How does a water softener work - a brief guide

How Does A Water Softener Work?

You probably know that hard water is not a good thing. It can destroy plumbing and impair water pressure. But how does a water softener work, and do you need one? 

Here, we explain how you could benefit from installing a water softener. 

If you want to know the benefits of installing a water softener in St. George, Utah, the team at Iron Mountain Plumbing is here to help.

What Is Hard Water? 

In order to know the benefits of a water softener, you must first know the undesirable qualities of hard water. While hard water is common, there are many disadvantages to leaving it untreated.

Water hardness refers to a high concentration of mineral content, namely calcium and magnesium, in your drinking water. While hard water is not dangerous to consume, it can damage your plumbing system and home appliances. 

Hard water affects every aspect of your plumbing system, including your washing machine, dishwasher, and even your coffee pot. The longer you wait to treat hard water, the more damage it can cause.

Installing a water softener will drastically improve the water quality within your home.

How a Water Softener Works

The most common water-softening process is called ion exchange. The tank of the water softener contains a bed of negatively charged resin beads. As water flows through the tank, the resin beads attract the positively charged ions of calcium and magnesium, removing them from your water. The result is clean, mineral-free, softened water from your faucets.


As you use your water softener, calcium and magnesium cling to the resin bed. Eventually, the saturation level of the resin will reach maximum capacity. When this happens, the water softener needs regeneration. 

When your water softener enters the regeneration stage, the brine tank releases salty water into the water softener tank. The brine water cleanses the resin bed, freeing it of mineral deposits. 

Once the regeneration process is complete, your water softener will return to softening as normal.

Water Softener vs. Water Filter

If you installed a water filter on your kitchen sink, that’s a good start, but your home is not fully protected against hard water. While a water filter fits to one tap to remove impurities in your drinking water, a water softener is deeper in your plumbing and removes hard-water-causing minerals from all water entering your home, no matter where it flows. 

Signs of Hard Water

You may first start to notice the signs of hard water during your daily routine. If freshly washed dishes have a cloudy appearance, or if you wash your hands and just can’t seem to wash off all the soap, those are two signs that you have hard water. 

The damage from hard water isn’t just to dishes and hands. Over time, hard water buildup can cause serious problems throughout your home.

Scale Buildup

Over time, limescale builds up, forming large deposits and damaging your plumbing system. As scale buildup grows, your water flow becomes impeded. If you start to notice diminished water pressure when you shower or wash dishes, there could be scale buildup within your plumbing system.

Shortened Life of Appliances

Hard water wreaks havoc on all your appliances, from your dishwasher to your coffee maker. Scale can build up inside your appliances more quickly than in your pipes. Even with regular descaling, hard water can shorten the life of home appliances.

Damaged Water Heater

Hard water can collect on the water heater’s heating element and cause corrosion. If you have ever heard your hot water heater make an alarming popping sound, you may have hard water. 

Wasted Detergent 

If you find yourself constantly using more detergent and still ending up with grimy clothes, hard water is probably to blame. Soap reacts negatively with magnesium and calcium, creating soap scum. 

Since a water softener removes hard elements, your clothes will get cleaner with less detergent.

How Much Does a Water Softener Cost?

When deciding if a water softener is the best choice for your home, make sure to think about all costs involved. Consider the cost of the water softener itself, as well as installation costs. A professional plumbing company can give you an estimate of installation costs. 

Beyond installation, you will have to think about maintenance and upkeep as well. The resin beads inside the tank last around five years before they require replacement. The saltwater brine requires replacement more often, about every 60 days.

Regular cleaning by a licensed professional is necessary to extend the life of the water softener. With regular maintenance, a water softener can last up to 15 years.

Benefits of a Water Softener

The initial cost and upkeep of a water softener can be costly, but the benefits of ridding your home of hard water outweigh the cost. Every home should have a water softener because:

  • Your clothes will require less detergent and will smell and look cleaner. 
  • You may notice that your dry skin improves. 
  • The life of your appliances will lengthen once you have clean, soft water flowing through them every day.
  • Your plumbing overall will face fewer problems. Limescale buildup can cause serious damage, resulting in costly repairs. 

Improve Your Home’s Water with a Water Softener

It’s normal to hesitate before making a big decision like installing a water softener. While signs of hard water are easy to detect, sometimes you need hard evidence. If you need to know for sure whether or not you have hard water, a professional can conduct a water sample test.

Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right, and you deserve to have the cleanest water possible throughout your home. Once you install a water softener, you can take clean water one step further by installing a reverse osmosis water treatment system. 

How does a water softener work, and do you need one? Iron Mountain Plumbing in St. George, Utah, can answer all your questions. Call our experienced team at 435-990-4418 to learn more about water softeners.

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