How to Turn Hard Water into Soft Water (Interesting Facts)

 Last updated  - November 19th, 2021

Water is a universal solvent and that plays an important role in life. It is used in doing the laundry, cleaning, and cooking, and in most places other than just in houses. Since water is an important part of life, the quality of the water in our homes should be closely monitored. For most, it doesn’t even occur that there is a difference between hard water and soft water. Here, we will be discussing the difference between the two, and different ways to make hard water soft. 

soften hard water

The hardness of water is determined by how many minerals are present. Usually, this refers to calcium and magnesium. These minerals are dissolved in water as the water passes through rocks and soil along its course. So water naturally contains these minerals. Calcium and magnesium are the common hardness determinants of water.

The water is said to be hard if it contains high levels of calcium and magnesium. The higher the count of these minerals presents on the water the harder the water gets.

Effects Of Hard Water

The amount of soap in doing household chores such as the laundry and dishwashing is affected by how hard the water is. Some active ingredients on detergents react to hard water making the soap less effective. While bathing using hard water, soap leaves a sticky feeling on the skin which actually prevents the bacteria to be removed. Consequently, an irritation is likely to be experienced afterward.

When it comes to drinking hard water, hard water is not hazardous at all. Although hard water is somewhat beneficial to the human body, it is still troublesome when it comes to its usage at home. 

Signs Of Hard Water In Your Pipes

There are ways to determine if you have hard water at home. Observe your water pipes if you have the following signs listed below:

  • Notice if the flow of your pipe is reduced? because this is the effect when minerals build up in the cross-sectional area of your water pipe.
  • Is limescale (or the chalky deposits that are formed in pipes, hot water boilers, or kettles which especially are commonly for hot water) produced where hard water is present? Then home appliances needed to work harder thus providing an explanation as to why your electricity bill has increased.
hardwater in your home
Figure 1. Sample of a limescale deposit
  • If you find your hair hard to style and your skin is dry and irritated.
  • Notice if the color of your clothing suddenly fades and quality fails after washing? and if your detergent soaps create scum and make it hard for you to wash it off? then probably you might have hard water in your pipe network.
  • If some, if not all, of the aforementioned signs, are noticeable in your household then you might want your water to undergo hard water testing.

Testing Of Hard Water

Some amounts of hard water are only temporary while some are permanent. Temporary hard water can be converted through some simple processes while some processes may require substances or equipment in converting hard water.

There is a quick test that can be done in the comfort of your home:

  • Firstly, just grab a bottle of water with water just about halfway.
  • Secondly, squirt three of a dishwashing soap then shake it well so that bubbles will be formed.
  • Inspect the property of the foam, it is dissolved quickly then, your pipe network runs hard water.

How To Make Hard Water Soft: 6 Methods

There are processes needed to be done in order to make hard water soft. Basically, softening hard water is by removing the causes of the hardness in water which are primarily the minerals.

There are different effective methods in softening hard water depending on the scale of the area you wanted to treat. It could be just for a specific area in your house or for the whole water pipe network in your home.

Let’s find out how to make hard water soft?

Ion-Exchange System

The most effective among the methods in treating hard water is the ion exchange wherein it uses two tanks, one is the resin tank. Hard water first enters the system through the resin tank in which hard water comes in contact with the salt-covered resin beads. Through this contact, hardness ions or calcium and magnesium are exchanged with salt ions namely potassium or sodium ions.

When the beads become saturated with the hardness ions, the beads in the brine tank are recharged by adding bags of salt. These salts are also called the water softener salt namely rock salt, evaporated salt, and solar salt.

water flow ion-exchange system
Figure 2. Ion-exchange System

Rock salt is the most affordable among the three. However, due to the insoluble substances in rock salt, these make the rock salt a tiresome option for it requires frequent cleaning of tanks and valves due to the undissolved substances that may build up. Evaporated salt is finer than the rock salt that makes it purified.

While on the other hand, because solar salt is extracted from a brine pond, it is warmed by the sun for the water to evaporate thus leaving the salt crystals behind. Ion exchange is ideal for treating a whole system of the pipe networks. In general, evaporated and solar salts are the best option when using ion exchange as a method for treating hard water.

The Demand Initiated Regeneration System

Another method is the Demand Initiated regeneration system. Basically, it measures regular water usage then it regenerates only when needed. However, environmentally speaking, this system is not eco-friendly for it uses ions that are traded and a very salty brine is being discharged into the sewer system.

Whirlpool water softener guide
Figure 2. Ion-exchange System

Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) OR Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC)

Template Assisted Crystallization (often referred to as TAC) or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (or NAC) are also one of available methods of treating hard water.

Instead of removing the minerals on hard water, the systems convert the form of the hardness ions so that they will not stick to any surfaces they may have contact with. These systems actually are sometimes referred to as water conditioners or water descalers.

Template Assisted Crystallization
Figure 4. Template Assisted Crystallization

On these systems, minerals remain on the water making it a little tricky upon measuring the softness of the water. Although the minerals stay on the water and the hardness when tested before and after the TAC process remains the same, it is still evident that limescale or mineral build-up is no longer produced.

TAC or NAC systems when compared to ion-exchange systems, are way much better for they need not use electricity or salt when being used. Further, if you are looking for environmentally friendly processes, TAC or NAC is for you.

Chelation System

In addition to the methods mentioned above is the Chelation system. This system is like unto the TAC for it is salt-free. The system uses a chelating agent such as nitriloacetic acid which causes the minerals to stick to it. These minerals are then suspended in water.

Chelation System
Figure 5. Chelation System

The system does not reduce the hard substances but keeps them from being a scale when deposited which results in lesser limescale or mineral build-up. The best part of this system is that it keeps the beneficial minerals, such as calcium, present in the water.

Also, it does not use salt as a softener. In case a build-up of minerals or limescale occurs, it can still be easily removed since the hardness ions do not adhere to any surfaces.

Magnetic or Electronic Water Softener

Fifth on the list is the use of magnetic or electronic water softener. These are devices that are used by clipping onto an indoor inlet where the entry point of the water is. This device changes the electromagnetic properties of the minerals by setting magnetic fields that cause the carbonates to repel each other thus preventing and/or reducing the build-up of the minerals.

These water softeners are not for the removal of the hardness ions but they only change the electromagnetic properties of the hardness ions or the calcium and magnesium so as to prevent the build-up.

magnetic or electronic water softener
Figure 6. Magnetic or Electronic Water Softener

Reverse Osmosis System

An addition to the list is the Reverse Osmosis System. This system forces the water to pass through multiple filters that are fine thus removing the solid contaminants or substances- organic and chemical. It also filters out the hardness ions or the calcium and the magnesium ions. If you want salt-free, no contaminant, and soft water, Reverse Osmosis is for you.

ro water filter
Figure 7. Reverse Osmosis

But take note that this is only for a certain point in your pipe network unless you install multiple devices in your house. However, since this system uses filters, thus frequent cleaning is a must to ensure the safety of the water. With the use of the filters, keep in mind that not only the contaminants are filtered out but also the nutritious minerals.

Our Conclusion

About how to make hard water soft!

Hard water is beneficial for drinking, but it is quite inconvenient when used regularly at home. However, there are ways of treating hard water depending on the area you want to work on with proper consideration of the pros and cons of your chosen method.