Water softening systems are designed to soften hard water so that it can be used in plumbing fixtures and to make tap water safe for drinking. Hard water contains more dissolved oxygen than soft water, which is what makes it potentially dangerous for people to drink. That’s why most cities have rules against using it for laundry or dishwashing detergents.

When hard water passes through the filter, it picks up carbon and magnesium from the water passing through and returns them as sodium and potassium. In theory, this creates a soft film. Some systems do not use chemicals to accomplish this. They pass the water through a resin bed where the hard water deposits are converted to ions. The sodium and potassium ions replace the hardness of the water.

How do water softener systems work anyway? The answer is technology. There is an active chemical known as calcium carbonate. It is in charge of absorbing hard ions. It is also responsible for the way the soft water feels on your skin. A softener works by applying a pressure change to the incoming water and forcing the sodium and potassium ions back into the ions in the resin bed.

How do water softener systems work but not efficiently? That is a concern with any system because not all systems are the same and each one needs to be tweaked to get the best performance. For a home that just needs soft water to run toilets and dishes and to do simple laundry, a traditional water softener may be adequate.

What if you have a town or city with very hard water and your toilet paper starts to turn green? The calcium carbonate in your water softener isn’t doing its job. There are new technological wonders coming out all the time with water treatment. One such technology involves the use of magnetic beads that pull hard ions out of the water.

Does this type of ion exchange replace the need for a conventional water softening system? Currently, it is just one of the possible technologies that are being researched. Other research involves using a combination of bead technology with the use of salt and calcium carbonate, which is supposed to be much more efficient than the single water molecule softening system that the company uses today.

If you want to know how water softeners work, there are other issues to consider as well. The pH level of your tap water can vary depending on where you live and what it has been exposed to. In areas where limestone deposits are present, the water can become too acidic and may cause health problems. Water softening systems that use an ion-exchange system will take out both the hard minerals and the acid and bring the alkalinity of the water down.

This doesn’t mean that the water softener that you buy will necessarily be an inexpensive system. You should shop around and compare the costs and features of each model that you are interested in. It is also a good idea to contact several companies and ask them about their customer service policies. Find out how long they have been in business and find out what their service guarantees. You want to be sure that you will get your money’s worth with the system that you choose.

This post was written by a water treatment expert at Paragon Water Systems. They manufacture home water solutions such as reverse osmosis systems, under sink water filtration systems, showerhead filtration systems, carbon cartridges, and a wide variety of other products. Their focus is to provide Americans with safe and clean water throughout the home.