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How does a Water Softener Work?

How does a Water Softener Work?

How does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners use what is known as ion exchange.  This is a fairly common process used in a variety of industries such as:  food & beverage, metals finishing, chemical & petrochemical, pharmaceutical, sugar & sweeteners, nuclear, semiconductor, and power.

So what is being “exchanged” in a home inside the tank that is likely stored in a basement or garage?


For the last century water softeners have been a popular appliance sold in areas that have hard water.  There are many challenges associated with hard water in a home such as:

  • Reduced water heater and appliance life
  • Damage to faucets and fixtures
  • Mineral deposits on counter tops and glass surfaces
  • Even early failure in pipe fittings and connections, causing leaks and flooding
  • The images here may look familiar…

Here is a short video explaining the exchange that takes place in a water softener:


To sum it up in 3 steps:

  1. The homeowner fills up the brine tank with salt tablets
  2. The softener draws the solution of salt and water into the main tank, charging the material (resin) inside the tank with the salt
  3. Water runs through the tank and the ions of calcium in the raw water are exchanged for the sodium that is attached to the media

“Rinse and repeat”…better known as backwashing…takes place every few days to re-charge the media and wash the excess calcium and brine solution down the drain.

The sodium that now comes into the home after the exchange does not have the same characteristics as the original calcium and will not build up as lime scale in the areas mentioned.

This process works well to keep a system scale free as long as the softener is functional, maintained, and kept stocked with salt. Typically you can tell when a softener is not functioning properly as scale will begin to form on faucets and fixtures and the texture of the water will change when showering

Click HERE to find out more about an alternative to salt softeners for your home.


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