What is water softening and how does it work?

Water softening your own water supply may sound like an expensive luxury, but it’s really one of the best investments you can make if you have hard water in your area. By using a water softening system, you can not only prevent the damage that hard water can cause to your appliances and plumbing, but also save yourself quite a bit of money on cleaning products and bath products as well. How does this whole process work? What are some of the different systems out there, and how do they compare?

What is water softening?

Water softening is the process of converting your hard water to a gentler form. Hard water contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and lead that are difficult to remove with a traditional filter or boiling. Water softener systems typically take salt (a food-grade ion exchange resin) and run it through a process called ion exchange: The salty liquid in the tank exchanges electrons with the ions in the hard water, turning them into sodium or potassium ions which are easier for you to use to clean or cook.

How does it work?

A water softener typically includes an ion exchange resin or a charged zeolite with two separate compartments for sodium and chloride. When tap water flows into the sodium compartment, an electric current produces an electrochemical reaction which attracts sodium ions from the resin to the chloride compartment of the unit. The calcium ions present in the tap water then attach themselves to any available sodium ions on the other side of the resin.

How does water softening help my day-to-day life?

Every day you wash your clothes, dishes, and even yourself in the hard water that’s coming out of your faucet. You may not notice the damage happening to your skin because hard water makes soap less effective. But there are other ways you’ll see the effects of hard water over time – like dry, brittle hair or premature signs of aging on your skin. That’s where a water softener comes in! Water softeners can reduce those problems by as much as 80%. The process works by removing calcium and magnesium from your drinking water.

Can I do water softening myself?

Water hardness refers to the calcium and magnesium concentration in your water. You can test your water hardness by using a kit, or you can just boil your tap water for 3-5 minutes to see if the bubbles form from a hard surface. If not, then that means you have low or no hardness.

Softeners work by ion-exchange. Here’s how: Water flows through multiple tanks of resin beads under pressure to remove magnesium, calcium and other ions.


If you have hard water at home, there are a lot of benefits to buying a professional water softener. You might need one to keep your clothes from feeling rough or scaly. The hair on your head might be less frizzy. And dishes won’t come out of the dishwasher with a residue on them that can take days to wash off. Water doesn’t have to feel so hard if you invest in a professionally installed, top-of-the-line home water softener.

One way these systems work is by replacing magnesium, calcium and other minerals with sodium ions. They also remove lime scale buildup by reducing the amount of lime in tap water through ion exchange as well as prevent soap scum build up through sequestration and scaling inhibition.

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