People often take the quality of their water for granted. What comes out of the faucet has been heavily processed to make it safe for consumption and washing. This gives most people a false sense of security about their water quality. But one of the things that don’t get processed out of water is the mineral content, or hardness. That’s where water softeners come in.
Hard water can wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing and appliances. If the home has an excessive scale built up in the pipes or hot water tank it may be useful to explore some options for water softeners.
What are the Benefits of Softening Water?
Softened water is not only easier on the home’s plumbing, it provides another primary benefit. The hardness in water is due to the mineral content from calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium travel through the water as ions, or charged particles. These charged particles interfere with the action of soaps and detergents, rendering them less effective as they clean clothes and dishes.
The result of the reduced cleaning power of detergents is that clothes stay dingy and dishes stay hazy. It would be reasonable to assume that more soap would compensate for this but that is not the case. The hard water allows grime to redeposit onto clothing and dishes. The same thing can happen with skin, leading to dryness for homeowners that continually bathe in hard water.
How Do Salt-Based Water Softeners Work?
Salt-based softeners work by reducing the amount of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. To accomplish this, incoming water is flushed past a bed of resin that attracts calcium and magnesium. The ions accumulate in the resin bed until it cannot hold any more. Once the resin is saturated with ions, a saltwater brine is flushed across the resin to force the calcium and magnesium to release and flush away with the brine. Once this flush is complete, the resin is ready to continue softening water.
Salt-based softeners are excellent at reducing the hardness of the water. With reduced mineral content in the water, homeowners can protect their piping and appliances and will notice that their clothes are cleaner and dishes are streak-free.
Is There a Salt-Free Alternative?
The downside of salt-based water softeners is that the brine can be hard on municipal plumbing infrastructure. Some authorities have outlawed their use. This led to the invention of a salt-free water conditioner to help solve the problem of mineral scale within the home. A salt-free water conditioner uses the natural tendency of calcium and magnesium to crystallize to its advantage.
As water flows through a bed of media, calcium and magnesium start to form larger crystals. The larger crystals are unable to coalesce onto surfaces so they can’t form scale. Additionally, as they flow through the plumbing system, the crystals will grab other hardness ions and remove them from pipes.
This process uses natural processes to reduce water’s propensity to cause mineral scale. Installing a salt-free water conditioner can even help clean the scale from the inside pipes over time.