped in the media tank and soft water will leave the tank and travel around the home.

The Regeneration Cycle

The Regeneration Cycle

The regeneration cycle is really important, as it makes sure the resin beads continue to work efficiently. Once the resin beads are full of hardness ions, then your hard water will no longer be able to be treated.

Therefore, the system needs to be regenerated. Generally, the regeneration cycle is set to happen in the middle of the night. Normally, at a time when there is no one using any water in the household.

There are 4 steps in a regeneration process, which will happen while you are asleep.

The Brine Tank Will Fill Up

The media tank will give softened water to your brine tank. The brine tank will then partially fill up using this water. Once the softened water comes into contact with sodium chloride aka salt, then a solution known as brine will be produced.

The brine will sit in the tank for a couple of hours, to make sure that all the salt has fully dissolved, which will then make the brine much more concentrated.


After this, raw hard water will enter the media tank. The water is forced to fill up from the bottom of the tank up. It is then stirred, which wakes up the resin and flushes out any debris that will go down the drain.

Brine Water Enters The Media Tank

Once the brine water has had enough time to make sure that all the salt has fully dissolved, the brine water can be drawn to the media tank.

The brine water is full of positively charged sodium ions, which will attach themselves to the negative resin beads. By attaching themselves, they are forcing the hardness ions out of the resin beads.

The hardness ions that have been forced out, will be pushed out and through the drain.


The final step is a rinse, where the media tank is rinsed, which will force any remaining extra salt out. This rinse will then go out the drain.

After the system has completed its rinse, the water softener unit will return to its service position. This means that the unit is ready to soften your hard water once again, as the resin beads are now freshly charged.

Your water softener will continue to regulate and operate by itself as long as it has been installed and programmed correctly.

As we have said, you need to make sure that the brine tank is always filled up with the right amount of salt for the regeneration cycle and ion exchange to take place. All of this will ensure that you have soft water.


There are various water softening units out on the market, and they all soften water in their own way. The most common way is through ion exchange and a brine tank.

However, you must make sure that you continue to service and maintain your water softener system, to ensure that everything continues to work as it should.

If you are concerned about anything with your system, you should always contact a professional.

We hope you have found this article helpful and given you a better understanding on how a water softener works.

Mandy Anderson