How do Salt Water Softeners Function?

The water that you use in your home contains dissolved minerals, including calcium and magnesium. These ions can be hard on your skin, cause scale buildup in appliances and corrode pipes – and they can also contribute to elevated lead and copper levels in the water supply. 

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The good news is that you can get rid of these hard minerals with a water softener! Not only that, but a softener can make your water look and feel better and extend the life of your appliances. 

How Does a Salt Water Softener Work?

A salt water softener works by using a process called ion exchange to remove the hard minerals from your water. This involves placing thousands of resin beads or zeolite crystals in a tank and then adding a solution called brine. The ion exchange process works by removing the hard minerals from the water and replacing them with sodium ions or potassium ions. 

Ion-exchange systems have two or more tanks, with the resin beads in one and the salty brine solution in another. 

Once the ion exchange process is complete, the softener needs to regenerate (clean) the hard ions from the resin beads. The resin beads have a positive charge, so they attract the negatively charged minerals in your water. Once the mineral ions are removed, the salty brine solution is drawn into the media tank, where the positive sodium ions break apart and take back their place on the negatively charged media beads. The regenerated media beads are then ready to catch the hard minerals again and begin reducing them in your water. 

The amount of time your salt water softener will require to regenerate depends on the amount of water you use and your lifestyle. Most homeowners should fill their water softener’s brine tank with enough salt to regenerate the media every few months or so. 

When a salt water softener doesn’t have enough salt in the brine tank to recharge the media beads, the system can’t work properly. When that happens, it can cause problems like bridging or clogging the drain. 

Most of the time, this problem will be resolved once you add a little bit more salt to your water softener. However, if your salt level has been low for too long or if you’re having guests stay over and use more water than usual, you may need to refill the brine tank sooner than expected. 

If you want to keep your water softener running at peak efficiency, we recommend you buy a high-quality water softener salt. Cheaper, lower-quality salt can lead to serious issues with your water and cause the life of your softener to shorten. 

In addition to choosing a high-quality salt, you should also check to see if your salt comes with additives. These additives are designed to address other residential water concerns, such as removing iron. 

You can choose from many types of salt for your water softener, and we recommend finding a supplier that is reputable and has an excellent reputation for customer service and support.