About Water Softeners

How Water Softeners Work:

Most water softeners on the market are ion exchange systems. In these systems, hardness ions (calcium and magnesium) are exchanged for salt (sodium or potassium) ions. The exchange takes place within the resin tank of the water softener. When water flows through the tank it comes in contact with small resin beads that are covered with salt ions. As water flows through the resin beads, hardness ions trade places with salt ions, hence the higher salt content in softened water.

As larger volumes of water are softened, the beads become exhausted and contain nothing but hardness ions . The beads are recharged by adding bags of salt to the brine tank. Recharging works the same as softening but in reverse. The hardness ions swap places with the salt ions in the brine tank and excess minerals are rinsed into the wastewater drain.

Demand initiated regeneration (DIR) water softeners are the most common ion exchange softeners sold locally. DIR softeners meter water usage over time and only regenerate when needed. Some softeners operate on a timer or schedule that regenerates at set increments. This older technology can be very wasteful of both salt and water because the softener will regenerate even during periods of low household water use (e.g. vacation away from home). At the same time, these models can leave you short of soft water if you have periods of higher water use (e.g. house guests).


What are the differences between water softener salts?

There are generally three different types of water softener salts available:

  • Rock Salt
  • Solar Salt – Salt produced by the evaporation of seawater
  • Evaporated Salt – Refined and completely purified salt, such as table salt

Rock salt is cheaper than solar or evaporated salts but contains more insoluble material. As a result, solar and evaporated salts keep your water softener cleaner. The type of salt you choose to buy will depend on the frequency of regeneration. If your water softener regenerates a lot you’ll want to use solar or evaporated salts to avoid the fast build-up of non-soluble matter from rock salt. For the average home owner this should not be a concern as excess minerals are rinsed away during regeneration.

For those concerned about the sodium content in their drinking water, potassium chloride is an alternative to sodium chloride. Potassium chloride is slightly more expensive to buy but works in the same way as regular water softening salt. Potassium chloride is safe for most water softeners but consult your owner’s manual before switching.



D Radon Mitigation & Plumbing

Mitigation Lic # RNM2015206

Plumbing Lic. #055-044334


  • Data herein is for information purposes and outside sources have been utilized. 
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