How Does a Water Softener Work

How Does a Water Softener Work?

How Does a Water Softener Work?

Before answering the question, “How does a water Softener Work?”, it helps to understand what hard water is and why it is a problem.

If you’ve heard about “hard water”, then you’ve probably wondered what exactly it is. Why is it a big deal? What is a water softener? How does a water softener work?

First off: No, ice is not hard water.

Second: No, a freezer does not make hard water.

And lastly: No, something that melts frozen water is not a “water softener.” (Sorry, bad jokes).


So what is hard water?

Rock puts the hard in hard water

When you think hard water, think “hard” like rock, because that is what makes water hard. Ever noticed whitish, yellowish-colored build-up on faucets, showerhead or maybe in the bottom of your tea kettle? That substance is rock — mostly calcium and magnesium — that your water dissolved along its journey from the ground to your home.

Mostly, water hardness develops from two places. What is the topography and geography of where you live? For example, do you have lots of limestone in the ground? Then there is the quality of the water as it begins its journey to you, like how acidic your rainfall is. The more acidic rainfall is and the more limestone is in the ground, the harder water becomes.

Dishwasher calcification

Dishwasher Calcification

Hard water is hard, as in, difficult

Why does hardness or softness of water matter? While having hard water can have some health benefits due to its higher calcium and magnesium levels (think bones, teeth, etc.), it can also wreak havoc on home pipes and appliances.

Problems start with whenever and wherever hard water is heated, stored or sits and evaporates. Then the no-so-great effects of hard water set in. Ever notice off-white colored residue caking up the ends of faucets or shower heads? That’s mineral left from evaporating hard water, also known as calcification.

Something to Consider

That same calcification on plumbing fixtures is happening inside coffee pots, water heaters, and appliances. Any appliances hooked into home plumbing —dishwasher, clothes washer, icemaker —suffer from hard water calcification. Over time, hard water wears down appliances. They work less efficiently and wear out sooner. That is why hard water is just plain difficult.


How do water softeners work and correct hard water?

Here are the nuts and bolts, or rather pipes and couplings, of how it works.

The solution to hard water

Water is the universal solvent, dissolving just about anything it touches which includes calcium and magnesium. Once calcium and magnesium dissolve, they become positively charged ions. That’s where the water softener comes into play.

The Water Softener Ion ExchangeThe Water Softener Ion Exchange

During a process called ion exchange, water comes into the home, passes into the water softener mineral tank, and flows through small negatively charged polystyrene beads. Like a magnet, positively charged calcium and magnesium ions attach to the negatively charged beads, effectively stripping the water of its hardness.

Nothing Beats a Salt Bath

Eventually beads max out and cannot attract any more deposits. At this point beads are flushed or “washed” with a strong saltwater solution, stripping minerals off the beads. The magnesium and calcium wash away. The beads are ready to be reused and the salt returns to the brine tank.

Softened water, now stripped of its calcium and magnesium, flows cleanly through your home and is ready for use.  No more scrubbing calcification on bathtubs. No more buying chemicals to unclog faucet aerators and shower heads. No more spots on cars after washing it.


Does this sound like a solution for you?

Does your home have hard water and you want it fixed? Do you have more questions about water softeners? Give us a call at Cowboys Plumbing at 405-915-9990 and we’ll be glad to help you.


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