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How Do Water Softeners Work?

If you live in an area with hard water, you may have heard about the benefits of using a water softener from neighbors or friends and the difference one has made in their homes. A water softener can be a big improvement in your home, but how does it work? Learn more about how a water softener functions and whether you would benefit from one in your home.

infographic of how a water softener works

What is hard water and what does it do?

Water’s hardness is determined by the mineral content. The higher the mineral content of your water, the harder the water. The harder the water, the more potential for damage to your pipes and home appliances. Having hard water can cause a number of problems, including:

  • corroded pipes
  • soap scum left on dishes
  • itchy and dry skin
  • appliances with hard water damage and shorter lifespans
  • more soap needed for cleaning dishes, clothing, and yourself

While a water softener may not completely fix all these problems, it can make a big difference in your home. Not sure how hard the water is where you live, check out our hard water tool! All you have to do is click the button below and insert your zip code.

The Shamrock Plumbing Hard Water Tool

Parts of a water softener and how they work

There are three main parts that make up a water softener:

1. Mineral Tank

The mineral tank is where the water is actually softened. Hard water enters into the tank, which is filled with resin beads. These resin beads contain sodium. The resin beads attract the minerals (calcium and magnesium) from the water. As hard water is gravity-filtered through the beads, the sodium on the beads is exchanged for the minerals in the water, softening it as it flows through.

Water leaving the mineral tank is soft water which is then used in your household appliances and faucets. It is important to use cleanser in your water softener, preferably three times a year, to flush harmful deposits from your resin beads. This will help keep your water softener functioning it’s best and last longer.

2. Brine Tank

The brine tank sits next to the mineral tank and is necessary for regeneration. When resin beads are full of calcium and magnesium they are no longer able to soften the water coming through the system. At this point, brine (a high concentration of salt water) is pumped through the mineral tank. The brine solution is then flushed from the tank along with the minerals leaving the resin beads ready to soften water coming through.

To keep the water softener functioning, it is essential to keep the brine tank full of salt. If the salt were to run out, the mineral tank could not be flushed of calcium and magnesium and could not soften new water coming through.

3. The Control Valve

The control valve of a water softener will measure how much water is entering your home through the mineral tank. It includes a meter that is used to more accurately measure the volume of water flowing through the system. The control valve will keep track of how much water has flown through the tank, and when it is time for a regeneration cycle.

Once the control valve determines enough water has passed through the system for the resin beads to be full of minerals, it signals the brine tank to flush out the mineral tank. This happens automatically and is programmed based on the size of your house, how hard the water is in your city, and how many people live in your home.

What is regeneration?

The regeneration process takes place once resin beads in the mineral tank are filled with minerals and are about to lose their effectiveness in removing minerals from water flowing through the tank. This process uses a concentrated salt brine to wash the hard minerals from the beads.

Is soft water safe to drink?

During the process of softening your water, a small amount of sodium is put into the water of your home. The amount of sodium isn’t noticeable and is directly related to how many minerals were being removed from the water. If you live in an area that has extremely hard water, it would be beneficial to install a water purification system for the water you are drinking and cooking with.

If you live in Salt Lake, Utah, or Davis county, or any other area with hard water, protect your appliances from damage with a water softener. At Shamrock Plumbing, we can help you determine how hard the water is in your home, and the right water softener for you. Contact us to learn more about hard water and the benefits from softening the water in your home.

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