Water softeners are extremely useful for people who are struggling with hard water and how hard water can affect your household. Hard water makes it difficult to clean yourself and your clothes, but it can also damage pipes and any appliances that use water through a mineral build-up that is known as scale.
Water softeners remove a lot of the minerals from your water, but how?
There are little resin beads hidden away in the water softener. These have a negative charge on purpose — they are manufactured for this — so this type of bead is sometimes called ion-exchange resin. When the softener is first installed, the beads are already ready to go, loaded up with sodium.
Water softeners take advantage of a thing that happens on a microscopic level, which is that the typical minerals that you find in hard water are attracted to the negative charge of the resin beads, and they trade partners with the salt, attaching to the resin beads while the sodium enters your water.
As a note, this does make the water from water softeners ever so slightly salty, so those who have sensitivities to salt should consider other solutions. You can use potassium chloride in your water softener, instead. In which case, the same process takes place, releasing a small amount of potassium into your water, rather than sodium. The disadvantage of this is that potassium chloride pellets tend to be more expensive than plain old salt pellets. And, of course, excess potassium also can have medical implications for some people, especially those on certain medications.
If you are concerned, talk to your doctor about the health implications. You can also investigate installing a reverse osmosis filter for your drinking water, which can help remove some of the sodium or potassium in the water. If that is too expensive or seems like it might not be the best solution, instead, you can have a water softener installed so that it just handles some of your water.
After so long of working, at some point, the resin beads will no longer be able to remove the minerals from the water. They're just saturated with them. This is the whole reason why you need to buy bags of salt pellets in the first place.
Now, at this point, you don't need to do anything. You've already loaded your thing up with salt, and the softeners are programmed to do this, generally depending on your household size and estimated usage. This is called a regeneration cycle, and what happens is that the resin beads are flooded with heavily salted water. (This is the case whether you use sodium chloride or potassium chloride). The sheer amount of salt in the water bullies the mineral build-up out. This extremely salty water and the mineral buildup it removes will be flushed, and your water softener will be ready to use.
For further information, reach out to local water softener installation services.