If you are living in an area where the water supplied is hard, you know the troubles it can cause. To get relief from the bothersome effect of hard water, many households install water softeners. The main purpose of this softener is to remove the hardness-causing minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the water before you use it for your everyday chores.

But, how does it work? What is the science behind it? How does the technology help? Read on to find out the answers to these questions.

The Chemistry of Hard Water

While the chemical formula of water tells us that it is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, chemistry also tells us that water is a great solvent. While underground, a lot of the soluble material gets picked up by the water. Some of these are minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which make the water hard. Water softeners remove these hard minerals from the water, making it more suitable for daily use.

The Components of the Water Softener

The water softener used in households is basically a filter specially designed to remove the hard minerals and in the process cleans or regenerates itself. There are three main components of the filter – a mineral tank and a brine tank combined with a control valve. The brine tank stores the high concentration salt solution, which is the resultant product of the filtration that takes place in the mineral tank. The control valve regulates the water flow in and out of the tanks.

The Action in the Mineral Tank

The main process of filtration takes place in the mineral tank of the water softeners. The hard water passes through a medium, which is basically a series of polystyrene beads with a negative charge. This charge attracts calcium and magnesium ions, which have a positive charge. Electricity does the work and the minerals get deposited on the medium turning hard water into soft.

The Role of the Brine Tank and Valve

The brine tank stores the salt saturated water or the brine, just as the name indicates. This could pose a problem if you are on a low sodium diet and some of the sodium gets transmitted to the drinking water. You can also use potassium instead of salt, however, potassium is more expensive than common salt.

The Valve

The valve controls the cleaning or regeneration which is a three stage process that includes

  • Back Wash: The reversal of water flow flushes out the debris, which is then removed via the drain.
  • Recharge: As the brine water gets pumped into the mineral tank, the concentrated salts act on the calcium and magnesium and force them off the media.
  • Rinse: The water refills the tank and the process of filtration is repeated.

This is the procedure, which gets you soft water from the mineral-rich hard water. Next time when you are using the water generated from your water softener, you are bound to think of the same.