What a water softener does
There are various types of water softener which all function to help reduce the mineral content in hard water, in particular helping to reduce high levels of magnesium and calcium. Many people prefer the taste of soft water, and there are thought to be many other benefits to softening the water that runs through your taps, shower and washing machine.
Different minerals get into your local water supply depending on the type of soil in your part of the country. Water that contains a lot of calcium and magnesium causes limescale to build up in metal pipes, your kettle and your washing machine. Softening the water in your home can prevent or reduce the build-up of limescale, keeping your appliances clean and running efficiently. It’s also thought that soap lathers more effectively in soft water, so you can see benefits of installing a water softener at home when you shower and wash your clothes in particular.
One of the most significant theories about soft water is that it is better for skin conditions such as eczema. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that eczema in children and adults is less of a problem in soft water areas or after the installation of a water softener. All this means that soft water is highly preferable to hard water, especially for families with young children (who may be prone to eczema) and lots of clothes washing to do regularly.
How a water softener works
There are different types of water softener; some which are mechanical and some which are electrical. Most water softeners work by replacing the calcium and magnesium ions in the water with sodium ions, which react differently with soap and in metal pipes; hence why softened water is better for your home, skin and hair. Water softeners contain polystyrene beads which attract the highly positively charged calcium and magnesium ions, allowing the less positively charged sodium ions to replace them in the flow of water.
Most water softeners have two tanks; a mineral tank (containing the polystyrene beads) and a brine tank (which is used to clean the beads at the end of a cycle). Some systems have a third tank to store softened water and ensure that there is always a supply even when the system is regenerating (the process of cleaning the polystyrene beads). Except Kinetico UK, they use a three tank system moving water between tanks using a turbine rather than an electric pump, meaning you save on energy and running costs.
Softeners differ from filters which are often disposable, work on specific appliances only and just remove residue from water – they don’t actually alter the mineral content. Once you have a water softener installed in your home, your entire water supply will be soft. All taps, showers, washing machine and dishwasher supplies get the same water which has been through the softening process.