Water Softeners- How Do They Work?


Water Softeners

Does your water supply contain too many minerals? What you need is a water softener. Read more to find out what it is and how it works.

Are you noticing new stains on your sinks and bathrooms? Do your pumps get clogged often? You might be having a problem with hard water. Hard water is when your water contains high levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, and other metal ions.

In this article, we will talk about water softeners, and you’ll know if you need one.

What Is A Water Softener?

A water softener is a filtration device. It filters the high amounts of minerals present in hard water and lets out soft water to flow.

Why Is Hard Water Bad?

You might be wondering what’s wrong with having hard water in your supply. As much as it is entirely safe for you to drink, there are various problems associated with hard water.

  • With time, your pipes will be clogged as more and more minerals from hard water deposit in them.
  • The efficiency and lifespan of your fixtures and valves will start to fall.
  • Your water heater will use up more power as it will need to use more energy to heat water with the buildup of minerals. This will result in higher utility costs.
  • Even your sinks, toilets, washing machine, and dishwasher will start to fall short in their functions.

Are you buying a water softener for your home? Here is what you need to know.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Water softeners work just like magnets. The process it follows is called “ion exchange.” Calcium and magnesium are present in ionic forms; that is, they are charged. These ions are positively charged. On the other hand, the filter in water softeners contains negatively charged resin beads.

As a result, when the hard water passes through the filter, the positive ions are attracted to the negatively charged filter and stick to it while releasing a sodium ion. So the result is metal-free, soft water.

Components Of A Water Softener

A softener consists of three parts that work together to remove mineral ions, monitor the flow of water, and clean the system through a process of regeneration.

  1. The Mineral Tank

This is where the magic happens. The water from your supply enters the mineral tank through pipes. Here is where the minerals in hard water are deposited. Freshwater flows out of it.

  1. The Control Valve

There is always a capacity of the resin beads beyond which they will stop functioning. This is because, as mineral ions are being deposited on it, over time, it becomes so saturated that it cannot take in more mineral ions.

The control Valve makes sure that your water softener works for a long time by controlling the amount of water entering the mineral tank. The control valve also starts a regeneration cycle for the beads automatically.

The capacity of a control valve depends on various factors, such as the number of people using water, how big your house is, and how hard your water from the supply is.

  1. The Brine Tank

A brine tank is a smaller tank placed beside the mineral tank. This tank is filled with salt-containing solutions. As mentioned before, the resin beads coated with sodium start to deplete as more hard water is converted. According to the capacity of the control valve, it withdraws a large amount of solution from the brine tank to restore the resins.

Salt has to be manually added to the brine tank. Once the tank is out of this salt solution, your water softener will no longer work.

Water Softener Regeneration Cycle

The water softener regeneration cycle restores the ability of the resin beads to capture the mineral ions. This can happen in two ways:

  1. Co-Current Regeneration Cycle

In this process, water from the supply and solution from the brine tank enters the mineral tank in opposite directions. The brine solution will now flow deep into the resins and wash off all the harness materials and, in exchange, coat them with sodium ions.

As more solution passes through, more hardness-inducing mineral ions will be pushed out. At this point, continuous regeneration of ions and their exchanges occur. In this process, the highly charged resins will be in the upper layers. The co-current regeneration cycle is also known as “downflow bringing.”

  1. Counter-Current Regeneration Cycle

This process is also called “upflow bringing.” The brine solution enters the mineral tank from below through where water generally flows out. The resin layers below are the least depleted. So when the brine solution flows from below, it can still contain maximum sodium ions to cover the residue beads on top. This ensures a uniform coating of the beads.

In the co-current regeneration cycle, this doesn’t happen because the beads on the top are the most depleted. When brine solution comes in contact with these beads first, they exchange sodium ions with them, and by the time the solution reaches the bottom layers, most ions in the solution have already been used.

A counter-current cycling water softener uses 75% less salt and 65% less water than co-current cycling. These water softeners are also considered to be highly efficient.

Types Of Water Softeners

Water softeners generally come in two types. You should choose one that fits you the best.

  1. The Ion-Exchange System

This is the type of softener we have just discussed above. The cost of these devices is comparatively low but it can go up as they require adding salts from time to time. On average, it will require you to add salts every 6 to 8 weeks and replace the salt every 6 months.

  1. Salt-Free Water Conditioners (Descaling)

Unlike the ion exchange system, these devices change the mineral ions using electric currents. They do not remove the minerals from the water but convert them into non-sticky crystals that will not adhere to any surface. The biggest advantage of these devices is that they don’t need an additional salt supply to work.

Do You Need A Water Softener?

This question is where it all comes down to. How do you know that you need a water softener in your home? What are the signs you should be looking for? Here are a few of them.

  • Mineral-like white buildup in your showerheads and faucets.
  • Stiff clothing after you have just dried your laundry.
  • Dull hair or irritated skin after a shower.
  • Reddish-brown stains in sinks and toilets.

Final Words

A water softener can be an extremely useful device to give you fresh, soft water suitable for everything. Sure this is an added cost but this is far more economic than getting your clogged pipes fixed!

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Preeti Shah is a person who loves checking out different styles and designs of houses. She took interior designing in college and is practicing in the field of home improvement for five years now. In her spare time, she is usually searching the web for interesting and fascinating home designs.


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