What Minerals Are Removed by Water Softeners?
Water softeners are devices that work to remove the minerals that make drinking water hard. They typically operate as ion exchangers that use sodium to attract calcium, magnesium, and other hardness minerals and then reduce or eliminate them from the water in your home.
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Ion exchange occurs when a bed of resin beads is charged with an ion that repels the opposite ion. When hard water flows over these resin beads, the negative charge of the mineral ions is attracted to the positive charge of the sodium ion and then released. This is what creates the “softening” effect of the resin and frees up your water to be more palatable for you and easier to rinse clean.
In addition to the softening effect, a water softener can also help prevent scale from building up in pipes and appliances, which can cause damage to them over time and cost you a lot more money to fix or replace. It can also extend the life of your washing machines, dishwashers, and other kitchen appliances.
There are several types of water softeners to choose from. They all perform the same basic process of removing hardness minerals from your drinking water. Some have a salt-based system, others are salt-free.
The most popular type of water softener is an ion exchanger, which uses sodium to attract and then reduce the amount of calcium and magnesium in your home’s water. Some softeners can also be used to remove iron.
When hard water enters the tank, it flows through a series of resin beads that are charged with sodium ions. As it passes through the resin beads, the sodium ion is attracted to the positive charge of the calcium and magnesium ions and then released. The calcium and magnesium ions are then swept away from the tank and out of the home’s plumbing system.
After the resin beads are depleted of the hardness minerals, they need to be replaced. This is done through a regeneration cycle that involves backwashing the resin beads and then filling them with a solution of salt.
A counter-current regeneration cycle is one that distributes the recharging of sodium ions more equitably and consumes 75% less salt than co-current cycling, so you will save money on your utility bills.
Some water softeners can regenerate with potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride, reducing your salt consumption. You can buy this at most stores that sell softener salt and should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for adding it to the tank.
Another option is to install a water conditioner, which is a device that physically alters the minerals in your drinking water to prevent the buildup of scale. However, the conditioned water still contains the minerals that make it hard and can cause problems like stains and corrosion.
A water softener can be used on any tap that you use in your home to produce hot and cold water, and some people also connect their shower heads and sinks to a softening system to produce the same effect. It’s up to you which system is right for your family and the type of use you expect to get out of it.