Mint Plumbing & Heating

Water Softeners Hard Water Areas

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Water softners

Water softeners are different methods of reducing the amounts of magnesium and calcium found in water. Some water softeners also reduce both iron ions and manganese as well. These minerals are responsible for the experience of hard water, which most people find to be very undesirable, for a number of reasons. Hard water isn’t dangerous, or unhealthy, but it can cause additional headaches in keeping surfaces clean, and softening water alleviates these concerns.

The metal ions found in hard water react with soaps, making them lather less, and causing them to leave a visible ring on surfaces, such as that commonly found in bathtubs using hard water. Both calcium and magnesium also form deposits when hard water is used for extended periods of time. This can cause build up on things like metal pipes, metal boilers, and on the insides of tea kettles. When severe enough, this build-up can actually be destructive to equipment, because it can serve as a thermal insulator, leading to the possibility that metal equipment will overheat.

The most common household form of water softeners are ion-exchanging resin devices. There are three main types of water softeners, categorized based on what salt they use: sodium, potassium, or hydrogen. These water softeners have a bed of resin that water is passed through. The resin is negatively-charged, and so binds to the positively charged metal ions in the hard water. Specifically, univalent sodium, potassium, or hydrogen is used in the resin, and exchanges with the divalent magnesium and calcium ions. This type of exchange means that as magnesium and calcium is drawn out of the water, more sodium, potassium, or hydrogen is released into the water.


Although hard water is suitable to drink, some people feel more comfortable knowing that their water is free from microorganisms and chemicals. To soften drinking water, consider using a water filter. These portable devices remove chlorine from water, ensuring its suitability as drinking water. However, water filters do not reduce the likelihood that limescale deposits will develop in plumbing pipes. Carbon block water filters remove contaminants when placed in jugs, while ceramic carbon filters attach directly to the faucet, eliminating contaminants as water flows. For increased filtration, try a reverse osmosis filter that cleans water as it passes through a membrane. Since chemical and mechanical water softeners render tap water unfit for drinking, using a filter in addition to either softener will provide soft water for multiple uses.

Chemical Softeners

When added to laundry, chemical water softeners remove calcium and magnesium from the water. One type of chemical water softener, known as precipitating water softener, prevents calcium and magnesium ions from interfering with the detergent's effectiveness. However, precipitating softeners cause cloudiness in water, turning it alkaline, which can damage skin and fabric. The other kind of chemical water softener, known as non-precipitating water softener, eliminates soap scum when used in the right proportions. This type of water softener isolates ions without forming harmful deposits.

Mechanical Softeners

Permanently installed, mechanical water softeners constantly replace calcium and magnesium with sodium as hard water passes through the home's plumbing system, based on an ion exchange process. Mechanical softeners prevent the development of lime scale in pipes, while increasing the water's capacity to retain heat. However, water that is mechanically softened in this manner should not be used for drinking or cooking, because of the increased sodium content

Something to bear in  mind

Be very careful when installing a water softener to a plumbing system or even fitting a boiler to a plumbing system with a water softener attached. Water that has passed through salt will corrode the inside of the boiler so if your boiler is fed from the expansion tank in the loft, make sure that the mains feed into the heating expansion tank hasn’t been softened.

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