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Friday, April 9, 2010
Our previous articles in this series, What is Hard Water and How to Test for Hard Water, gave readers a general background on hard water. Now, let's look at some ways to solve your hard water issues.

When it comes to treating hard water, you have two broad options. You can use some form of pre-packaged water softener or you can install a mechanical water softening device.

Pre-packaged water softeners are chemicals that you pour into your sink water or washing machine water. If used properly, they can help control hardness in most cases. There are some drawbacks to using these products.

The first drawback is that these products only soften the water that they are applied to. They cannot be used for showering or bathing. Some water softening products must increase the alkalinity of the water in order to work and this can cause skin irritation or even skin damage to those working with the treated water. Another drawback to using these softening products is that some hard water will require the use of a lot of product in order to get the job done properly. This can be expensive after a while.

The other option you have for treating hard water is to install mechanical water softening devices. These cost-effective units can be installed permanently into the home's plumbing system. Once installed, they can continuously remove calcium, magnesium and other minerals.

Installed water softeners use the ion exchange process to rid the water of mineral content. In simple terms, the untreated water passes through a media bed. This bed is often composed of sulfonated polystyrene beads. These media beads are supersaturated with sodium. As hard water flows through the media, minerals stick to the resin beads. Sodium that is on the resin beads is released into the water. Once the media becomes saturated with mineral content, it must be recharged, and this is done by simply running a salt solution through the media resin. The collected mineral content is sent to waste water for removal.

It has been reported by the Water Quality Association (WQA), that the ion exchange water softening process normally adds sodium to the delivered water at a rate of about 8 mg/liter for every grain of hardness that is removed in each gallon of water.

In other words, if the untreated water contains a hardness level of 10 grains per gallon, that same water will contain approximately 80 mg/liter of sodium once it has passed through the system.

For those people who are on a sodium restricted diet, or for those who simply wish to avoid ingesting more sodium, water softening devices should be installed so that they only treat hot water, or they can install another faucet to the sink that bypasses the system and use this untreated water for drinking and cooking or you can also purchase a saltless water softener.

Homeowners who wish to install a water softening device should first have their water tested for both hardness and iron content. This information will be very helpful when selecting the proper unit for your needs. You should also have some clear idea of how much water you need to soften per day. This will help you decide on the right capacity needed for your home.

by: Chris Tracey


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