How Does A Water Softener Work?

Does the water in your home have a peculiar taste?

Are your sinks becoming stained?  Does your skin itch after a shower? Is your water bill quickly rising?

how do i know my water softener is working

If so, you might be struggling with hard water. According to the Huffington Post, these are among the seven signs that you need a water softener.


The easy solution to your hard water woes is by using a water softener. But what exactly is a water softener? And how does a water softener work?

Today, I’m going to answer both of these questions and more so you know exactly if a water softener is right for you.


What Is a Water Softener?

A water softener is typically a device or technique used to remove certain minerals from hard water to make it “softer.”


Though these hard minerals usually don’t create a health risk, they do cause a number of other problems.


In particular, hard water stains sinks, corrodes pipes and other components, and can even cause your water bill to skyrocket because your plumbing must work harder.


In some cases, hard water can even make your skin itchy and dry (Water-Right) and often has an off-putting taste (APEC Water).


The simple solution is to use a water softener to remove these chemicals, so that your water is less harsh on sinks, pipes, and other fixtures as well as your own body.


Most water softeners target minerals like calcium, iron, lime, and magnesium. They work to break down and dissolve these substances before flushing them out of the water system.

There are multiple types of water softeners that all work in slightly different ways.


The best way is with a dedicated water softening unit or device. These devices typically use an ion exchange system to remove the harsh minerals and soften the water (

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Main Types of Water Softeners

There are a few main types of water softeners available.


These include salt-based ion exchange water softeners, salt-free water softeners, and dual-tank water softeners.


There are a few other less common types of water softeners, including electronic or magnetic water softeners, although these are fairly controversial.

Main Types of Water Softeners


Here’s the basics about the tree main types of water softeners:

  • Salt-Based Ion Exchange – The water moves through one brine tank and one resin tank to remove hard minerals and replace them with sodium ions.


  • Salt-Free – Uses a similar process to salt-based ion exchange except that it utilizes a potassium-chloride salt substitute in favor of sodium.


  • Dual-Tank – Designed for large families and other instances of high water use, these devices have multiple tanks so you can continue to use your water softener even during the regeneration process.


Water Softener Benefits

The benefits of using a water softener are fairly straightforward.

Chief among them is ensuring that your health is safe. Although hard water rarely poses a health risk, Livestrong states that soft water does have some health benefits because it contains less harsh minerals.


According to Passaic Bergen Water Softening, the additional benefits of using a water softener are a cleaner feeling after showering, cleaner clothes after doing your laundry, fewer stains in sinks and bathtubs, and a much lower potential for plumbing damage.

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How Does a Water Softener Work?

The best way to understand how a water softener works is to view our “how does a water softener work diagram.”


Understanding the concepts behind water softening is much more straightforward when you can see the different components and processes in action.


 How Does a Water Softener Work

To expand on this, most water softeners use the ion exchange process (Environmental Protection Agency).


This process actually removes minerals from the water by replacing them with sodium ions instead.


The process is complex but it basically has to do with the positive and negative charges that the atoms and molecules of various minerals carry.

how do i know my water softener is working


The water softeners contain a device that actually pulls these hard minerals towards it – much like a magnet – before the sodium ions take their place.


These hard minerals then stay trapped inside of the water softener while the rest of the water and the soft minerals pass through back into your water supply.

The excess water containing these hard materials is then eventually flushed out of the system.


How Does a Water Softener Work Video:

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How to Buy the Best Water Softener

Not all water softeners are created equal. Some are much more effective and higher quality than others.


Perhaps the most important tip to buying a quality water softener is to go with an established company.


Because of the current popularity of water softeners, there are manufacturers popping up left and right. Not all of these are selling a quality product.


You are much better off going with a reputable brand that has a solid reputation than selecting one of the new companies.


These established companies have a history of developing top-notch water softeners. There are also typically a lot of reviews on their products available.


You should also keep an eye open for certifications.


For example, the Water Quality Association Gold Seal is a certification that guarantees performance.


Other factors to look for in a water softener include:

  • Size – Your water softener must meet the water demands of your home without going overboard. Size is typically rated by the amount of hard minerals the device can remove from your water.



  • Controls – A control unit lets you set how many hard minerals your water softener removes from the water supply and at what time of day it recharges.




  • Features – Most water softeners require a daily regeneration cycle. Take into account how long each cycle takes and how often they are required.



Keep all of these factors in mind and you’re sure to select a top-quality water softener that will perform well for years on end.


*Two excellent choices are the ABC Waters Built Fleck Water Softener and the Fleck Grain Water Softener.


Do You Need a Water Softener?

Not everyone needs a water softener – but they can be extremely beneficial for many households.


When looking to understand how a water softener works, it’s important to first answer the question of whether you actually need one.


The most common situation where a water softener is needed is in an environment or area that’s notable for hard water.


You can have your water professionally tested to see exactly what levels of minerals it contains.


There are also several notable signs you can look for yourself that likely indicate hard water.


The five most important include:  

  • Dry Skin
  • Stained Fixtures
  • Gray Clothing
  • High Water Bill
  • Weird Taste

If you notice any of these, chances are that a water softener is a wise investment.

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Final Thoughts

A water softener is an effective way to minimize the effects of hard water.

These devices efficiently exchange hard minerals with sodium ions to create softer water that’s less harsh on your skin and hair as well as your bathroom/kitchen fixtures and your plumbing.


Do you use a water softener? If so, which model do you use? Is it one of our top two recommendations (ABC Waters Water Softener and Fleck Grain Water Softener) or another model?


Let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to ask us any questions you might have about how to use a water softener.