Why do you really want soft water, anyway? It keeps your dishes, hair and appliances free of buildup! Like aspirin for clogged arteries, water softeners keep the water in your pipes clear of dissolved rock and mineral deposits (which is what makes your water “hard”). Water softeners are important because, if left untreated, hard water can lead to pipe or boiler replacements (read: thousands of dollars in repairs).
The US Geological Survey estimates that 85 percent of homes in the US have hard water. If you’re not sure about your water, testing it only takes about five minutes. If you have a water softener, it’s probably somewhere out of sight (usually in the basement, garage or utility room), but we want to be sure it’s not out of mind!
Here are four important things to know about your water softener:
How Does Your Water Softener Work?
Your water softener removes excess minerals through a simple ionic exchange. Plastic resin beads in the mineral tank attract calcium and magnesium and swap them out for more desirable ions like sodium and potassium. The resin beads become charged with sodium from salt pellets. This fuels the ionic exchange that softens your water. Salt, rock, solar or evaporated salt are added to the reservoir during regeneration of the softener.
How Should You Care for Your Water Softener?
The resin beads in your softener should last as long as the softener itself, so they generally don’t need to be replaced. However, you should check your salt levels every two to three months to make sure you don’t need to add more salt pellets. For detailed instructions and more maintenance tips, read: Inspect Your Water Softener.
Is Softened Water Safe to Drink?
While softened water is safe to drink, people with high sodium levels might consider using potassium pellets to soften their water instead of the usual salt pellets. Note: Softened water is not recommended for use with baby formula because of the possibility of increased sodium levels in the water.