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Water Softeners: Ease the Pressure During Washing
Water Softeners

Water softeners are the best example of those time-saving devices which you don’t usually think about buying until frustration becomes too unbearable.

Just when you thought that you have done a fine job pressure washing your car and windows, or washing house siding and gutters—you are faced with an unpleasant scene. When the water dries up, the car becomes spotted instead of squeaky clean, and windows become translucent.

The culprit: hard water. Hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium ions which are responsible for those smudges and scum on windows and car wind shields. They give the feeling of stiffness to carpets and clothes.

Water circulating below the ground surface dissolves naturally-occurring minerals containing calcium, magnesium and a host of others. Therefore, ground water is usually “harder” than processed water from rivers or lakes. Certain geologic areas like limestone formations render groundwater even harder.

The solution: water softeners. These devices work by replacing calcium and magnesium ions in water with usually sodium ions which do not form insoluble residues like scum on your bath tub if you have been using hard water.

Different kinds of water softeners work differently according to the technology employed. The most common type and the most cost-effective of these water conditioners around the house are those using ion-exchange resins. These are small beads made of polymeric materials which contain a lot of sodium. When water passes through them, the calcium and magnesium ions are exchanged with sodium, which renders the water soft.

When the device no longer seems to work—or saturated—it can be regenerated by washing the resins with fresh sodium-containing solutions. The recycled resins can last perhaps a year. Over time they lose some potency and should ultimately be replaced with fresh supply.

Once the bead unit is spent, it enters into a three-step regeneration process. First, backwashing is done by reversing the flow of water and flushing the dirt and debris that may have accumulated, out of the tank. Then, the tank is recharged with fresh concentrated sodium chloride (table salt) solution. The sodium collects into the resin, displacing calcium and magnesium which go out to the drains with the flushed water. Finally, excess brine is flushed through the tank and the brine tank refilled.

Water softeners using a reverse-osmosis system work by filtering out the ions by a membrane. These devices are used in bottled water industry, in large desalination plants and in producing ultra-pure water for nuclear power plants. But you don’t have a power plant in your home, do you?

More exotic devices claim to soften water using magnets and some users say these work. Unless you have that innate urge to try novel ideas, better stick to reliable devices such as the ion-exchange resin based.

Ion-exchange based water softeners are the recommended devices used in conjunction with good quality pressure washers in washing jobs at home or in small businesses.


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