If you get hard water at home, consider investing in one of the types of water softeners yourself. One good reason is that hard water may raise your risk of developing atopic dermatitis. Hard water interferes with soaps, too, making it harder to clean and maintain good hygiene.
To that end, we came up with this guide covering the basic types of water softener systems. Read on to discover how they work to figure out which one best suits your needs.
Salt-Based Water Softeners
Both calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) are the primary minerals that make water hard. The more of these dissolved minerals in the water, the harder the water is. An estimated 90% of homes in the US get supplied with such water.
Salt-based water softeners do their job through a process called ion exchange. This involves swapping Ca and Mg ions in the water with sodium (Na) ions. This exchange occurs within the softening system’s resin, coated by Na ions.
Ca and Mg ions stick to the softener’s resin during the exchange, while Na ions combine with the water. For each grain per gallon (gpg) of hardness removed, about 8 mg of sodium gets added to each liter of water. For healthy people, that’s a low amount, but it may be too much for folks on a salt-restricted diet.
So, if your health requires you to watch your salt consumption, a salt-based softener may not be a good option. However, you can always talk to your doctor to find out if you can use this type of water softening system.
Chelation-Based Water Softeners
Chelation is a process that involves complex organic substances called chelating agents. Chelating agents force metal ions to bind with them instead of other surfaces.
In a chelation-based water softener, the chelating agent reacts with Ca and Mg ions. The agent then suspends these bound minerals in the water.
As such, systems using chelating agents are more of de-scalers rather than softeners. They don’t remove the actual hardness-causing metal ions in the water. Instead, they prevent the metals from depositing on pipe, fixture, and appliance surfaces.
A citrus water softener is a perfect example of a chelation-based softener. In this case, citric acid acts as the chelating agent.
Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) Water Conditioners
Like chelation-based systems, TAC systems don’t use salt to soften the water. Instead, they use other forms of media that supposedly convert Ca and Mg ions into crystals. The crystals get suspended in the water, preventing them from sticking to surfaces.
As such, TAC systems don’t soften the water; instead, they condition it. The hardness won’t disappear, but they may still help keep limescale and soap scum at bay.
What Then Is the Best Among These Types of Water Softeners?
The only actual softening systems are the salt-based types of water softeners. The rest don’t soften the water; rather, they neutralize or condition the water.
So, if you want to remove Ca and Mg from your water, then a salt-based system may be the best type of water softener for you. However, if you need to watch your salt intake, you might be better off with a salt-free water conditioner. Looking for more nuggets of wisdom on home, health, living, or even business? Browse our latest blog posts for other useful tips and tricks then!