Hard water contains of lots of magnesium or calcium and can create problems. So, let's take a look at two very commonly reported problems:
- Daily use of water can lead to the formation of 'scale' inside the water heaters, pipes, tea kettles and many more. This scale is nothing but the excess amount of magnesium and calcium precipitate found in water that is now sticking and reacting with the vessels. If scale formation continues it can very well slow down the water flow through the pipes and on a contrary, scale is not a heating conductor so the pipes will have to be replaced after a while.
- Scale is a reactive matter and mixes very well with soap forming a kind of sticky scum. Excess amount of magnesium and calcium also reduces the formation of soap lather. We can realize this when there is not enough soap lather while washing hands or taking bath. Lather formation is not very productive due to the usage of hard water.
So what is the solution for hard water? Using water distillation we can remove the excess calcium or magnesium content. Another process called reverse-osmosis can also be used to serve same purpose or in an economical way you can use a water softener as it would be very expensive to implement a filtration for entire house.
Water softeners are sophisticated devices with a simple function. These softeners are going to replace any magnesium or calcium ions with sodium ions. Why sodium, because it doesn't precipitate in pipes or reacts with soap. So, now you don’t have to face those two problems (listed above) anymore. The ion replacement happens in a simple manner. When water enters the softener it is run through a matrix of plastic beads also known as Zeolite which is covered with sodium ions. Therefore, the moment water crosses the Zeolite all the hard water (magnesium and calcium) ions will swap their places with sodium ions. Thus as magnesium and calcium starts to fill up the beads, softener reduces its efficiency over time. That’s when you should replace the old beads with the new one.
There is another way in which you can regenerate the Zeolite or beads. It's again a very simple process where you soak the Zeolite in sodium ions stream. The best form of sodium available is Salt or Sodium chloride. Since the softener is going to flush the water through the beads it is often loaded with salt along with a strong brine solution. The purpose of brine is to displace the magnesium and calcium inside Zeolite and replace it back with sodium. All the magnesium and calcium content is then drained out using an exit pipe. This regeneration will create lots of salty water in the beginning though until like 25 gallons.