Water Softener Defined
A water softener is a device that treats incoming water, converting it from "hard" to "soft." This process begins with magnesium and calcium rich water entering the water softener, where it encounters beads that have a negative charge. The positively charged magnesium and calcium ions cling to these beads as the water travels through them. They are then replaced with sodium ions, which "soften" the water. The water is then transferred into the house or facility.
Water is, for the most part, extracted from the ground, and since water can pick up anything it travels through, magnesium and calcium are commonly found attributes, forming "hard" water. The greatest problem this presents to our usage is when it bonds with soap. Soap does not fully dissolve in hard water, but instead will congeal. This byproduct will adhere to the skin, shower surfaces and fabrics in a washing machine. The magnesium and calcium in the hard water can also gather in pipes, reducing their effectiveness, eventually clogging them.
Once the beads are saturated with high amounts of magnesium and calcium ions, a timer or computer triggers a process called regeneration. In this stage, another compartment of the water softener injects high amounts of sodium ions (generally from standard salt) that, with their positive charge, attach to the negatively charged beads and force the magnesium and calcium ions off. The magnesium and calcium ions are then flushed out of the water softener along with any excess sodium ions.