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How Does A Water Softener Work?


All household water comes from someplace in nature. Much of it comes from either ground water or surface waters like streams, rivers and lakes. In other words, it comes from water sources that first pass through the dirt and rocks beneath our feet or around us in the landscape. This is a problem that only water softeners can solve.

Water is the universal solvent. As it passes through rocks and dirt, it dissolves minerals, which are basically the chemicals of which rocks are made. You can’t see the dissolved rocks in the water, but it substantially changes the chemical properties of water. This change is not desirable. It makes the water perform less well for cleaning clothes or human skin than it should and it causes it to leave behind solid residues called “scale” on pipes, in appliances and on other surfaces.

To avoid these problematic outcomes, water is often softened. Softening water just means it is put through a process which removes these undesirable dissolved chemicals. This is done via ion exchange. In other words, the water is passed through something which pulls out one kind of chemical (mostly calcium and magnesium) and puts another in its place (usually sodium). Ion exchange is just trading one molecule for another at the molecular level.

Water softeners typically contain negatively charged beads which attract the positively charged minerals. In chemistry, like in magnets, opposites attract. Thus, the negatively charged beads attract or pull the positively charged ions from the water, causing them to stick to the beads. This means the water molecules continue on the through the system, but minus the hard minerals, which are left behind as many ions coating the outsides of the beads.

Like calcium and magnesium, sodium is also positively charged. However, it has a weaker charge which is helpful in this process. This allows it to be readily exchanged for the unwanted calcium and magnesium. It allows it to be swapped out in their place. When the beads become too saturated, very salty water called brine gets used to flush the excess minerals from the system so that it can return to proper working order.

If hard water is affecting you and your Lakeland home, contact Samco Plumbing at (863) 509-1718.