What Ions Are in Water Softeners?
A water softener is a device that reduces the hardness of your water by replacing minerals in it with sodium ions. This will improve your showers, faucets and clothes, and help to save on energy costs. However, a softener won’t provide the cleaning benefits of traditional water filters.
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Water softeners work by passing your tap water through a bed of small plastic beads that hold a negative charge. These beads attract calcium and magnesium ions, which they are then drawn out of the water and replaced with sodium or potassium ions.
Calcium and magnesium are essential for strong bones and teeth, and are naturally occurring in many foods. They are also present in a small amount in hard water. If you don’t have a water softener, these ions can build up, causing scale to form on your appliances and pipes. Scale can also cause a clog in your water line, causing your appliances to stop working. Luckily, a water softener can solve your problem without having to worry about scaling.
There are two types of water softeners on the market today. The first uses a zeolite chemical matrix. Depending on your needs, there are a number of different models that can be found on the market. Some require you to switch on and off manually, while others automatically switch to a regeneration cycle.
The second type of water softener is based on ion exchange. When your water is passed through an ion exchange system, the calcium and magnesium ions are replaced with salty sodium ions. While this might sound like a great way to get rid of your hard water problems, it can have some unpleasant side effects. Chloride is a dangerous mineral that can disrupt local ecosystems and increase the mortality of fish, seabirds, and other marine life. It can also change reproduction rates of some species.
Because ionic minerals have a positive and negative charge, the resin beads can grab hold of the ions and pull them out of the water. Salty sodium ions can replace magnesium, but calcium and magnesium carry a stronger positive charge. Therefore, the resin bed may prefer strongly charged calcium and magnesium ions over salty sodium ions.
Ion exchange is a process that occurs in a tank filled with tiny polystyrene beads. The beads’ negative charge attracts the positive charges of the calcium and magnesium ions, and the beads pull the calcium and magnesium out of the water. Eventually, the ion exchange medium is regenerated by replacing the calcium and magnesium ions with salty sodium ions.
Although the ion exchange process is simple, the method can vary depending on the source water. For instance, if you live in a city with a high chloride content, you should consider a water softener that incorporates a reverse osmosis system. Similarly, if you want to minimize the impact of your water softener on the environment, you might want to choose a model that regenerates based on how often you actually use it.