What is water softening?
Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and certain other metal cations in hard water. The softened water requires less soap for the same cleaning effort, as soap is not wasted bonding with calcium ions. Soft water also extends the lifetime of plumbing by reducing or eliminating scale build-up in pipes and fittings. Water softening is usually achieved using lime softening or ion-exchange resins but is increasingly being accomplished using nanofiltration or reverse osmosis membranes.
What is hard water?
Hard water has a high number of dissolved minerals, predominantly magnesium and calcium. Water is naturally soft when it falls from the sky and gains its hardness after coming in to contact with the ground.
If rainwater lands in an area with porous rock such as limestone, the water penetrates the ground and as it passes through collects and dissolves particles and minerals such as calcium and magnesium, so gaining its hardness. If the water falls on non-porous rock such as granite, the water cannot penetrate the ground and therefore cannot pick up any particles or minerals and so stays soft.
The harder the water, the higher the risk of scaling. This scaling has many negative effects on equipment that the hard water passes through. Scale that forms on spray outlets and showers can harbour harmful bacteria, and encourage the growth of such bacteria such as legionella and pseudomonas.
Hard water passing through other process systems such as boilers/heaters will cause such issues as lesser heat transfer, meaning boilers must work harder to heat water, increasing energy bills! This continuous build up of scale will also limit the capacity of the boiler and eventually cause it to fail potentially resulting in a hefty replacement or repair bill!
Therefore, softening the water prior to it passing through a system is ideal as it massively reduces the risk.
This is water that is passed safe to use as drinking or to be used in food preparation. In technical terms the conductivity is below 2500µS, pH 6.5 to 9.5 and with limits for many minerals. There is also limits for metals and organic.
How do you soften hard water?
The best way to remove hardness from hard water is by using a water softener system. The diagram below outlines the process water softeners work by:
A water softener is a whole-house filtration system that removes hardness-causing calcium and magnesium minerals from your water through a process called ion exchange. A water softener addresses one of the most prevalent and devastating water problems: hard water. Hard water wreaks havoc on the modern home or commercial business. Scale builds up in your pipes, clogging them and decreasing water pressure.
Scale dramatically shortens the lifespan of appliances like dishwashers, coffee makers and ice machines and many commercial appliances. The higher the temperature of the water, the more calcium and magnesium will solidify and harden into solid deposits inside your hot water heater. If you live in hard water territory, it can sound like your water heater is cracking. This is because scale has attached itself to the heating element.
As the temperature of the heater rises and the tank expands, the calcified deposits encrusted on the heating elements start cracking and stretching. Hard water-induced scale is the culprit of that popping sound.
Without a water softener, laundry demands extra detergent to prevent it from looking dingy. Dishes will come out of your dishwasher streaked and stained. Filmy scum builds up on your shower curtains and your soap and shampoo will not lather. Bathing in hard water leaves your skin itchy and dry and your hair lifeless and sticky. The sheer amount of time, energy, and money required to clean up the detrimental side effects of hard water.
Hard Water Testing
There are simple hard water tests using soap, which does not lather very well in hard water. However, from the commercial sector it needs to be more scientific than that. Analysing the level of hardness of the water and any other impurities is vitally important as water can be vital to the manufacturing process.
If you do want to know what you are drinking at home, you might want to get a full water test; including checks for hardness, microbiological organisms, purity and contaminants that might be present. This can be undertaken by companies like Dakro Environmental as long as they also use AJAS accredited laboratory testing and official sampling procedures.
A water softener is the solution to water hardness.
There are many types of water softeners on the market for both domestic and commercial use. We can advise on the softening equipment which is right for you and Dakro can also supply these products. Your requirements will depend on the amount of water you use, the flow rate and whether your water usage is constant or there are periods (like in the middle of the night) when the softener can regenerate.