Water softeners are perhaps one of the most popular and most used water treatment technologies in the home today. Many people do not really understand how water softeners work, or what their primary purpose is, but there’s no denying that using a water softener will mean your family has a higher quality of water in the home, both for drinking and cooking. Water softeners eliminate most of the mineral deposits which are found in so called “hard water”, this will mean those water spots which you see on your glasses and plates, or on your shower wall will be gone. It is also said that your laundry will benefit too, with water softener companies claiming that your clothes washing will come out both cleaner, and softer. Many people say you can tell the difference when drinking soft water vs hard water – we’ve heard people say it FEELS softer!
So who needs a water softener? Well, if your water supply comes from a well, whether it be a dug or drilled well, or any other ground source, then chances are you could benefit from a water softener. Even natural sources of water such as rivers pick up mineral content whilst flowing, and can then be classed as hard water, so a softener will improve the quality of such water too.
The hardness (or softness) of water can vary – it is not either hard, or soft, the hardness can be measured using a scale which tests the amount of grains per litre. For water with a low grain count per litre (anything below 5) is unlikely to see much benefit from even the best water softener system, but anything over 10 grains will have a noticable effect on the water quality – 15 and above? Why haven’t you got a water softener already?!
The most common complaints people make after having a water softener fitted are, dishes and glasses are slippery after washing – and this is of course true, the amount of mineral deposits have reduced and therefore, so has the friction caused by the water. The other complaint is generally to do with hair, believe it or not! Because the mineral deposits have been reduced, your hair does not cling to each other as much, making your hair feel more puffed out or bushy – but although annoying, this actually means your hair is cleaner than ever!
So how does a water softening system work? Will my water be salty?
Water softeners use a system known as ion exchange, for every hard mineral grain (such as magnesium and calcium) that the water softener removes, it replaces with salt – that is not to say that the water will be salty, because calcium is also a salt, so the softener is replacing one type of salt (calcium salts) with another type – sodium salts. Older water softeners were really bad at getting the 1:1 ratio correct, and of course, even still today they aren’t perfect, they will always leave slightly more salt than what is removed, but some newer style systems will attempt to rinse the excess salt down to much lower levels. Most water softener salesmen will carry a meter which can check how much salt is in your water, both pre, and post softener install, so you will be able to see exactly how much the salt has been increased by.
Excess salt in your water might sound bad, or scary – but in actual fact, a good modern water softener will leave a very small amount of salt in your water, in fact, eating a single slice of white bread will give you a higher salt intake than drinking 4 litres of softened water will – so you can see it’s really not much at all!