Water softener - How does it work?

Water softeners are the best solution that can treat hard water. Why do we need to soften hard water? The answer is simple. Hard water is not suitable for cleaning and washing purposes for several reasons.

When mixed with soap, it does not lather enough, thus affecting the cleaning process. It stains our dishes, clogs the pipes and makes the clothes look dull. More than that, it can reduce the lifespan of our appliances, thus making us spending a lot of money for new ones.

What is hard water? The water that contains a large amount of minerals such as calcium and magnesium is referred to as hard water. These minerals are responsible for all the issues mentioned before. That is why people need a water softener. Although many of them already have one, only a few of them know how it works.  In the following lines, we will talk about the working principles of different types of water softeners.

A water softener uses ion exchange resin to convert hard water into soft water. As mentioned before, hard water contains calcium and magnesium ions that are replaced with sodium ions when the water runs through the tank where the resin beads are. It is to be mentioned that these beads are charged with sodium ions.

Other water softeners use zeolites to convert hard water into soft water. But, the basic idea is the same. The magnesium and calcium ions are replaced with sodium ions.


In order to understand better how a water softener works, one should firstly know the chemistry behind the softening process. The resin beads are made of polyester and are charged negatively. The calcium and magnesium ions in hard water are positively charged. As we all know, the opposites attract themselves. This way, the positively charged ions are attracted by the negatively charged beads. This way, the calcium and magnesium ions are replaced by sodium ions.

When the plastic beads are saturated with positively charged ions, they need to be regenerated. How? A water softener has another tank that contains a brine solution, which is nothing but dissolved salt. It is also rich in sodium. This solution passes from the brine tank to the mineral tank. At this point, the calcium and magnesium are replaced with sodium. The minerals are then flushed off. This process repeats every time it is necessary. The resulting water is soft and suitable for household activities.

Hope these explanations helps you understand better how a water softener works. Knowing that, you will also know when your system does not work properly anymore.

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