How Does a Water Softener Work: The Science Behind Soft Water

how does a water softener work

In most neighbourhoods, various households will feature a water softener to help with hard water issues.

While there are different and cheaper ways to soften hard water, such methods have limitations and are ineffective in removing all the salts present in hard water.

A softener is a special device that eliminates all the soluble salts that might be present in hard water, providing you with soft drinking water. Whether you plan to soften temporary hard water or permanently hard water, a water softener unit will get the job done.

In this post, we will show you how does a water softener work to get rid of water hardness. Most water softeners work through the same principle. Hard water is when it contains certain levels of salts and minerals that affect the qualities of the water; hard water won’t create suds in the same way and is a big part of causing limescale.

Basic Parts of a Water Softener System

A water softener comes with basic parts that eliminate ions in the mineral-removal process and maintain the whole system. Examples of the parts that water softeners use include resin tanks, plumbing valves, and brine tanks.

Water softeners save your appliances from scale buildup. Not to mention, the efficiency of softeners is quite good, and they improve the water quality by offering you soft water. Once the water is softened, it can be used in a washing machine because it lathers with soap.

Mineral Tank

It is the part where soluble minerals are removed from hard water. This mineral tank should be connected to the mains water supply pipe that supplies water to your house. It should also be connected to the pipes that redistribute water to certain rooms in your home.

Hard water gets into the water softener mineral tank, and then it goes through a certain process, which gets rid of the soluble minerals. After that, soft water is distributed into the pipes that are in your home.

Control Valve

As the name hints, this is a valve that regulates the water that flows into the mineral tank. It also regulates the water that flows out of the mineral tank. Most control valves come with a gauge that measures the amount of water that flows into the mineral tank.

Brine Tank

It is a tank located next to the mineral tank and regenerates the charge in the mineral tank after a certain period. A brine tank features an over drain pipe for getting rid of excess water that might flow into that tank.

Once the salt solution regenerates the lost charge, salt must be re-added to the tank. Well, you can add salt pellets into the tank after a certain time to create a brine solution. The whole regeneration process happens automatically.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

The mineral tank has resin beads that are made from divinylbenzene and benzene. In most models, the mineral tank cannot be opened easily. However, the brine tank can be opened while you are refilling the salt pellets.

The resin beads that are found in the mineral tank are negatively charged and can attract positive ions. Due to this, such beads can remove all the soluble minerals present in hard water.

Hard water flows from the mains water supply into the mineral tank, then drains slowly to the bottom part of the tank. As it trickles down to the bottom part of the tank, it comes into contact with the resin beads.

Since pellet beads are negatively charged, they will attract positively charged salt ions present in hard water. Positively charged ions found in hard water (calcium and magnesium) will react with the beads. On the other hand, sodium ions will react with the negative ion of the soluble salt. This whole process is known as the ion exchange process.

Once hard water drains to the bottom part of the tank in the ion exchange process, the beads will make it soft and ready to use.
After that, it will be pumped from the mineral tank to the water redistribution pipe that’s in your home.

The power of the resin beads might start to decline after the water softening process on a certain volume of hard water. If the resin beads attract a lot of positive ions, they might lose attraction power.

If this happens, the charge of the resin beads has to be regenerated. It is where the brine tank comes in. In the regeneration cycle, brine flows from the brine tank to the mineral tank.

The solution flows through the resin beads, removing the mineral deposits that might have been left on the beads. In short, the cations (calcium and magnesium) are displaced and removed from the beads with a certain amount of sodium ions that regenerates the charge.
After that, the rinse cycle starts. Freshwater is flushed through the resin beads to get rid of excess solution. Most water softeners have drain pipes that get rid of excess water or flushed water. For instance, the brine tank has an overflow drain.

Once this cycle is complete, the brine tank is refilled with clean water. Since some of the salt deposited in the brine tank gets dissolved water, you have to add more salt into the tank after the regeneration process.

In most water softeners, the regeneration cycle will begin automatically after a certain volume of water has been processed.

Get a Water Softener

Well, water softeners work through the same principles. While this whole process is automated, you have to refill salt pellets into the water softener after a certain period. Water softeners will get rid of water hardness to give you softened water.

Not to mention, you can install a water softener in different areas of your home. You can install it in the garage or the basement. If you want to remove minerals from drinking water, you can place the softener close to your tap sink. A water softener is the best solution to getting rid of minerals, and knowing how does a water softener work only ensures you make the most of your device.

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