Water Softeners

Water softeners are a type of water treatment equipment designed to remove the ‘hardness’ from a home’s water source. Hard water is a term for water high in minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium, but may also include sulfates and bicarbonates.

While minerals are naturally present in water—picked up as they flow around limestone, chalk, or gypsum deposits—and generally safe to consume, they can greatly affect the taste and smell of the water and cause havoc in your pipes and with certain personal care and cleaning products.

The minerals in hard water can make dissolving soaps—such as body or dish soap, shampoo, and detergents—rather difficult. The result is soap scum build-up in your shower/tub, dry skin and brittle hair after bathing, detergent build-up on laundry (often affecting its color brightness and fabric softness), and water stains and soap residue on the dishes after you wash them.

Hard water often leads to soap scum build up in showers and tubs and it is also common for the minerals in the water to bond and leave mineral deposits along the inside of plumbing pipes and around faucets.

How Water Softeners Treat Hard Water

Water softeners remove the minerals in hard water through ion exchange—swapping the positively charged calcium and magnesium with sodium ions. Sodium ions are also positively charged but do not interfere with the function of soaps and detergents.
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Water softeners are connected to the water source of your home that distributes the water for drinking and bathing. The tank of the water softener contains plastic resin beads coated with sodium ions. As the water from your home passes through the water softener, the calcium and magnesium ions are attracted to the resin and “stick” to it and the sodium ions are released in order to maintain the electrical charge of the resin—an ion exchange occurs.
As time passes, eventually the resin beads become fully coated with calcium and magnesium and the sodium ions are no longer present. To maintain the effectiveness of the softener and ensure the ion exchange is able to continue, the water softener system rinses the resin beads with a concentrated solution of sodium chloride. As this solution passes over the resin, the calcium and magnesium are displaced, and sodium ions stick to the resin. The remaining rinse solution, calcium, and magnesium are flushed out via a drain and the softener continues its cycle of ion exchange and rinse.
About once a month, a bag of sodium chloride is required to be added to the water softener to replenish the stock of the salty water rinse for the resin beads.

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