How to Purchase and Maintain a Water Softener

Water softeners are a great option for homes that have light to heavy hard water. A water softener reduces the hardness of water by removing heavy minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. This prevents many common problems, including clogged pipes and leaky faucets, damaged water-based appliances, and chalky film on glasses that have been cleaned in the dishwasher.

Water softeners solve these problems by preventing the heavy minerals from settling or flowing in water.

How Water Softeners Work

Many water softeners are available, but they all work on the same basic principle: ion exchange. This is a chemical process that substitutes sodium for minerals in water that cause it to be hard. In a traditional system, the water is passed through a tank containing resin beads saturated in sodium. This exchanges any calcium or magnesium ions present in the water for sodium ions. The sodium on the beads is released into the water when the minerals adhere to them. When the water leaves the system, the water is no longer hard.

The resin bed will become saturated with minerals over time. The water softener then goes through a “regeneration cycle” where sodium-rich water is used to restore the resin beads to their original sodium-saturated condition. After the water softener has completed the regeneration cycle, it will return to its normal operation and soften the household water.

Water Softeners with Salt

The most common and efficient softener type is salt-based. There are many salt-based water softener options because most systems are salt-based. These systems are available in many sizes and can be used for any home.

Salt-based water softeners work by transferring heavy minerals from the water (like calcium and magnesium) into a resin and then exchanging it for sodium. The water is returned to its neutral state by removing heavy minerals.

These softeners have a downside: the resin needs to be refilled with salt. This will be required for most households once a week. These water softeners also take up more space than magnetic or salt-free softeners. They are not suitable for small spaces.

There are also portable salt-based water softeners. These softeners, which are designed for mobile use, are a great choice for RVs, large boats, mini/micro homes, and efficiency apartments. A hose included allows users to connect to an outdoor faucet or campground water supply for instant access to softened water to clean, drink, and bathe.

The sand-based water softeners with a 16,000-grain capacity can be recharged by using table salt. However, they will need to be recharged frequently if used regularly. The reduced size also means a cheaper price. This makes this option more affordable for low-volume, simple situations.

Salt-based water conditioners do add some salt to water, but only in small amounts. This is not noticeable. This level is within a safe range for healthy people. However, those on low-sodium dietary plans may want to choose a water softener that does not use sodium but instead uses potassium.


Dual-tank softeners are salt-based water softeners with two resin tanks. Due to its ability to filter out heavy minerals, this style of water softener is the most suitable for use with well water. These tanks work the same as a salt-based single-tank softener, except when one tank is in the regenerating cycle, the second tank continues to provide softened water for the household.

Due to their size, dual-tank water softeners may not be necessary in most homes. They can also be difficult to install. The cost is higher, and they need to be recharged. A dual-tank softener, however, can handle more water in a single regeneration cycle. It will never run out of softened water.

Salt-free water softeners

It is important to understand how different salt-free water conditioners work and how much water each can treat daily before you purchase the unit.

Salt-free water softeners, as their name suggests, do not use salt to remove heavy mineral deposits from water. In fact, they do not remove them at all. They condition the water to prevent these particles from accumulating on showerheads and faucets. The minerals are left in the water and then put through a conditioning procedure.

These water softeners are more expensive at first because they do not use electricity or salt. These models can be used in small to large houses as they are smaller than systems that use salt. These units can struggle to cope with households that use more water than usual and have very hard water.


The electromagnetic water softeners are ideal for small spaces as they take up very little space. Like other salt-free softeners that do not use salt, electromagnetic softeners also don’t remove the particles responsible for hardness. Instead, they use a magnet to remove the negative or positive ions in heavy minerals. This neutralizes the grains, preventing them from adhering to surfaces or causing scale. They remain soluble in water. They plug into any standard outlet and do not require any plumbing in the home. This makes them a low-maintenance solution for softening your water. The magnetic models are similar to the electric ones, but they require no electricity and little maintenance. They are less powerful but are still suitable for smaller homes.

Full Filtering

Full-filtration systems soften the water and remove contaminants from drinking water. This salt-free softener works by passing water through a crystallizing filter, which prevents the minerals from adhering to each other and causing the scaling that damages pipes and appliances. These water softeners also remove other contaminants, such as herbicides and bacteria. They can also be used to treat pesticides. These filters can be expensive and last between 6 months and one year.

You should be aware that there are differences between a cleaner and a softener. If the only contaminants in water are hardening minerals, it is safe to drink. The water softener removes the hardening minerals or neutralizes them so that they can’t bind. A water softener, however, is not a filter. It will not remove other harmful particles. It should not be used to purify water. Instead, it is only meant to soften it. You can contact your local health department to test your water or send a sample out for expert testing.

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