Just Plumbing

Just Plumbing | What Do Water Softeners Do?

What Do Water Softeners Do?

More than 80% of US households don’t have access to “standard” quality water.

Instead, most households make do with hard water – and the result is dry skin, limescale buildup, and kitchen appliances that don’t last.

That’s where high-quality water softeners come in. They might look pricy from the outside, but they pay for themselves in the good they do for your home appliances.

Read on to find out why.

What Do Water Softeners Do?

In a nutshell, water softeners reduce the quantities of minerals in your water that make it “hard”. Some people think that soft water tastes better, and it’s certainly better for your skin.

To understand why we first need to distinguish between “hard” and “soft” water.

Hard Water vs. Soft Water

You’ve no doubt heard about hard and soft water before. The terms refer to the quantities of minerals present in your water.

The two most common minerals are calcium and magnesium. “Hard” water typically contains large quantities of both. The minerals tend to come from groundwater, which dissolves trace amounts of rock and metal as it travels.

On the whole, water that is sourced from a private well is likely to be “harder” than the water that comes from a municipality. That’s because municipalities use treatment processes that eliminate some of their water’s hardness.

Hard water is safe to drink.

However, it causes other problems. The problem you’re most familiar with is probably the scaly buildup you notice in your water piping, cookware, and appliances.

The second problem is more serious, and it relates to your skin.

While hard water isn’t toxic, it is bad for your skin. Hard water causes your skin and hair to dry out and worsens existing medical conditions like eczema. It’s particularly problematic for people with sensitive skin. It also alters the pH balance of your skin, making you more vulnerable to bacteria and infections.

Water softeners reduce the minerals in your water, causing these negative properties.

Types of Water Softeners

There are several types of water softeners available on the market, including:

  • Salt-free water softener systems
  • Ion exchange water softeners
  • Reverse osmosis softeners

Which softener is right for your home depends on your needs, so it’s always worth speaking with a professional for further advice.

Salt-free Softeners

Salt-free softeners remove only calcium from hard water and are ideally suited to hard water with low amounts of magnesium to begin with. They’re low-cost solutions that require little maintenance and are completely free of chemicals for filtration.

Ion Exchange Softeners

The most common type of softener in use today, ion exchange softeners, remove calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. They’re a good all-around solution but add approximately 7.5mg of sodium per quart of water.

For an average person, that is a tiny amount that has no ill effects – though an alternative method should be sought out by those on a strict low-sodium diet.

Ion exchange softeners are comprised of a brine tank, mineral tank, and control valve. The brine tank contains a solution of sodium which is mixed with the water in the mineral tank to soften your water – and the control valve regulates this process.

Reverse Osmosis Softeners

Reverse osmosis softeners are a pricier alternative that filters water through a specially designed membrane. Reverse osmosis removes calcium and magnesium as well as other chemical impurities that may cause negative health effects.

A key benefit of reverse osmosis softeners is that they also remove dissolved solids, including dangerous substances like arsenic and fluoride.

Buying a Water Softener for Your Home

If you notice a lot of chalky buildups or soapy scum around your home, it’s time to think about installing a water softener.

Other tell-tale signs include stiff towels and dry skin.

Buying water softeners for homes offers many benefits, particularly if your water isn’t sourced from your local municipality. But even if it is, there’s a good chance the municipality doesn’t soften its water to cut down on costs.

Advantages of Using a Water Softener

There are several benefits to installing a water softener in your home, including:

  • Better-tasting water
  • Water that’s better for your skin
  • Longer appliance and plumbing lifespan
  • Cost savings
  • Environmental benefits

Softer water tastes better to many people and has a better smell. While hard water can often smell “stale”, softer water lacks the minerals that result in bad smells and tastes.

Because water softeners result in a milder pH balance for your water, it’s also better for your skin and hair. Those with soft and sensitive skin are particularly affected by hard water.

As an added bonus, soft water is good for the environment if you rely on bottled water. That’s because bottled water requires a lot of plastic and a lot of energy to produce. Single-use plastic bottles are a major contributor to the plastic waste that ends up in our oceans.

Maintaining Your Home’s Water Softener

Water softeners have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, but proper water softener maintenance can extend it significantly.

For salt-based softeners, it’s important to ensure the brine tank never runs out of salt. Meanwhile, those softeners with a resin mesh bed should have the bed regularly cleaned of residue.

Adding a sediment filter before the water reaches your softener will also improve the water softener’s health and is particularly effective if your water contains a lot of dirt or debris.

Improve Your Home’s Water Quality Today

Water softeners improve your home’s water quality and make your water taste fresher and smell better. They extend the lifespan of your home appliances, and they’re kinder on sensitive skin.

If you’re interested in improving your home’s water quality, we can repair, replace, or install new softeners and filtration systems. Contact us today for a free quote.