What Does A Water Softener Do?

Water softeners are a household item that was created to deal with one of the most common issues that homeowners have to deal with: water hardness.

What Does A Water Softener Do

But what is water hardness, what is a water softener, and how does it work? In this article, we are going to be answering all of these questions to tell you everything that you need to know about water softeners! Let’s get started!

What Is Water Hardness?

Before we can look at what a water softener is, we need to know exactly what water hardness is and what it can lead to.

Water hardness relates to the issue of specific minerals that dissolve in water at a high contraction. The two minerals that tend to cause water hardness are magnesium carbonate and calcium.

These minerals are naturally occurring within the water when it comes into contact with rock formations and certain soil, such as chalk or limestone.

When the water gets hot, these minerals will stick together and get thick, becoming heavier than water and settling outside of the water as limescale.

What Is The Issue With Hard Water?

Hard water can create issues within certain household items as well as your plumbing, such as boilers, hot water lines, and hot water heaters.

Limescale can build up and cause pipes to clog, which can then lead to cracks and leakage due to the pressure of the clog. Here are some of the household items and appliances that can be affected by water hardness:

  • Plumbing: Hard water can cause limescale to build up in your pipes. The pipes can then become clogged, leading to a decrease in water pressure, which can then create breaks and leakages within your pumping.
  • General Appliances: Various appliances can have a significantly shorter life span due to the buildup of limescale. This can include dishwashers, kettles, coffee makers, and more. Some of the damage that can occur included stained and streaky dishes from an affected dishwasher. 
  • Hot Water Appliances: Any appliance that uses hot water is at risk of being entirely destroyed thanks to hard water. As mentioned, hot water is what causes calcium and magnesium to solidify and ultimately harden. These solid deposits will then build up to create limescale. 
  • You!: Yes, even you yourself can be affected by water hardness! If you take a bath in hard water- which can happen if it is particularly bad in your pipes- it can leave your skin feeling dry and itchy and your hair feeling sticky, even after washing. It can also cause you to lose the life from your hair, leaving it flat and dull.

What Is A Water Softener?

As the name suggests, a water softener helps to alleviate the issues that come about from water hardness. Water softeners will reduce calcium and magnesium- the minerals that lead to water hardness- from your water.

How Does A Water Softener Work?

These softeners work via a process known as ion exchange. Ion exchange refers to a chemical process wherein unwanted, dissolved ions that appear in water are replaced with other ions that have a similar charge.

The process begins when hard water enters the water tank. Once in the tank, the water will pass through resin beads that are spherical. The beads- made from polystyrene- are charged via a sodium ion.

These beads are known as anions, referring to the fact that they have a positive charge associated with them, whilst the calcium and magnesium beads have a negative charge and are known as cations.

This opposition of positive and negative charges causes the minerals to be attracted to the resin beads. When the hard water moves through the resin, the beads will hold onto both of the mineral ions.

Doing this will completely remove the minerals from the water and release sodium ions.

The Components Of A Water Softener

The Components Of A Water Softener

There are three major components that make up a water softener and these are a mineral tank, a control valve, and a brine tank. Let’s take a look at each of these components individually.

Control Valve

The control valve will measure the amount of water that goes through the mineral tank and ultimately end up in your home.

The valve has a meter that will keep track of all the water that enters the mineral tank. As time goes on, the resin beads will eventually become less and less effective.

The control valve will help with this issue by removing magnesium and calcium ions from the water- via an automatic regeneration cycle- before the beads are overburdened, allowing them to continue softening water effectively.

Mineral Tank

This is the area of the tank where the hard water will be softened. When the supply line brings hard water into the tank, water will seep in through the aforementioned resin beads and deposit the magnesium and calcium ions.

This is what leads to the hardening of water. The mineral tank will pump out soft water through the pipes and spread it throughout your home.

Brine Tank

This is the element of the tank that helps with regeneration within the water softening system. Shorter than the mineral tank, the brink tank contains a concentrated salt or potassium solution that will aid in the restoration of the positive charge within the resin beads.

The salt is manually added to the tank via blocks or pellets, which will then dissolve. The control valve is able to detect when the resin beads are losing their ability to soften water and when it does.

So, the brine solution will be drawn out and then flushed through the resin within the mineral tank. The salt needs to be replaced regularly, as if not, the water will not be able to be softened.

Final Thoughts

So there you have the inner workings of a water softener, as well as what hardened water can do to your appliances. Hopefully, we have helped you on your way to making a decision as to whether you want to invest in a water softener.

Mandy Anderson