How Does a Water Softener Work?


Quick Answer

A water softener works by using polystyrene beads to remove calcium and magnesium from hard water. The calcium and magnesium ions in hard water are replaced by sodium ions during this process. This turns hard water into soft water.

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Full Answer

Hard water contains calcium, magnesium and other dissolved minerals. A water softener comprises a mineral tank, a brine tank and a control valve. Magnesium and calcium minerals have a positive charge. As the hard water passes through the beads in the tank, they are attracted to the negative charge of the polystyrene beads. The minerals are removed from the hard water and deposited on the beads. This action softens hard water.

The control valve determines when it is time to clean the beads through the process of regeneration.This process consists of the backwash, recharge and rinse cycles. During the backwash cycle, the flow of water is reversed, and the mineral tank is cleaned of debris. In the recharge cycle, concentrated brine solution is introduced in the mineral tank. This cleanses the beads of the magnesium and calcium deposits. The excess minerals are flushed out of the mineral tank. In the rinse cycle, the tank is filled and cleaned with water. The beads are then coated with salt. The minerals are attracted to the beads and are deposited on them. At this time, the salt is suspended in water. When the beads are saturated with minerals, the control valve triggers a new regeneration cycle.

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