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What Does a Water Softener Do?

Hard water is a common problem in homes across the country. In fact, studies have shown that approximately 85% of homes have hard water in their plumbing.

But what does this actually mean? What makes hard water a problem, and how does a water softener fix it?

Hard vs. Soft Water

Right from the start, the terms “hard” and “soft” water sound strange to people who aren’t specialists in water treatment. (How can water be “soft”? And isn’t “hard water” just ice?) But the concept isn’t that complicated. The hardness of water, which can be determined by professional water testing, is the amount of magnesium and calcium grains suspended in the water. The more grains, the harder the water. Water is considered hard when it exceeds 3 grains per gallon (GPG). Less than this is considered soft. Unfortunately, water hardness here in Maryland homes often exceeds 10 GPG, which is considered “very hard”!

Hard Water Problems

Hard water isn’t harmful to drink. The minerals in hard water are in much of the food you eat. The trouble from hard water comes from what it does to the plumbing in a house. The minerals can dissolve from the water and create build-up along with the interior of pipes. Over time, this build-up reduces the volume available for water, leading to spikes in water pressure, leaks, and clogs. Worse is what hard water mineral can do to a water heater: the heat inside the tank will turn the minerals in hard water into limescale along the tank walls. This will significantly reduce the service life of the water heater.

There are many other nuisances hard water creates: soap scum on surfaces, spots on dishes and shower doors, difficulty creating soap lather for cleaning, faded fabrics in the laundry, and a generally icky feeling on your skin after you bathe or shower.

The Water Softener at Work

The solution to hard water is an installation of a water softener in Gaithersburg, VA. You must have a professional take care of the job of attaching the water softener onto where the main water line enters the house.

Water that enters the water softener passes through a chamber filled with resin beads. The beads are negatively charged and covered with positively charged sodium ions. As the hard water moves over the beads, ion exchange takes place: the sodium ions, which are harmless for plumbing, swap places with the magnesium and calcium ions, which instead attach to the resin beads. Once all the sodium in the tank is used up, the water softener goes into a regeneration cycle. A salty brine solution washes over the beads, replacing the lost sodium ions while removing the magnesium and calcium ions. The hard water minerals are flushed out of the water softener and the system is ready to start the process again.

Because hard water is such a common problem, we recommend all homes arrange for water testing. You can contact us to set up a convenient testing appointment. After we receive the results, we can advise you on whether you need a water softener and then handle the work to install one.

Mallick Plumbing & Heating is the Service Contractor of Choice for Silver Spring, MD, and the Surrounding Areas.