If you have been using hard water and would like to have it “softened”, yes, water softeners work. A water softener is special equipment used to convert hard water to its less precipitating form, which is a soft water.
Hard water does not mean that the water is actually hard, but it only means that the water contains a lot of magnesium, calcium and other minerals. These minerals are usually acquired by water when it passes through the ground, which contains heavy metals and minerals. When the water passes through rock and soil, the minerals tend to be dissolved in water.
What are the effects of Hard Water?
Although hard water does not lead to significant health effects because tap water usually has them, hard water may cause some physical problems in the kitchen and laundry such as:
• The dissolved minerals, specifically calcium, precipitate as scale in water heaters, pipes, kettles, machineries and coffee makers. As scales lodged in pipes, they may eventually get clogged. In water heaters, coffee makers and kettles, scales become a poor conductor of heat making heating longer.
• Hard water also reduces the ability of soap to lather. Instead of making more bubbles for washing, hard water will just react with soap to form a sticky scum making it hard to wash the clothes or take a bath. When the sticky scum is formed, it usually clings on the clothes and skin making it hard to have a clean feeling.
How do Water Softeners Work?
In order to convert hard water to soft water, water softeners may be used. Actually, other methods may also be used such as adding chemicals; however, it makes the water not potable. Also, these chemicals may discolour or wear out the clothes faster. It can also be a toxic pollutant to the environment when the treated water rushes through the ground. Furthermore, using chemicals may also be more costly. In this line, the best way and cheapest way to soften water is to use a water softener.
Water softeners work by removing some of the minerals in water that makes it slimy and form scales. This removal process is undertaken using the basic principle that magnesium and calcium ions switch places with sodium.
The water softener uses a tank full of polystyrene beads. These beads are known as zeolite or resin. These beads are usually negatively charged to allow clinging of positive charged sodium to become easier. When the water flows on the beads with positively charged sodium ions, the sodium takes the place of magnesium and calcium in the water while the calcium and magnesium ions tend to cling now to the beads.
The amount of sodium added to water softeners is usually less than 12.5 mg per 240 ml of water. The sodium should be continuously replaced in every process of water softening because as the sodium leaves the beads to go into the softened water, the sodium ions will then be reduced making the water softener less effective.
If you feel that the water you use tend to be slimy than usual or your kettle gets all those scales, you may use a water softener machine.