What Is a Water Softener & How Does It Work?

What the heck is a water softener?!

A water softener is a whole house filter system that removes hard water aka minerals from your water such as magnesium, calcium, etc. via ion exchange.

You don’t want hard water or scale because it causes build up/clogs in pipes and appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and water heaters which causes them to not last as long and can take away from the water pressure in your home.

Hard water is especially damaging to hot water heaters because the high temperature essentially cooks the minerals which in turn hardens and solid deposits and chunks form in the tank, piping and even on the heating element itself – causing the element to burn out.

If you have hard water, you may notice your

  • dishes never look quite clean
  • there’s always water streaks dried onto glasses and plates
  • scum and scale builds up on your shower curtain, inside the toilet bowl, sink and bathtub may have staining
  • soap and detergents don’t lather up as well as they should
  • your hair feels heavy, not shiny even after washing, it can also have a brassy look to it
  • your skin can feel dry and itchy… there’s also the chance it can irritate existing skin conditions, making them worse

How does a water softener work?

Water softener systems come in many sizes and styles to fit any household, and are typically installed along side of your water heater – so water can be softened before being warmed up.

Generally speaking, a water softener system is made up of the main tank(s) that the incoming water supply passes through, along with a smaller brine tank that is seperate from the flow of water, as it is used to regenerate/flush the system periodically.

Whole-home systems remove minerals from the incoming flow of water by using an ion exchange process. As hard water flows in the tank, it passes through negatively charged resin beads. Minerals like magnesium and calcium are positively charged, so they stick to the resin beads and are removed from the flowing water.

Eventually the resin beads reach their max and need to be flushed clean from all the collected minerals – this is the purpose of the brine tank. Many systems are preprogrammed so it flushes and regenerates automatically every so many gallons or cycle.

All you need to do is just add more potassium chloride or salt pellets periodically to the brine tank.